Her decision on where to continue her swimming career was mostly made up when Chelsea Pond, a Fairfield Warde senior, had her official NCAA visit to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., in late September. She was so impressed with her potential teammates, the team culture and the campus -- the general feeling that she got -- that Pond knew she was making the right choice for her.

On Tuesday afternoon at Warde, she signed her national letter of intent. She is receiving a partial scholarship that can be increased for her sophomore, junior and senior years for the Flames. Pond will be competing for an NCAA Division I team.

Twenty-four athletes are on the team that is in its fourth year of existence, including five seniors. Pond is one of six young ladies who has been recruited to the Flames. She placed third in the CIAC Class L championship 50-yard freestyle and fourth at the State Open earlier this month. Pond was eighth in the 100-yard freestlye at the State Open and seventh in that event in Class L.

"I'm happy to be done with it. There were multiple factors," Pond, who acknowledged she was recruited hard by the University of New York at Buffalo, said of reaching her decision. "It's a great school with great academics. It's a new program, and I'm excited about that. I have a lot of faith in it."

But she also spoke at length about her future teammates and the warm vibe she got from how they interacted among themselves and with her. Pond is impressed with coach Jake Shellenberger and assistant coach Jessica Barnes. "He's a really competent coach and so nice," said Pond, whose younger sister Brittany, a junior, placed 24th in the State Open 50 free.

Liberty's 200 freestyle relay is ranked 23rd in the country, she said. Pond wouldn't be surprised by earning a spot in that four-swimmer rotation in 2014-15.

She said she liked how many of Liberty's students wore school apparel and how well-attended sporting events there were by the student body. Pond liked the atmosphere on campus and with the swimmers and divers, she said.

Pond, who is 6-foot-1 inches tall, said she is comfortable that two returning freestyle swimmers are listed at 6-2 on the Liberty athletics website.

Pond is planning for her future career with action now. She took a week off from swimming, but got back in the pool earlier this week to begin training for her club season with Shoreline Elite Aquatics out of the University of Bridgeport.

The staff there endorsed her decision to swim for Liberty University, noting that the Flames are on the rise. Her father, Tom, mentioned how a $300 million athletic complex is being built on campus, scheduled to open in 2015.

Chelsea Pond plans to compete in the Junior Nationals this summer before heading to Virginia to begin preparing for the 2014-15 season.

She expects to do her freestyle sprinting events as well as participating in the relays for the Flames.

Pond's parents and grandparents, as well as Mustangs' head coach Georg Palmgren, were at the signing as well.

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