It’s that time of the year again. SwimSwam will be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s teams (and then some) from the 2023 NCAA Championships. Follow along with the College Swimming Preview Channel. Want to read even more? Check out the latest edition of the SwimSwam magazine.
#6 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Key Losses: Felicia Pasadyn (4 individual NCAA points, 1 relay)
Key Additions: Janie Boyle (Texas transfer – diving)
Returning Fifth Years: Josie Panitz (12 individual NCAA points, 1 relay), Hannah Bach (13 individual NCAA points, 1 relay), Morgan Kraus (NCAA qualifier), Amy Fulmer (23 individual NCAA points, 4 relays)
Over the years, we’ve gone back and forth on how to project points, ranging from largely subjective rankings to more data-based grading criteria based on ‘projected returning points.’ We like being as objective as possible, but we’re going to stick with the approach we’ve adopted post-Covid. The “stars” will rely heavily on what swimmers actually did last year, but we’ll also give credit to returning swimmers or freshmen who have posted times that would have scored last year.
Since we only profile the top 12 teams in this format, our grades are designed with that range in mind. In the grand scheme of college swimming and compared to all other college programs, top 12 NCAA programs would pretty much all grade well across the board. But in the interest of making these previews informative, our grading scale is tough – designed to show the tiers between the good stroke groups, the great ones, and the 2015 Texas fly group types.
- 5 star (★★★★★) – a rare, elite NCAA group projected to score 25+ points per event
- 4 star (★★★★) – a very, very good NCAA group projected to score 15-24 points per event
- 3 star (★★★) – a good NCAA group projected to score 5-14 points per event
- 2 star (★★) – a solid NCAA group projected to score 1-4 points per event
- 1 star (★) – an NCAA group that is projected to score no points per event, though that doesn’t mean it’s without potential scorers – they’ll just need to leapfrog some swimmers ahead of them to do it
We’ll grade each event discipline: sprint free (which we define to include all the relay-distance freestyle events, so 50, 100 and 200), distance free, IM, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and diving. Use these grades as a jumping-off point for discussion, rather than a reason to be angry.
Also, keep in mind that we are publishing many of these previews before teams have posted finalized rosters. We’re making our assessments based on the best information we have available at the time of publication, but we reserve the right to make changes after publication based on any new information that may emerge regarding rosters. If that does happen, we’ll make certain to note the change.
The Buckeye women dominated the 2023 Big Ten Championships, winning a total of 11 events which was more than all of the other teams combined. Ohio State claimed their fourth Big Ten title in a row and appear to be the favorite heading into this season.
At NCAAs, the team finished a program-high 6th place overall with a total of 223 points, putting together some of the strongest relays in the country. All five of their relays finished inside the top 16, with four of them in the top eight (two 4th-place finishes, one 5th, and one 6th).
The team’s senior class led the way with 48 individual points at NCAAs, and all 48 of those points will be returning to use their COVID-19 fifth year.
SPRINT FREE: ★★★★
The team’s sprint group is stacked and will continue to be this upcoming season. They had a total of five finals swims between the 50, 100, and 200 free at NCAAs, with an ‘A’ and ‘B’ finalist in both the 50 and 100 free. This group is almost at a five-star level, but some development in the 200 free is needed to add that final star.
Rising fifth-year Amy Fulmer made the ‘B’ final of the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles, bringing in a total of 23 individual points. Fulmer capitalized on those ‘B’ final swims, winning the consolation final of both the 50 and 100 free to score the maximum 18 points after missing the top eight in the morning.
Also key to the sprint freestyle success is rising senior Katherine Zenick. Zenick only competed in two individual events (100 fly and 100 free), scratching the 50 free to allow her to compete on all five relays. Zenick made the ‘A’ final of the 100 free and her 50 free best time of 21.74, which she swam leading off the team’s 200 free relay at NCAAs, would have tied teammate Fulmer for 9th in the ‘B’ final. Zenick’s 50, 100, and 200 free personal bests were all set this past season., and the emergence of someone who could take a relay leg off of Zenick’s plate would likely allow for another scoring swim.
OSU’s final individual points contributor in this category is rising junior Teresa Ivan. Ivan dropped over seven-tenths of a second in the 50 free over this past season to make the ‘A’ final, finishing 4th overall. Ivan is also just off of adding points in the individual 100 free as she was 18th in prelims, less than a tenth off of earning a second swim.
DISTANCE FREE: ★★
Rising senior Maya Geringer led the distance freestyle group, placing 14th in the 1650 this past season at NCAAs to bring in three points. Geringer also was the team’s top finisher in the 500 free at NCAAs, finishing 45th.
Not far behind Geringer is rising junior Gwen Woodbury who was just over a second off of scoring in the 1650 freestyle at NCAAs as she finished 19th. Woodbury also swam in prelims of the 500 free, finishing 49th.
Nyah Funderburke led the team in the 100 back this past season, winning the event at Big Tens in a personal best time of 51.52 while swimming slightly faster in prelims at 51.44. She was about half a second off of that at NCAAs, clocking 52.05 to finish 22nd. Her winning time from Big Tens would have made the ‘B’ final.
The team loses its top 200 backstroker, Felicia Pasadyn, and although Amy Fulmer was their second-fastest in the event last year, she typically opts out of the event at major championship meets. Taking out Fulmer, the fastest returner is Morgan Kraus, who qualified for her first NCAAs this past season after registering a time of 52.31 in the 100 back at Big Tens. Her 200 was just off of the cutline for NCAAs, but faster than the ‘B’ cut allowing her to swim the event. Kraus notably dropped over half a second in the 100 back this past season.
The Buckeyes are home to one of the best breaststroke duos in the country with Hannah Bach and Josie Panitz who both return to utilize their fifth year of eligibility. Panitz had a huge senior season, dropping over a second to make the ‘A’ final of the 100 breast at NCAAs. Bach and Panitz ultimately finished 6th and 7th respectively.
Both swimmers added over a second from their 200 breast entry times at NCAAs and were unable to earn a spot in finals. Panitz’s winning time of 2:07.38 from Big Tens would have been 9th in prelims at NCAAs if she had replicated that swim.
Just like the other strokes mentioned above, the team’s butterfly power lies in the 100 fly. Rising senior Katherine Zenick made the ‘A’ final in the 100 fly at NCAAs, clocking 51.11 to place 8th. Zenick dropped almost half a second in the event this season, dipping into the sub-51 club at NCAAs with a 50.84 prelim showing.
The departing Felicia Pasadyn led the team in the 200 fly this past season so the team’s highest returner is rising sophomore Jessica Eden who swam a personal best of 1:56.93 to finish 27th at NCAAs in the event. Primarily an IMer/mid-distance freestyler coming out of high school, Eden dropped over five seconds in the event as a first-year Buckeye.
Rising senior Kyra Sommerstad also swam the 200 fly at NCAAs, swimming a 1:58.55 for 47th. That was a season-best and about a second off of her lifetime best.
This past season, the team won both IM events at Big Tens as Josie Panitz captured the 200 IM title and Felicia Pasadyn won the 400 IM. Although they swept the events at Big Tens, they only scored four points in the IMs at NCAAs as Pasadyn was 13th in the 400 IM.
At NCAAs, Panitz was about half a second off of her winning time from Big Tens, which would have made the ‘B’ final. Although she was just off of her winning time, she still swam her second-fastest 200 IM ever finishing 18th in prelims, less than two-tenths off of earning a second swim.
Their highest returning 400 IMer is Kyra Sommerstad who finished 25th at NCAAs. She was about a second off of her entry time which would have placed her 19th in prelims. Rising sophomore Jessica Eden also added from her entry time finishing 36th, while her entry time would have been 17th in prelims, about a tenth off of earning a second swim.
Freshman Lena Hentschel arrived from Germany and provided a boost with seven NCAA diving points, placing 11th on 3-meter and 16th on 1-meter.
Boosting the diving group this season will be Janie Boyle, who heads to Columbus to use her fifth year of eligibility after transferring from Texas.
Boyle was 18th on 1-meter and 20th on platform last season for the Longhorns, but has been an NCAA scorer in the past, including finishing 4th on platform in 2022.
Relays are vital to the success of Ohio State, as they accounted for 122 of their 223 points (54.7%) last season.
They return 19 out of their 20 relay legs from NCAAs, only losing Felicia Pasadyn, who swam on the 800 free relay that finished 13th. That was their lowest-scoring relay overall. If one of their sprints (or distance freestylers) could extend their range to also strengthen the 800 free relay, that would fill in that gap and allow them to hold onto five scoring relays.
With the team’s strengths lying more on the 100s of strokes than the 200s, they have the pieces they need to finish on the podium again in four relays, with the lone question mark lying in the 800 freestyle relay.
As mentioned above, the ability to allow Zenick to swim three individuals and four relays (instead of two individuals and five relays) would be significant to give her an additional individual final swim in the 50 free, where the team could come out with a net-positive points-wise.
From the looks of it, it doesn’t seem that the 800 free relay will be the one where that changes, but with the way the team has developed and dropped recently, another butterflier or sprint freestyler could make a statement this season.
Total Stars: 23/40
Although it seemed like the Buckeyes might be losing their top-scoring class, from last year the team is fully loaded for this upcoming season thanks to the COVID-19 fifth year.
Ohio State is on track to win its fifth straight Big Ten title and retain a spot inside the NCAA’s top six. There is only one significant loss in the form of Felicia Pasadyn, but the team also welcomes a very small recruiting class with no one projected to make an immediate impact
The relays remain in good shape thanks to the team’s sprinting prowess, and performing in those events will once again be paramount to their success this season.
WOMEN’S 2023-24 COLLEGE PREVIEW INDEX
|TEAM||SPRINT FREE||DISTANCE||BACKSTROKE||BREASTSTROKE||BUTTERFLY||IM||DIVING||RELAYS||TOTAL STARS|
|#6 Ohio State Buckeyes||★★★★||★★||★★||★★★½||★★★||★★||★★||★★★★½||23/40|
|#7 Indiana Hoosiers||★★★||★★★★||★★||★★||★||★||★★★★★||★★★★||22/40|
|#8 Tennessee Volunteers||★★★||★★★★||★★★||★★★★||★★||★★||★||★★★||22/40|
|#9 Florida Gators||★★★||★★★★||★★||★★||★★||★★★★★||★||★★★★||23/40|
|#10 UNC Tar Heels||★||★||★★||★★||★★||★||★★★★||★★||15/40|
|#11 Cal Bears||★★||★★||★★★★||★||★★½||★★★½||★||★★★||19/40|
|#12 USC Trojans||★½||★★||★||★★★½||★★||★★||★★★||★★★||18/40|