World Junior Record Holder Merve Tuncel Commits to USC

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Turkish Olympian Merve Tuncel, a distance freestyle specialist, has committed to join the USC Trojans. Tuncel is set to arrive in Los Angeles in the fall of 2023 and should provide a huge boost to new head coach Lea Maurer and her Trojan squad. 

Tuncel had a stellar showing at the 2021 European Juniors in Rome, winning gold in the 400, 800 and 1500 free. In both the the 800 and 1500 she broke the meet record and set a new European Junior Record in the process. She also won a bronze medal at those championships as a member of Turkey’s 4×200 free relay. 

Tuncel is part of a youth movement in Turkey, which took home 15 total medals, second in the medal table behind Russia, at the 2021 Euro Juniors. That success was largely rooted in the distance freestyle races, as the Turks won the 400, 800 and 1500 free on both the boys and girls side. In December of 2020, Tuncel burst onto the international scene by breaking the SCM Junior World Record in the 1500 free with a 15:45.29 at Turkish Nationals in Instanbul. 

Tuncel’s top LCM (SCY conversion) times include:

200 free: 1:59.70 (1:44.95)
400 free: 4:06.25 (4:35.91)
800 free: 8:21.91 (9:22.36)
1500 free: 15:55.23 (15:36.50
200 fly: 2:11.54 (1:55.98)

The Turkish star projects to make a huge splash when she joins the NCAA in 15 months and should threaten to score major points at the national championships. Her converted lifetime best in the 1500 would have earned her the NCAA title in the 1650, while her 500 free would qualify for the A final and her 200 free would have finished 17th at this year’s meet. 

Lea Maurer, who took over as USC head coach just last month, is now off to a fantastic start in rebuilding the Trojan women’s program. USC finished 3rd at last year’s Pac 12 Championships, less than 30 points behind Cal for second place. USC also finished 16th at the NCAA Championships and were led by sophomore Kaitlyn Dobler, who won the 100 breast national title. 

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