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Junior Nationals finalist Hayden Penny has announced her verbal commitment to the University of Kentucky for the fall of 2024.
“I am so excited to announce my verbal commitment to continue my athletic and academic career at the University of Kentucky! I am so thankful for all of my coaches that have helped me get to where I am today as well as my family and friends for always supporting me! Go Cats!!💙🤍😼 #bbn”
Penny is currently a junior at Eastside High School in Taylors, South Carolina. Representing Eastside at the 2022 South Carolina High School League 4A State Championships, Penny won both the 200 freestyle (1:49.01) and the 500 freestyle (4:55.29). She also contributed a 23.34 split to Eastside’s winning 200 freestyle relay and a 48.44 split to the team’s runner-up 400 freestyle relay, helping the team to the Girl’s State Championship Title.
She competes for the Greater Spartanburg YMCA at the club level. Last summer, she was a 2-time finalist at the 2022 YMCA LC National Championships, finishing 3rd in the 200 IM and 6th in the 200 backstroke. At last year’s short course edition of the meet, she was the national runner-up in the 400 IM (4:12.70). Specializing primarily in the IM events, Penny has a lot of versatility, holding Junior Nationals cut times in 7 different short course events and holding US Open cuts in 3 of those events. At the recent Winter Juniors Championships – East, Penny made the A-final of the 400 IM, ultimately placing 6th in the event with a time of 4:13.66.
For her efforts in the pool, Penny has been named a two-time USA Swimming Scholastic All-American
Best Times SCY:
200 IM – 2:01.51
400 IM – 4:12.70
100 Backstroke -55.32
200 Backstroke – 1:56.91
200 Freestyle – 1:48.95
500 Freestyle – 4:50.90
Penny’s versatile talent across the IM and backstroke events should make her a great fit for the Kentucky program, which has traditionally dominated the backstroke and IM events at the SEC-level. At the 2022 SEC Championships, Kentucky had 3 swimmers in the A-final of the 400 IM, 3 swimmers in the A-final of the 200 backstroke, and 2 swimmers in the A-finals of both the 100 backstroke and the 200 IM. In all four events, Kentucky led the field with the most swimmers making it back to the A-final.
Even with a year left before she arrives at Kentucky, Penny’s times would already rank her at the top of the roster. In the 400 IM, her personal best would rank 3rd on the roster, only behind NCAA finalists Lauren Poole and Gillian Davey. In addition, her personal best in the 200 backstroke would rank her 4th on the roster this season, while her 200 IM time would have ranked 7th in a deep IM group.
At the 2022 SEC Championships, the Kentucky women finished 2nd behind Tennessee, scoring 1043 points. The team won 3 events, courtesy of the aforementioned Davey and Riley Gaines. At the 2022 NCAA Championships, Kentucky finished 12th with 116 points.
With her commitment, Penny is set to join a deep recruiting class for Kentucky that includes Emma Finlin, Taylor Grimley, Addison Reese, Bailey O’Regan, Billie Sherratt, Avery Mehok, and Avery Frece. Notably, the class includes several strong freestyle prospects across all distances, in addition to Penny, Mehok, Sherratt, and O’Regan also possess strong times in the 200 freestyle, all falling right around 1:49 to 1:50. O’Regan, who recently moved to Sarasota, Florida from Canada does not have many short course times recorded. However, she holds a 58.13 in the long course version of the 100 freestyle, which converts to a 50.9 in the short course pool. Likewise, Finlin, who is also from Canada does not have any times recorded short course yards. However, the Junior Pan Pacs finalist has already proven she can throw down some major times in the distance events, setting the team up for a strong group all-around.
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