2020 Women’s NCAA Season: How Did Our Top 20 Recruits Perform As Freshmen?

We’ve already done a deep dive into our recruiting archives, looking at how the top 20 recruits from the high school class of 2016 did after four NCAA seasons. Now it’s time to look back at a more recent recruit ranking: the current year’s freshmen, whom we ranked in the spring of 2018, then re-ranked one year later after the close of their high school careers.

Relevant links:

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.

2020 update: we typically use NCAA scoring to help analyze these recruit rankings. With the 2020 NCAA Championships canceled by coronavirus, we lose out on a pretty valuable data point. Still, we make do with what we’ve got, which is projected NCAA scoring (based on the psych sheet) along with NCAA invites and other accolades from the regular season.

The ranks listed below are from our re-rank last summer – they are not current ranks of NCAA athletes. We also do not rank international athletes as recruits, as it’s hard to predict if and when they’ll come to the U.S., and which class with which to include them.


HM=Honorable mention

Rank Name College Team 2020 NCAA Psych Sheet Points Other
1 Kate Douglass Virginia 51
2 Zoie Hartman Georgia 45
3 Katharine Berkoff NC State 16
4 Emily Weiss Indiana 18
5 Coleen Gillilan Notre Dame NCAA invite
6 Ella Nelson Virginia 33
7 Kaitlynn Sims Michigan 17
8 Caitlin Brooks Kentucky 15
9 Ayla Spitz Cal NCAA invite
10 Kelly Pash Texas 4
11 Zephy Koh Princeton no invite
12 Alexandra Crisera Stanford 6
13 Hannah Bach Ohio State 13
14 Madelyn Donohoe Virginia NCAA invite
15 Cora Dupre Indiana 17
16 Lexi Cuomo Virginia 7
17 Ashley Turak Indiana NCAA invite
18 Lindsay Looney Arizona State NCAA invite
19 Ellie VanNote UNC NCAA invite
20 Mary Smutny Texas no invite
HM Caroline Bentz Virginia Tech deferred
HM Talia Bates Florida no invite
HM Chloe Clark Cal no invite
HM Caroline Cooper UNC no invite

The hits:

  • Virginia’s Kate Douglass was on track to be a historic recruit, with 50+ points as a freshman. Since 2015, only 4 freshmen have scored more than 50 individually: Simone Manuel (57 in 2015), Ella Eastin (57 in 2016) Katie Ledecky (58.5 in 2017), andTaylor Ruck (50 in 2019).
  • Not to be forgotten behind Douglass’s excellence, Georgia rookie Zoie Hartman was living up to her #2 billing with 45 projected points.
  • Virginia had an outstanding class, with four freshmen earning NCAA invites and three of the four projected to score. Ella Nelson had 33 psych sheet points, and she and Douglass sat 1-3 in the class in projected scoring.
  • It was generally a great year for our ranked recruits. 18 of the top 20 earned NCAA invites and 12 were projected to score.

The misses:

  • Not many. Zephy Koh didn’t register a swim this year, and doesn’t appear on Princeton’s roster.
  • Mary Smutny mostly went backwards for Texas. She was 1:45/4:42 free and 1:56 fly out of high school, but went 1:47/4:45 and 1:59 at mid-season and backwards a little further at Big 12s.
  • Caroline Bentz deferred her enrollment and should join VT in a future season.


And of course, we’ll include everyone’s favorite part: which unranked recruits earned NCAA invites and projected to score points this season – both domestic up-and-comers and international pickups.


Name College Team 2020 NCAA Psych Sheet Points
Ellie Marquardt Princeton 12
Rachel Klinker Cal 9
Gillian Davey Kentucky 4
Felicia Pasadyn Harvard 2
Meredith Rees Missouri 1
  • Princeton’s Ellie Marquardt is the top breakout candidate so far. Seeded 7th in the 500 free, Marquardt had massive drops this year compared to when we ranked her recruiting classes. As of our first ranks, she was 4:52/17:08 in free and 4:29 in the IM. By our re-rank, Marquardt was 4:42 in the 500 and 4:16 in IM, but remained at 17:08 in the mile. This year, she went 4:36/16:06 and 4:14.
  • Klinker was an honorable mention as of our original rankings, but fell off the list in our re-rank. She was projected to score 9 this year by virtue of a drop from 1:56.9 to 1:53.8 in the 200 fly.


Name College Team 2020 NCAA Psych Sheet Points
Hannah Brunzell Northwestern 3

Other 2020 Freshman NCAA Invitees

Here’s a look at the other unranked freshmen to earn 2020 NCAA invites individually:

NCAA Invites – 2020
Name Team
Jade Foelske Arizona State
Anna-Julia Kutsch Auburn
Averee Preblee Auburn
Abbey Webb Auburn
Sarah Dimeco Cal
Eloise Riley Cal
Emma Shuppert Duke
Kristen Stege East Carolina
Kathleen Golding Florida
Sydney Vanovermeiren Florida State
Carla Gildersleeve Indiana
Tonni McNeese Kentucky
Abigail Hay Louisville
Madison Luther Louisville
Christiana Regenauer Louisville
Niamh Robinson LSU
Katharine Foley NC State
Ally Larson Northwestern
Emma Lepisova Northwestern
Amy Fulmer Ohio State
Josephine Panitz Ohio State
Taylor Steele South Carolina
Emma Wheal Stanford
Bridget Semenuk Texas
Elizabeth Byrne Tulane

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4 years ago

– Ouch Texas women! What is going on there?
– Virginia freshmen did well
– All the freshmen 50+ points in the past were from Stanford
– Only a few Cal freshmen made the list
– Stanford was much quieter this year

Reply to  tnp101
4 years ago

In theory, due to their conference domination, the only Texas women who would have needed to taper at all for the Big 12 (5) meet would be any that were still trying to get an NCAA invite. If true, then they could have been in line to outperform their psych sheet numbers by a good amount. That said, I seem to recall reading that they have underperformed at NCAAs the last few years so who knows!

Thinking Cap
4 years ago

Crazy to think that scoring the psych sheets resulted with Tennessee in second when they do not even have a single freshman invited.
Senior class was their best class, looks like they got COVID-19ed

Reply to  Thinking Cap
4 years ago

Good observation – TN had their chance which is now gone. They are hurting next season.

4 years ago

Don’t you need to factor in their impact on relays as well?

4 years ago

Caroline bentz is class of 24

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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