By David Willis firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — ANDOVER — After months of intense recruiting, Andover swimmer Maggie D’Innocenzo would never say her college choice came down to the flip of a coin.
But a pair of coin flips didn’t hurt.
“On Thursday night I sat down with my mom and we had narrowed the choices down to USC and Texas and I saw stuck,” she said. “I made a list of pros and cons, and it came out to a 9-9 tie and the (scholarship) money was basically even.
“My mother said to me, ‘As a joke, lets flip a coin. Heads for Texas, tails for USC.’ We flipped and it landed on heads, and I was kind of excited. Later I was talking to my father and he said we should flip a coin as a joke, not knowing I had already done it with my mom. It was heads for USC and tails for Texas and it came up heads. Then I started to realize USC was where I wanted to go. There was a sign there.”
Late last week, D’Innocenzo, the Golden Warrior senior and record-setting three-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star, officially committed to swim collegiality at USC next fall.
“It is just such a relief,” said D’Innocenzo, who is the No. 32-ranked recruit in the country by collegeswimming.com.
“It was a long process that officially started on July 1. USC had been e-mailing me months before that, and we had kept in touch. I visited and loved the school, and I can’t wait to move out to Los Angeles.”
D’Innocenzo is the second member of her family to be a top college swimming recruit, following her brother Nick who is currently a senior swimmer at the University of Texas, a school that also strongly pursued Maggie.
“It was a very hard choice because Texas is very close to my heart and I felt very at home there,” said Maggie. “I’ve been there to watch Nick swim and everyone felt like they were family. But I wanted to leave my comfort zone and experience something new.”
For D’Innocenzo, the 2010 Eagle-Tribune Swimmer of the Year and owner of four state records, the recruiting process was a challenging one.
“For months, I have constantly been talking to coaches,” she said. “And once school started, we were taking recruiting trips, which take a lot out of you. We would fly all around to different schools, then get home Sunday and I’d have to do all my homework. It was just no sleep.”
But when she visited USC earlier this month, it was a very special experience.
“They took us on a tour of the campus and it was just so cool,” she said. “The facilities were great, the girls were really friendly and you can’t beat California weather.
“Then we were eating lunch at some small place on campus, and who walks in but (USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist) Matt Barkley. I was all googly-eyed. I asked him for a picture and sent it to everyone. We also went to L.A. Live (entertainment complex) in downtown. It was so cool, other than all the Lakers fans.”
While she was thrilled by the glitz of Hollywood, D’Innocenzo also noted more practical reasons for her decision.
“The swimming is terrific at USC,” she said. “They have finished third at NCAAs as a team each of the last three years behind the University of California, which just signed (Olympic gold medalist) Missy Franklin, and Georgia. It’s a great team with great coaching and they have done a lot to improve their facilities.”
She also looked to her brother Nick for advice on the major decision.
“He was very protective and really tried to guide me,” she said. “He was very funny and very opinionated. Part of him wanted me to go to Texas, but part of him wanted me to do something new. He made sure I wasn’t rushing and I was going where I wanted to go. My parents were great too.”
With her college decision now out of the way, D’Innocenzo wants to make her final fall as a Golden Warrior count.
“If we win through states we will be undefeated all four years I was here,” she said. “I’d also like to reset my state records in the 200 IM and 500 freestyle records and go for the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke records. I have big goals for myself, and I am excited to work hard and accomplish them.”
David Willis is a sportswriter/videographer for The Eagle-Tribune. You can see his video profiles at eagletribunetribune.com/sports