It’s that time of year again. July 1st has come and gone, and college swim programs are now in full swing with their recruiting efforts for the class of 2015. One thing that means, though, is that the brunt of recruiting for the class of 2014 is now wrapped up, and most schools have their incoming freshman classes settled with just under two months until college swimming starts up again.
That also means it’s time for SwimSwam to take a look back at the recruiting season that was, ranking the top 12 incoming freshman classes in the nation.
We’ll start on the women’s side with #9-12, continuing with the top 8 in the coming days.
A quick disclaimer: the ranking numbers listed for each individual prospect are from our pre-recruiting season rankings done last July. There has obviously been some shake-up in the rankings since then based on each swimmer’s senior season, so the individual rankings are a rough sign of each prospect’s standing, though not as concrete as they’d appear. Those early rankings also do not include foreign athletes, as it’s often difficult to know exactly what semester an athlete will make the trip into the U.S. and therefore hard to classify them with a specific recruiting class. Foreign athletes signed on for the coming season are included in these new team rankings.
As with any ranking system, these placements are subjective. We base our rankings on a number of factors including prospect’s incoming times, team needs filled, prospect’s potential upside, class size and potential relay impact. Swimmers are considered for their potential in short course yards, as that is the system the NCAA runs on.
So, without further ado, here are your 9th- through 12th-ranked Class of 2014 NCAA Recruiting Class Rankings, with the top 8 to follow later this week:
12. Duke Blue Devils (NCAA Finish: 51st)
Top-Tier Additions: Hanna House, Leah Goldman, Isabella Paez, Maria Sheridan
Rest of class: Catie Miller, Verity Abel, Abby Artman, Lizzie Devitt, Mary Ellen Targonski (diver)
Duke is a latecomer to our list; in fact, the Devils had a solid, deep class that didn’t quite make the cut of our top 12 when we started these previews, but last Wednesday those Devils impishly stuck a wrench into the whole works, bringing in the centerpiece their class was missing in Hanna House.
House had a winding journey to Durham, North Carolina. The Carmel Swim Club product originally gave her verbal commitment to Virginia, then actually signed an NLI with Notre Dame. But earlier this summer, House changed her mind a second time, obtaining a release from Notre Dame to ultimately sign on with Duke.
However she got there, the Blue Devils are happy to have her. A member of Carmel’s dominant club and high school programs, House is an all-around star in the making, coming in with ACC scoring times in both backstrokes and both butterflys. Those backstrokes are probably most impressive, currently sitting at 54.1 and 1:58.6. Generally speaking, Duke is in decent shape with a young crop of butterflyers, but only scored had two scoring swims combined between the 100 and 200 back at ACCs in 2014.
House joins Leah Goldman, one of the outstanding young swimmers in this class to come out of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. Goldman heads across the country to Duke, where she’ll immediately compete to be the team’s top butterflyer. Her 53.6 from the 2013 CCS Championships would have gotten her into the championship final at this year’s ACCs, and she’ll go a long way in patching over the absence of graduated Lauren Weaver, third in the conference this past season. Goldman is also pretty solid in the 100 back (56.1) and 200 IM (1:59.82) and should give Duke’s coaching staff some interesting lineup options.
The rest of the class features some solid role players, some intriguing upside and a generally well-rounded group. Isabella Paez heads up from Miami, bringing along a really good 200 fly (1:57.2) a strong 100 fly (54.4) and some solid development potential through the freestyle distances. Local SwimMAC product Maria Sheridan hits the classic back/fly combo, going 55.3/2:02.6 in the butterflys and 56.7/2:01.0 in the backstrokes. Catie Miller, the younger sister of 7-time Big Ten breaststroking champion Cody Miller, travels from Nevada as a developmental IMer/breaststroker.
All-in-all, the depth of this class, combined with Duke’s freshman class last season, which raised the program to new heights, should help the Blue Devils stay afloat in an ACC that gets even thicker with the addition of Louisville this coming season.
11. North Carolina Tar Heels (NCAA Finish: 19th)
Top-Tier Additions: Emily Slabe, Caroline Baldwin, Megan Bestor, Madison Boswell
Rest of class: Elisa Dawson (diver), Michole Timm (diver – transfer)
The name of the game with this Tar Heels class seems simple: load up on backstrokers. The Heels wound up second at last year’s ACC Championships, a solid feat in a tough conference, but watched themselves get beat up by eventual champions Virginia in the backstroke events.
Three of North Carolina’s top recruits project as college backstrokers, so it’s safe to say Rich DeSelm and his staff are hoping to stop the bleeding in the stroke as they try to end Virginia’s 7-year reign atop the ACC.
UNC went to nearby Georgia to pull out yet another backstroker, SwimAtlanta’s Megan Bestor. She’s got the most backstroking speed of the bunch, going 52.6 at NCSA Juniors earlier this year, and also adds a 1:57.6 in the 200. Bestor had a great NCSAs, and what makes her such an attractive prospect is her dual-threat status as a sprint butterflyer. She’s been 53.3 in the 100 there, and looks the part of one of those 100 back/fly doublers who can tackle either leg on a medley relay. And speaking of relays, Bestor’s lifetime-best actually cuts nearly half a second off of North Carolina’s opening leg on its ACC 400 medley relay.
Emily Slabe is the biggest name. One of the top recruits out of the state of Ohio, Slabe heads to Chapel Hill as perhaps the best pure backstroker of the new Tar Heel crew. She’s been 53.2 in the 100 back, 1:54.64 in the 200 back, and is perhaps most exciting for her 50 back split, which has been as fast as 24.9. That’s already a tenth faster than what UNC got out of its medley relay leadoff in 2014 and should help its medleys rise from the middle of the ACC pack.
The Tar Heels also added Caroline Baldwin, who is a backstroke threat that also brings sprint freestyle prowess to the table. Her lifetime-best is 54.4 in the 100 back, but she can also add a 22.8 in the 50 free and 50.6 in the 100 free, making her an ideal relay piece for UNC, whether as a freshman or down the road. She’s originally from New Jersey.
Those three should help make the Tar Heels instantly better in both backstroke races, even after graduating ACC finalist Carly Smith. Teamed with ACC finalist and rising junior Annie Harrison and 2014 freshman scorers Sarah Hitchens and Hellen Moffitt, the backstroke events have gone from somewhat of a liability for UNC to being a major strength of the team.
UNC also has Madison Boswell coming in from Poseidon Swimming in Virginia. Boswell is that versatile beast of a long-yardage prospect teams love. College coaches love getting their hands on good 400 IMers, and Boswell is 4:16.1 in that event and has dropped almost 8 seconds over the past calendar year. She can also swim the 200 fly (1:58.6) and some distance freestyle events, including a 16:51 in the mile, giving UNC a tough, distance-oriented swimmer to spice up its class.
On the shorter end of things, Kathryn Ford looks like a developmental sprinter with some nice speed, going 23.1 and 50.6 in the short freestyle races. Ford should have a solid shot to break 23 as a freshman, which only three Tar Heels were able to do last season.
10. Texas Longhorns (NCAA Finish: 9th)
Top-Tier Additions: Bethany Leap, Sammie Hashbarger, Mary Schneider, Samantha Sutton, Rebecca Millard, Sydney Couch (diver)
Texas’s class isn’t very big, but don’t let that fool you. The Longhorns brought in a quality class that should especially bolster their freestyle relays.
The one exception to that theme is Texas’s top prospect. Bethany Leap comes from Sarasota, Florida and the storied YMCA program there. She’s one of the best breaststrokers in this entire recruiting class, and should be a huge get for the Longhorns, who haven’t yet fully filled the shoes of graduated NCAA champion Laura Sogar.
Leap comes in with top times of 1:01.7 in the 100 and 2:11.35 in the 200 – times solid enough to put her on the Junior National Team, and she’s also got tremendous upside. Gretchen Jaques is a senior, but now Texas can rest easy pairing Long with Madisyn Cox for three seasons to really shore things up in the breaststroke events.
From there, the wave of freestylers hits. Mary Schneider is a big-time sprinting talent out of Illinois. Unlike some sprint prospects, Schneider appears to have three solid events, with the speed to go 22.6 in the 50 and 49.7 in the 100, plus the endurance to swim up to a 1:49.6 in the 200 free. Between those three races, look for Schneider to push her way onto all three of Texas’s free relays early on – the ‘Horns graduated at least two swimmers off of all three NCAA foursomes. Schneider could be particularly dangerous on the 200 free relay, with a shot to split 21, a feat only one Longhorn – the now-graduated Ellen Lobb - pulled off in 2014.
Schneider is also a pretty good butterflyer, going 53.5 in the 100 and breaking 24 seconds in the open 50, which means she could be a medley relay factor if need be, as well.
Sammie Hashbarger will stay in her home state for college, and brings a more middle-distance focus to the table. She’s most-notably a 1:48.2 in the 200 free, swimming down to 23.4/50.4 in the sprint distances and up to 4:48.5 in the 500. She’s joined by fellow Texas high schooler Sam Sutton, who comes out of Nitro Aquatics. Sutton is a bit more developmental, but brings a 23.5 50 freestyle and also goes 51 in the 100.
On top of all that, Texas went out to California to pull in Irvine Novaquatics rising sprinter Rebecca Millard, another 23-second 50 girl. Millard is knocking on the door of 22, though, going 23.04 at Winter Junior Nationals last December. Millard is also 50-point and 1:50-point in the longer freestyle distances, and looks like she’ll focus entirely on that stroke when she arrives in Austin.
Now with her second full recruiting class incoming, head coach Carol Capitani‘s philosophy and Georgia coaching tree lineage really seems to be coming through. She’s bringing in great freestyle talent to fill out the base of the team in true Georgia fashion, and still managing to fill out the lineup with some exciting young stroke swimmers like her new headliner Leap. With now half the team being Capitani recruits, we should get a much clearer picture this season of exactly how that philosophy is working out.
9. UCLA Bruins (NCAA Finish: 21st)
Top-Tier Additions: Katie Grover, Anna Quinn, Sarah Kaunitz, Carly Reid, Marie-Pierre Delisle
Rest of class: Jax Shoults
The UCLA Bruins have been on a recruiting tear the past couple of seasons, and they follow things up with one of the deepest and most well-rounded classes in our rankings.
In the center is SwimAtlanta’s Katie Grover, who looks the part of a versatile all-around stud for the Bruins. Grover has the freestyle chops to be a big-time relay player (49.9 in the 100, 1:48.5 in the 200) and is probably even more promising in the 100 fly, where she went 52.9 this winter in winning the Georgia High School Class 6A state title. Add in a 54.2 in the 100 back and UCLA has a major asset that also provides some lineup flexibility.
But UCLA did most of its recruiting work in its own backyard, effectively mining California’s great talent pool even while competing against it’s higher-profile in-state rivals. Anna Quinn comes to Los Angeles from the Conejo Simi Swim Team and projects to swim butterfly, which has been UCLA’s strength over the past couple seasons. She’s been 54.3 in the 100 and 1:59.2 in the 200, which would have had her scoring points at last year’s Pac-12 Championships in the longer race.
Then the Bruins went and got a 3-for-1, taking a trio of teammates from northern California’s Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. Sarah Kaunitz is a talented sprint freestyler with some breaststroking talent to boot. Carly Reid is more of a pure freestyler, and seems to have a real knack for clutch relay swims. Meanwhile Marie-Pierre (MP) Delisle is another swimmer in the backstroker/butterflyer mold UCLA has done so well with.
For a swimmer who specializes in sprint free, Kauntiz has really impressive range across several strokes. She’s been 23.1/50.3 in the shorter freestyle races, but can also go up to a 1:50.0 in the 200 and has even broken five minutes in the 500. Breaststroking-wise, she’s 1:02.1/2:15.5, and could project best as a 50 free/100 free/100 breast type come Pac-12s. It’s also worth noting her 2:03.6 in the 200 IM, which could be an event with developmental promise for her.
Reid brings in very similar 50 and 100 times: 23.1 and 50.4. She’s also got valuable relay experience in high-pressure situations – as a junior, Reid anchored the Monta Vista High 200 and 400 free relays, splitting 22.9 and 49.9 in powering her teams to CCS titles. In 2014, she was right on the door of those same times in helping her 200 free relay defend its title and the 400 team take second.
Delisle has been 55 in both the 100 back and fly, plus adds versatility over distance with a 1:58.7 in the 200 back and a 2:00.0 in the 200 fly. For a team that just graduated Ting Quah out of the butterfly races, reloading is vital, and the third member of the PASA trio should help do just that.