Lincoln — There was something refreshingly different about the way Texas A&M handled its recruiting approach with Lincoln Pius X swimmer Caroline Theil.
From the first contact until she verbally committed last month to join the Aggies’ aquatics program beginning with the 2018-19 season, it was head coach Steve Bultman who led A&M’s charge to recruit Theil.
“He was the first head coach to contact me,” said Theil, set to start her senior year at Lincoln Pius. “There were some schools where I didn’t meet the head coach until I was on campus, then I never heard from them again. It was just a feeling I got that A&M was where I should be.”
To have a two-time U.S. Olympic Team coach who is known for developing swimmers into top-flight individual medley competitors also helped Theil select the Aggies over Notre Dame, North Carolina State, Wisconsin and Arizona State.
Entering the 2017-18 season, Theil is No. 2 on The World-Herald all-time Top 10 list in the 200-yard individual medley (2:01.63), No. 3 in the 200 freestyle (1:50.11), No. 4 in the 100 freestyle (51.00), No. 5 in the 100 butterfly (55.45), and No. 9 in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.52)
Bultman also has developed swimmers in all other strokes while building the Texas A&M program into a national power. After four consecutive fourth-place finishes at the NCAA championships, the Aggies finished third in 2017 behind perennial powers Stanford and California.
The Aggies also won their second straight Southeastern Conference championship last season. A chance to be part of building that winning tradition also appealed to Theil.
“Those two schools are always going to get their share of swimmers who are big names when they come into the program and when they come out,” Theil said. “A&M gets the kids who can develop and be big names when they come out.”
The most recent examples of A&M-developed stars on the national and international stages are Breeja Larson and Cammile Adams. Both had their breakthrough meets at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials; Larson winning the 100-meter breaststroke and Adams the 200 butterfly in Omaha.
In all there were nine A&M swimmers who competed at the London Olympics representing six countries.
Theil said she will focus on the 200- and 400-yard IM events, along with the breaststroke when she gets to College Station. For now she’s looking forward to her final season of high school swimming with the Thunderbolts and is relieved her college plans are set.
“I’m really excited I won’t miss as many (Pius) football games this season, even the out-of-town ones,” Theil said. “I’ll only miss one for my official visit to A&M, but now I can relax the rest of the summer and don’t have to do research about all these different schools.”
That Pius game that Theil will miss is Sept. 15 at home against Papillion-La Vista. Instead Theil will be part of the crowd at Kyle Field the following day when the Aggies host Louisiana.
“There’s so much tradition at A&M,” Theil said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”