Zach Stevens was an All-American in the 100-meter breaststroke last season as an Arroyo Grande High junior.
Next year, he’ll get to display his skills at one of the best swim colleges in the nation.
Stevens, a senior, signed his national letter of intent Thursday to swim at Cal.
Another Eagle, third baseman Garrett Ball, signed to play baseball at a top Division II program, Colorado Mesa, after hitting .429 as a junior and helping to lead Arroyo Grande to a PAC 7 league title.
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Both athletes will receive partial scholarships.
“Going to Cal in swimming is like a high school basketball player going to Duke,” Arroyo Grande assistant athletic director Mike McAustin said. “They’re one of the best in the country.”
Stevens said that it was a “pretty clear cut choice” to attend Cal, which was the NCAA team champion in 2011 and 2012 and placed second last season.
“I made an official visit there in mid-September to make sure I’d get along with the team and the coaching staff,” Stevens said. “They have an amazing coaching staff, nice facilities, and I really connected with the team.”
Stevens also considered Northwestern, Arizona and Michigan.
Stevens has been a major asset to the Arroyo Grande swim team while making a strong mark on his own, competing in the U.S. Olympic trials in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke as a 16-year-old in 2012.
“He is pretty incredible,” Eagles swim coach Russell Peterson said. “He won all of his events in the PAC 7 league meet. At CIF (Southern Section finals), he swam a really fast time and placed high in the individual medley. He won the breaststroke. And he helped the team to a third-place finish in Division 2.”
Peterson said Stevens has a “top-notch work ethic” and he’s constantly studying how to get faster in the pool.
His time of 55.13 seconds in the 100-meter breaststroke earned him high school All-American honors this past winter.
Stevens, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound swimmer, said that he’d likely compete in the breaststroke, IM, and hopefully the freestyle relay for the Bears.
He’s in the pool twice each day and has been honing his craft since he was 7.
Stevens’ classmate Ball liked visiting Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction so much that he felt “sad to leave.”
The Division II program is ranked 19th in the nation in the preseason Division II poll for 2014. San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo pitched for the program in 2005 when its college was called Mesa State.
Ball said he could play any infield position and coaches were considering him for second base.
“I can play any infield position, but I think they’re considering me for middle infield,” Ball said. “They made me feel at home. I love the staff. It’s a great place.”
Ball said his hitting coach, Mike Lara, and Arroyo Grande’s baseball coach, Brad Lachemann, have been instrumental in his development as a hitter.
Ball led the Eagles with eight doubles last season and tied for a team high with 21 RBI, helping Arroyo Grande to a 19-7-3 record.
This fall, playing on the SoCal Cardinals based in Thousands Oaks on weekends, Ball hit .432.
“I think we can win league again (at Arroyo Grande),” Ball said. “We lost some key guys, but we have some good players coming back and we have a good shot at it and a deep run in CIF.”