Key Additions: Chelsea Chenault (CA – mid-distance free), Lexie Malazdrewicz (sprint free), Blair Carnes (VA – breast, fly), Maggie D’Innocenzo (mid-distance free, IM),
Key Losses: Haley Anderson (two 2013 NCAA titles, 1 NCAA B-Final, 1 relay), Yumi So (NCAA qualifier, 1 relay), Jessie Schmitt (NCAA qualifier), Christel Simms (2 NCAA relays), Kate Shumway (1 NCAA relay)
Despite graduating a few huge contributors following their third place finish at the 2012 NCAA Championship (including Tanya Krisman, SwimSwam’s own Amanda Smith, and the incomparable Katinka Hosszu), the following season had promise, thanks to an incoming freshman class that included Jasmine Tosky and Kendyl Stewart. Between those names and a resurgent Kasey Carlson, USC was in a solid position to contend for a Pac 12 title and top three NCAA finish. Ultimately, the Trojans finished a mere 21 points out of first at Pac 12’s (keep in mind, the top teams are scoring 1400+ points), and seventh at NCAA’s.
Like many of the teams that we’ve covered, though, that doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Trojans lost a likely 24 points following a disappointing preliminary DQ in the 400 medley relay. Those points alone would have propelled USC up to fifth place, and just 11 points out of third place overall. While the 2013-2014 team might have a massive void in the distance events left by the graduation on NCAA champion Haley Anderson, their returning starts seem to cover every other event. With the addition of a couple of freshmen who will instantly contribute, USC shouldn’t miss a beat.
Five For Fighting [On]:
USC returns five swimmers capable of finishing in the top three in at least one individual event, and in some cases, challenging for NCAA titles:
- After a subpar sophomore championship campaign, Kasey Carlson had a superb junior year, scoring in three individual events (2 A-finals, 1 B-final), highlighted by a second place finish in the 100 breast behind NCAA record holder Breeja Larson. Her long course 100 breast was a little off this summer (she failed to make the A-final at World Championship Trials), but Carlson swam her fastest non-super-suit 50 breaststroke, and also put together a lifetime best 100 free.
- Rising sophomore Kendyl Stewart will be looking to top her great freshman year, where she smashed her previous best times pretty much across the board, headlined by her 51.32 100 fly at Pac 12’s, which ended up being the top time in the country for the 2012-2013 season. Her performance on the third day in the 200 backstroke was a particularly pleasant surprise, dropping 2+ seconds from her previous best to finish fourth in one of the fastest overall fields in the meet. She wasn’t as good overall in Indianapolis, but now that she has experienced the quick turnaround from Pac 12’s to NCAA’s, you can count on Stewart being one of the better multi-threat swimmers in the nation.
- Jasmine Tosky arrived in Los Angeles last fall with heavy expectations, and for good reason. The Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics club product was one of the most versatile recruits ever, and looked to be a huge piece in USC’s quest to bring team titles back to the southern half of California. While she fell short in a lot of ways at her 2013 taper meets (so far), don’t count her out. She started off her freshman campaign red-hot (just look back at her swims from the SMU Classic last October), and with a little but of confidence, she could be right back where she was.
- Although she’s not as well-known as some of her teammates, first-year Trojan Andrea Kropp was actually the highest-finishing USC swimmer at the 2012 Olympic Trials (she was third in the 200 breast). After sitting out 2012 following her transfer from Princeton, Kropp came back to become two-event scorer at NCAA’s a year ago, and barely missed out in her third event (100 breast, where she finished 18th).
- Stina Gardell, a 2012 Swedish Olympian specializing in the breaststroke/IM events, has made two NCAA A-finals and one B-final in each of her last two seasons at USC. She scored 36 individual points for the Trojans a year ago, and looks to only improve on those results; she crushed her best time in the 200 meter breaststroke this summer by more than two seconds. She has certainly made a name for herself in the individual medleys, coming off the dominance of Hosszu for the Trojans and in the NCAA.
Distance Queen Done:
Haley Anderson was the star for the Trojans throughout the 2012-2013 season, sweeping every 1000 and 1650 free she swam in her final year (excluding her second place finish to Katie Ledecky at 2012 AT&T Winter Nats). She capped off a great collegiate career by winning the 500 and 1650 freestyles at both Pac 12’s and NCAA’s.
Having anchored a relatively thin distance group for the past four years, Anderson is easily the biggest loss for USC. Although she was never a huge relay contributor (the 800 free relay was the only realistic place to put her), her individual value is unmistakable, having scored 120 individual points over four years.
Relay Returners and the Rest:
Between the five swimmers listed above and Katarzyna Wilk, USC returns 15 of their 20 relay swims. Wilk, a rising sophomore sprinter, scored in the 50 free a year ago, and also swam on four USC relays.
Three of the five remaining spots that need filling (two legs on the 4×100 free relay and one leg on the 4×200 free relay) are immediately upgraded with the addition of freshmen Chelsea Chenault and Lexie Malazdrewicz (see below).
The backstroke leg on the medleys also needs some attention, but if Tosky returns to form, she can take over for Stewart in the fly leg, while Stewart moves to the leadoff spot. Henriette Stekvist (53.3 100 back as a true freshman) is also a viable option.
Head coach Dave Salo picked up another four-year gem in his most recent recruiting class: World Championship Team member Chelsea Chenault. In addition to her world-class performances in the long course pool, Chenault has already proved she can be just as good short course; she was once the National Independent High School Record holder in the 200 (it’s since been broken), and her personal bests of 1:44.1 and 4:36.6 in the 200/500 yard freestyles make her an immediate double-A-final threat. Her ability to drop down to the 100 (she’s been 49.2 flat start there) is also an instant upgrade to the USC 4×100 free relay, and gives Salo some additional relay flexibility elsewhere.
While Chenault is the clear-cut big name here, there are a few other names of immediate value for the Trojans. Lexie Malazdrewicz is one of the best swimmers out of Colorado in the last decade, but has had the misfortune (or fortune, depending how you look at it) of sharing the state with Missy Franklin. Like Chenault, Malazdrewicz should jump right onto the 4×100 and 4×200 freestyle relays, and also has potential to be a longer-term answer in the backstroke and butterfly events. Her personal bests include a 49.5/1:45.7/4:46.9 in the 100/200/500 yard freestyles, along with 54.3/1:55.5 in the 100/200 backstrokes, and a 2:00 in the 200 yard IM.
The addition of Blair Carnes and Maggie D’Innocenzo will provide more depth in some traditionally-strong events for USC. Carnes brings in a 2:10.99 in the 200 yard breaststroke (although that time was from more than two years ago), as well as a 2:02 in the 200 yard fly.
Maggie D’Innocenzo (yes, she’s the sister of former NCAA Champion Nick) has been 4:15.2 in the 400 IM. With some time in what has become an incredibly breast/IM training group at USC, these two can be serious long-term contributors.
USC is also returning redshirt junior Haley Ishimatsu, the runaway champion last year at Pac 12’s and NCAA’s on the 10m platform. She’ll have some added competition from a couple true freshmen (particularly Samantha Bromberg at Texas), but after smashing the championship record in Indianapolis, Ishimatsu still has to be considered the favorite.
The Overall Outlook:
A better year from Tosky, solid year from Chenault, and some more development could set USC up for a top three finish at NCAA’s. While Georgia has too many weapons (even after losing Allison Schmitt and Megan Romano, they picked up Olivia Smoliga), and Cal remains the heavy favorite, third is completely up for grabs: Texas A&M, Tennessee, USC, Stanford, Arizona, and Florida all the talent and the coaching to grab one of the two remaining trophies.