West York's Courtney Harnish has been named the top swimming recruit in the nation by an online site. The 17-year-old explains what she's looking for in a college. Jim Seip, GameTimePA


The country’s top swimming recruit has made her decision.

West York’s Courtney Harnish has verbally committed to swim for the University of Georgia Bulldogs next fall. Harnish announced the news on Instagram Sunday.

Harnish was ranked the nation's top swimming recruit by this summer and began hearing from schools when the open period began in July. The star swimmer had narrowed down her choices to four schools in July, Harnish told at the time.

In the end Harnish went with the school that felt most like a family.

“I just wanted to be part of a team where it felt like a family and there was no drama, and they would be able to help push each other to achieve our goals,” Harnish said about her decision. “I really just felt like they were a true family. That’s definitely what hit it home for me.”

The West York native joins a powerhouse swimming program that sent several swimmers to the 2016 Rio Olympics, including Spring Grove’s Hali Flickinger. Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle led the women's swimming team to its seventh NCAA title under his watch, and then he served as an assistant coach on the U.S. Olympic team.

Having seen Flickinger, a former York YMCA Aquatics Club swimmer, accomplish so much while swimming for the Georgia program played a small role in her decision, Harnish said.

“She did tremendous at Georgia coming from the same club I swim at now definitely helps,” Harnish said. “Knowing that she responds to their training really well, that definitely played a little bit (in the decision). It wasn’t a true deciding factor there, but it definitely helped.”

Harnish already has a number of accomplishments under her belt. She set a YMCA national swimming record this year and holds two PIAA Class AA records. The 17-year-old posted a winning time of 1 minute, 56.92 seconds, in the 200-yard butterfly at the 2016 YMCA Nationals in April while competing for the York YMCA.

Harnish set the 200-yard freestyle record (1:45.91) and the 500-yard freestyle record (4:11.44) in the PIAA in 2014, while competing as a freshman in high school. She swam in the U.S. Olympic team trials in July and competed for the United States at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto in 2015.

Now her goal is to help Georgia reach the NCAA championships, and she also wants to compete in more meets with Team USA.

“There’s no better feeling than swimming for Team USA,” Harnish said. “Whenever I have the opportunity and the honor to swim, I always have so much fun. And it definitely gives me motivation to keep going.”

Harnish has swam solely for the York YMCA for the previous two years, but she will compete for the West York High School team this winter before she becomes a Georgia Bulldog.

“There’s no better feeling than representing your school,” Harnish said. “I’ve gone to West York all my life, so being able to go out at West York with one last shebang … I can’t wait. It’s going to be so much fun.”

West York Swimming coach Nicole Flowers is excited to see Harnish headed to a strong school like Georgia.

“I am very happy she committed to Georgia,” Flowers said. “They will be lucky to have her not only as an amazing athlete but as a wonderful, well-rounded young lady.”

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