Atlantic City High School senior swimmer Colleen Callahan visited the University of Tennessee in mid-September and decided Monday that Knoxville is the place for her.

Callahan, 17, a three-time Press Girls Swimmer of the Year, announced that she will continue her swimming career and education at Tennessee. Callahan said she verbally committed to the Vols and will receive a partial athletic scholarship. She will sign a national letter of intent in November.

“I really liked the team and the coach (Matt Kredich). The atmosphere was really nice and I really felt at home there,” said Callahan, a Ventnor resident.

“What a weekend. They played the University of Florida (in football) and ESPN was there. It was really a lot of fun. The host people were the best. Everyone there was so nice.

“I knew that was the school for me.”

Callahan visited the University of Wisconsin last weekend and had another trip scheduled for the University of Texas. But she called them both back and said she had decided on Tennessee.

“It’s definitely a relief to know in October where I’m going to college,” Callahan said. “I’m excited about how it will help my high school and club swimming, and my academics.”

Callahan also is a member of the Egg Harbor Township Seahawks Swim Club. In June, she represented the Seahawks at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Neb., competing in the women’s 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events.

“Colleen is an unbelievable competitor,” said Brian Elko, the Seahawks’ head coach. “When she has to swim fast, she always does. She has learned the value of hard work and has seen how it pays off.

“Colleen and I have had some conversations about the best (colleges). Matt Kredich is doing a great job at Tennessee. They’ve been in the top 10 the last three or four years. He has had a couple Olympians and has put swimmers on the national team. They have a brand new pool and great facilities. It’s all-around great.”

Callahan added, “Matt has a real great track record and a great coaching staff. He’s really good at making someone a better swimmer, and I know he’ll make me better.”

It already had been quite a year for Callahan.

In March, she won the girls 100-yard breaststroke and 200 individual medley (IM) races for ACHS at the high school season-ending Meet of Champions for the third straight year, breaking her own meet records in both events. She also was named The Press Female Athlete of 2011-12.

With her senior season at Atlantic City still to come, Callahan already has had one of the most accomplished scholastic careers of any local athlete in any sport, and her impact was immediate. She made her debut for the Vikings as a freshman on Dec. 3, 2009. In a 146-37 win over Cumberland Regional, Callahan set a school record in the 200 IM and helped set another record in the 200 medley relay.

“Colleen made a great choice. I’m really happy for her and proud of her,” said Bill Howarth, the Atlantic City High School girls swimming coach. “It’s nice for her to have the decision out of the way. I’m sure her (Atlantic City) teammates are excited for her."

Howarth looked online at Tennessee’s swimming results at the Southeast Conference championships from last year.

“She’ll fit in right away there,” he said. “(Tennessee) definitely needs a breaststroker. She’ll be right in their starting lineup.”

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