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When launching a new sports program, it doesn’t hurt to have an Olympic medalist leading the way.

The Master’s University announced Tuesday it would start a men’s and women’s swimming and diving program this fall.

And Gabe Woodward, a bronze medalist for the United States in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics, will helm the fledgling program and has already begun recruiting athletes, according to TMU’s release.

“Establishing this program with Woodward, as our Director of Aquatics, is a huge win for our university,” TMU Athletic Director Steve Waldeck said in a statement.  “Gabe fully understands our culture and will be recruiting students to that end.  His swimming resume and accomplishments speak for themselves and he will be a great addition to our athletic programs.”

As for a training facility, the Mustangs will use the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center and other pools in the Santa Clarita Valley during their inaugural season.

The school will soon apply for membership in the Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference — a swimming-only conference compromised of NCAA Division I, II, III and NAIA programs in the southwestern United States.

It includes Biola of La Mirada, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine among others.

Woodward swam collegiately at USC, earning All-American honors before graduating in 2001.

His feats competing for the United States earned him the praise of four-time Olympic gold medalist Jason Lezak.

“I’ve known Gabe for over 15 years and been able to see him achieve success in many aspects of his life,” Lezak said in TMU’s release. “I’m excited to see him do the same at The Master’s University as he starts a team that can compete for national championships and hopefully put a kid, like Gabe, on the Olympic team.”

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Mason Nesbitt
Mason Nesbitt is The Santa Clarita Valley Signal's Sports Editor.
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