2018 Women’s NCAAs: How Did Our Top 20 Recruits Perform As Freshmen?


We’ve taken a pretty deep dive back into years-old recruiting ranks over the past two days, and we have one more piece of that puzzle to reanalyze. Luckily, the ranking we’ll revisit today is much more recent: how did our top 20 recruits in the class of 2017 perform as freshmen?

Further reading:

Naturally, this analysis has a far smaller sample size than our reports from the past two days, so it’s much more difficult to read too much into these numbers. Still, it’s useful to look at which first-year NCAA swimmers had the best performances relative to their recruiting ranks.

The ranks are from our top 20 story from July of 2016. Bear that in mind – a lot of these ranks would have changed if we had ranked them in July of 2017, after their senior years. In fact, there almost certainly would have been a different #1. Our recruiting ranks also only include domestic athletes, as international students are often hard to group into a specific recruiting class, and are generally shrouded in mystery as to when they’ll join an NCAA team, if they do at all.

Rank Name College Team 2018 NCAA Points
1 Courtney Harnish Georgia 7
2 Sierra Schmidt Michigan 9
3 Margaret Aroesty USC 9
4 Brooke Forde Stanford 21
5 Nikol Popov Tennessee no invite
6 Lauren Pitzer Stanford 1
7 Ashlyn Schoof Louisville 0
8 Hannah Kukurugya Stanford 0
9 Taylor Pike Texas A&M 5
10 Grace Zhao Stanford 5
11 Victoria Edwards Texas no invite
12 Ashley Volpenhein Stanford no invite
13 Marta Ciesla USC 0
14 Caitlin Tycz USC 0
15 Alexis Margett Michigan no invite
16 Anna Belousova Texas A&M 27
17 Taylor Ault Florida 0
18 Paige Madden Virginia 0
19 Joy Field Texas A&M no invite
20 Regan Barney Princeton no invite
  • This year’s freshman class had a disproportionately small impact on NCAAs point-wise, scoring less than a third of what any other class scored. Some of that was due to a huge number of returning NCAA champs, and it shrinks our already-tiny sample size even further. It won’t be wise to close the book on this class until they get an opportunity in a less-loaded NCAA crowd.
  • Texas A&M’s Anna Belousova had the best point haul. She’s technically listed as a sophomore, but joined the Aggies with this recruiting class. When we ranked her in July 2016, she was 1:00.5 in the 100 breast and 2:10.1 in the 200. This year, she went 58.9 and 2:07.2 at NCAAs to make the A final in both races.
  • Stanford’s Brooke Forde scored 21 points in her team’s dominating NCAA effort. It became clear to us over the course of this class’s senior year of high school that Forde was probably the new #1 recruit in the class, especially when she dropped her 400 IM from 4:07 to 4:02, her 200 IM from 1:57 to 1:55 and her 200 free from 1:46 to 1:44 before even setting foot on campus as a freshman.
  • Six of our top 20 didn’t even get an NCAA invite. That’s a big change from last year when all 20 of our top prospects made the big show. All six of those swimmers regressed fairly significantly from their best times – always a possibility in the tough transition from high school to college.

And of course, we’ll include everyone’s favorite part: which unranked recruits scored NCAA points as freshmen. There aren’t many, and 6 of the 9 are internationals, denoted with an asterisk (*):

Name College Team Total NCAA Points
Evie Pfeifer Texas 23.5
Robin Neumann* Cal 16
Bailey Bonnett Kentucky 14
Sarah Darcel* Cal 12
Mariia Astashkina* Louisville 12
Tamila Holub* NC State 11
Kristen Romano Ohio State 7
Mackenzie Padington* Minnesota 5
Sonnele Oeztuer* Auburn 3

These don’t include diving or relay contributions.

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6 years ago

Did you write an article like this after last year’s NCAAs?

6 years ago

Seems to me given the difficulty in addition to the lack of points perhaps a measurement of recruits should focus on consistency. Given only 5% of college women swimmer even make an NCAA cut in any given year. Why not show the number of top recruits in a bigger sample size (maybe top 50) that have made NCAA every year?
What you are writing about is the smallest sample size of an already small sample size (listing only swimmers that have top 16 times at NCAAs). Your chart above shows the 30% of the top 20 recruits didn’t even make the NCAA cut. Show me the list of top recruits that qualified for ALL FOUR YEARS of… Read more »

6 years ago

Courtney Harnish, ouch!! #1 recruit may have been a bit overstated!

Reply to  SUNY Cal
6 years ago

I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. She had a great year and college and especially NCAA’s is a big adjustment. We’ll see

6 years ago

I’d add Abby Richter from UVA as a name to look out for. Just barely missed finals at NCAAs (I believe she was 1st alternate in the 200IM if I remember correctly), and she did a phenomenal job at ACCs, dropping time for the first time since her Junior year of high school.

6 years ago

romano & pfefier improved massively during their senior year of HS, bu even more during college. another name to look out for – ali harrison, cal. she was a 1:01.4 in the 100 breast and 2:14.4 in the 200 breast when she committed, and dropped down to a 59 & 2:10.

Reply to  paloozas
6 years ago

And they say Cal can’t coach breastrokers

Sun Devil Swim Fan
Reply to  HOYA13
6 years ago

A&M is “Breast Stroke U”. Look at the A final in 200 breast. Nuff said! Gig em?

6 years ago

My guess is there are some sleepers in this cohort. Seeing a trend towards swimmers, even girls, peaking a bit later than before. Some of these women might explode in the points over the next 3 years.

Longhorn fan
6 years ago

Great job by Carol and Roric in Texas. If sickness hadn’t hit at the wrong time, they would have had two swimmers in the A final of the 500 free. Congrats to Evie.

Reply to  Longhorn fan
6 years ago

Maybe. Or even a healthy Evans could have missed the 500 finals completely just like Commerford. No guarantees anywhere.

Sun Devil Swim Fan
Reply to  1anda2
6 years ago


6 years ago

Bonnett….the one to watch!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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