I was caught by surprise during yesterday's swim dual against Niagara by the news that there was a new Bull in the pool in Sharne Tiller. UB hasn't immediately provided much information on Tiller, but she's not the first midyear addition to UB Athletics this season.
If you're thinking hoopsters Stephanie Reid and Courtney Wilkins, who joined the Women's Basketball team after graduating from their Australian high schools in late 2014, you're on the right track. Tiller is also an Aussie, though she has taken a gap year after finishing her high school studies in 2013.
In her first competition with UB today, Sharne was a part of the victorious 200 Medley Relay and claimed an individual victory in the 200 Individual Medley, winning by more than five seconds in field diluted by weak competition in Niagara and many lineup switches on Coach Bashor's part.
I'm sure we'll learn more about Tiller in Women's Swimming and Diving's quest for a MAC Championship this winter, but who is she and what kind of pedigree does she bring to Amherst?
Originally from the small municipality of Jimboomba, located about halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Tiller has been a part of the Waterworx Swim Club for six years prior to coming to America. In the last few years she's worked with Coach Dean Pugh since Pugh's move to Waterworx from another club.
Pugh himself has a bit of a track record in getting Australian prep athletes into the American NCAA system. A Google search reveals just as many hits in NCAA student-athlete bios as Australian sources, though right now Pugh's best-known understudy may be Keryn McMaster, who took a big leap forward after switching to Pugh and Waterworx and medaled at both the most recent Commonwealth Games and Pan-Pacific Championships, and has qualified for the World Championships as well.
Back to Tiller, who just weeks before coming to Buffalo competed in four events in the Queensland State Championships with her Waterworx club. The 18 year old focuses on the breaststroke and individual medal and has in the past medaled at the state level in the 200m breaststroke and 400m individual medley.
Happily, Sharne was able to join the Bulls in Florida for their winter training and returned to Buffalo with the team for yesterday's competition.
Outside of the pool, Tiller received the Pierre de Coubertin Award in 2012. The award is presented to one student-athlete per school to honor those who embody the spirit of the modern Olympic Movement through their participation in sports and other activities.
From a UB perspective, I'm glad to see the Bulls pull in talent from further reaches than oversaturated American recruiting grounds. Women's Basketball has of course added four from Australia in the last 12 months, Softball, Women's Soccer, and Volleyball all signed Canadian recruits this fall, and Women's Tennis pulled in a four-star recruit from Puerto Rico.
Most importantly, Welcome to Buffalo, Sharne, and congrats on your wins yesterday!