Key Losses: Haley Ishimatsu (Pac-12 Platform title, 20 NCAA points), Andrea Kropp (2 NCAA relays, Pac-12 200 br title), Jasmine Tosky (Pac-12 Top 8, 2 Pac-12 Relays)
Key Additions: Riley Scott (CA – Breaststroke), Sydney Lofquist (OH – Distance Free/IM), Madison Wright (MI – Free/Fly), Anika Apostalon (SD State Transfer – Sprint Free/Back), Allie Wooden (OH – Freestyle), Hanni Leach (MT – Backstroke), Kirsten Vose (CA – Free/Breast), Tamara Santoyo (CA – Sprint Free/Fly), Victoria Toris (AZ – Sprint Free), Olivia Ontjes (NC – Free/Breast), Lily Dubroff (DE – Sprint Free)
The USC Trojans come into the 2015-16 season loaded with talent after a big recruiting year where they came out with Swimswam’s 2nd ranked recruiting class behind only California, their Pac-12 rival. After their worst NCAA finish in 6 years last season, they will look to redeem themselves this year with loads of fresh talent.
The Trojans had a decent 2014-15, with a 3rd place finish at the Pac-12 Championships and an 8th place finish at the NCAA Championships. The performance at Pac-12s was strong considering they finished behind powerhouses California and Stanford, but the NCAA performance wasn’t what they were looking for. Their 8th place finish was their lowest since they were 9th in 2009. After three consecutive 3rd place finishes from 2011-13, they fell to 5th in 2014 and then all the way to 8th last season.
Last season was difficult for USC, as they suffered a few major losses from the previous year in Kasey Carlson and Stina Gardell, who combined a total of 74 NCAA points in 2014. That kind of loss is irreplaceable, and USC was destined to drop a few spots after a less than stellar recruiting year.
Despite the significant loss, they still had some great performances from their swimmers. At the Pac-12 Championships they finished 3rd behind powerhouses California and Stanford, with strong performances throughout their roster. Chelsea Cheanult had a strong showing in her sophomore season, finishing 2nd in the 500 free, 3rd in the 200 free and 5th in the 1650 to go along with two relay appearances. Another key member was USA World Championship team member Kendyl Stewart, who won the 100 fly and contributed on 4 relays. She also had a pair of 9th place finishes in the 100 and 200 backstroke. Other top performances came from senior Andrea Kropp who won the 200 breaststroke, and key relay contributors Hannah Weiss (freshman) and Kasia Wilk (junior). Senior diver Haley Ishimatsu won the platform event to go along with 5th and 6th place finishes in the 3 meter and 1 meter events.
Prior to the NCAA Championships, junior Jasmine Tosky announced her early retirement from the sport of swimming, relinquishing a spot she would have had at NCAAs. Tosky had gone through a rough patch in her swimming where she wasn’t putting up the same type of performances she had put up in pervious years. Her departure actually happened during the Pac-12 Championships. At the NCAA Championships USC really felt the losses from the previous year, including Tosky, as they dropped 3 spots down to 8th.
Cheanult led the way for the team again, contributing 29 individual points with top finishes in the 200 free (6th), 200 fly (9th) and 500 free (10th). She also swam on all 3 freestyle relays. Stewart, Weiss and Wilk all contributed points of their own, with Stewart finishing 3rd in the 100 fly, Wilk 10th in the 100 free and Weiss finishing 9th and 15th in the 100 and 200 back. After great performances at her final Pac-12 Championships, breaststroker Andrea Kropp was well off her times at NCAAs and failed to score individually. The team had respectable showings in the relays, qualifying for the A final in 2 and scoring in 4. The relays ended up contributing almost half of their point total, with 80 of their 163. Haley Ishimatsu performed well at her final NCAA Championship, contributing 20 points which included a 2nd place finish on platform. USC finished just one point behind the 7th place Texas Longhorns, and 34 behind the upstart Louisville Cardinals, who were led by newly minted Pan American and National champion Kelsi Worrell.
Breaststrokers To The Rescue
Last season Andrea Kropp was the teams top breaststroker by far, as she was the only one with a 100 time under 1:02. Without her, the team likely wouldn’t have fielded a team in either medley relay at NCAAs, which combined for 38 points last season. Now that her senior year has come and gone, the Trojans were in dire need of breaststroke recruits this season. They did their job, grabbing Swimswam’s #14 ranked recruit Riley Scott, plus Kirsten Vose and Olivia Ontjes. Scott and Vose both come in with 100 times of 1:00.5, and both have solid ability in the 200 (Scott-2:11.2, Vose-2:13.7). Those 100 times will come in handy for the relays, and both will be able to push each other all year long for A relay duty. Ontjes is the least known of the three, coming out of the YMCA system, but comes in with times of 1:01.8 and 2:13.6, which will provide some much needed depth. Vose and Ontjes are also both very capable in the freestyle events.
Sprint Corps Receives Shot In The Arm
Despite solid performances in the sprint freestyle relays at both Pac-12s and NCAAs, the team seemed to be lacking in sprint depth. Kasia Wilk and Evan Swenson were the top two 50 freestylers by far, but the team tailed off after that. At Pac-12s the 200 free relay also had Jasmine Tosky, who is now retired, and Kendyl Stewart who is a viable option for the relays but has other events to focus on that prevent her from swimming it individually. Wilk and Swenson both swam the event at NCAAs, and Chelsea Chenault was added to the 200 free relay roster for NCAAs, despite being more of a 200/500 swimmer. After this monster recruiting year, USC will be provided with a multitude of options for the sprint relays this season. The #1 ranked transfer of the year Anika Apostalon comes in with best times of 21.7/47.7, which is A final material at NCAAs. She swam in both B finals at last years championship meet for San Diego State. She will also challenge backstroker Hannah Weiss, as she comes in with a time of 51.9 in the 100 back. Also coming in are sprinters Allie Wooden, Tamara Santoyo, Lily Dubroff and Victoria Toris, who all come in with best times of 23.0 or better. Wooden and Toris both boast times of 49.4 and 49.5 in the 100 free, while Santoyo has a 53.0 100 fly. Dubroff has also been 50.2 in the 100 free. Breaststrokers Kirsten Vose and Olivia Ontjes also provide some strong ability in the sprint freestyle events. Vose has best times of 23.3 and 50.0, while Ontjes has times of 23.2 and 50.7. With so many incoming sprinters, USC will have many different options for their relays and the competition will be fierce within the team for spots.
Chenault, Stewart Will Benefit From Large Freshman Class
After providing the team with a combined 45 individual points, to go along with many relay appearances, Chelsea Chenault and Kendyl Stewart will welcome all of the help they will be receiving this year after USC’s impressive recruiting class. Chenault contributed on 3 relays and scored in all 3 of her individual events, while Stewart swam on 4 relays and scored premium points in the 100 fly. With so many capable swimmers coming onto the team this year, Chenault and Stewart will most likely get to cut down the number of relays they swim at NCAAs and thus focus more on their individual events: specifically Chenault, who for example scored in the 500 free but also had to swim on the 200 free relay. All of the aforementioned sprinters, along with Swimswam’s #18 ranked recruit Sydney Lofquist bring plenty of support to the lineup. Lofquist will join Chenault as a top threat in the 500 free, with a personal best of 4:42.3 and potential to score at NCAAs. She also comes in with a personal best time of 4:10.9 in the 400 IM, just one second outside of scoring at last years championship.
USC’s top diver Haley Ishimatsu has graduated, leaving USC without a top tier diver for the first time in 4 years. She was the lone diver who scored at NCAAs, contributing 20 points. She also led the way at Pac-12s, with 1st, 5th and 6th place finishes. Her departure opens the door for the rest of the divers on the team to step up and improve their results from last season. Among the other divers, junior Samantha Adams was the best performer. She was the only other diver at NCAAs, and had 8th, 14th and 23rd place finishes at Pac-12s. She’ll be a reliable contributor at Pac-12s in her final season, but the NCAA points lost by the departure of Ishimatsu will have to be made up for in the competition pool rather than the diving tank.
Other Key Swimmers
- Heading into her senior year, Kasia Wilk will be a major contributor for the Trojans. She swam on 5 Pac-12 and 3 NCAA relays last season, and was 10th at NCAAs in the 100 free. As this will be her final year as a trojan, expect her to be a factor on all USC relays and an individual point scorer at Pac-12s and NCAAs once again.
- In her freshman year, backstroker Hannah Weiss had a spectacular showing. She had two top-8 finishes at Pac-12s and two top-16 finishes at NCAAs in the backstroke events, not to mention her contribution on the medley relays. She’ll be challenged by 51.9 100 backstroke transfer Anika Apostalon for medley relay duty, and will look to progress and score individually again at NCAAs.
- Evan Swenson will be heading into her junior year with USC, and will look to continue the momentum she created for herself last season. After two top-10 finishes at Pac-12s, Swenson swam on 3 NCAA relays and narrowly missed individually scoring in the 100 freestyle (18th). She will battle with all of the new sprint blood the Trojans have acquired this season to keep her spot on the relays and try to become a individual NCAA point scorer after just missing out last season.
- After transferring over from Florida after her freshman year, Lucy Worrall heads into her junior year looking to improve upon her first season in Southern California. Worrell had a top-8 finish at Pac-12s in the 100 fly, and then was 25th at NCAAs and swam on the 400 free relay. She was only three-tenths off of individually scoring at NCAAs last year, so she will have her sights set on doing so this year. A second year training with one of the best flyers in the country Kendyl Stewart will provide a big help.
- After the untimely retirement from Jasmine Tosky, Joanna Stenkvist stepped in and swam on both the 400 and 800 free relays at NCAAs. She had three top-16 finishes at Pac-12s. Stenkvist will have to compete with rookies Allie Wooden, Olivia Ontjes and Madison Wright to maintain her spot on the 800 free relay this season.
- Hanni Leach joins Hannah Weiss and transfer Anika Apostalon as USC’s top backstrokers this year. Leach comes in with times of 53.0 and 1:54.3 in the backstroke events, which are good for Pac-12 Championship finals.
- As Swimswam’s #20 ranked recruit, I couldn’t possibly forget about Madison Wright. Wright comes in with a 200 free time of 1:47.6 and 200 fly time of 1:55.3. Her 200 fly time would’ve scored at NCAAs last season, and her 200 free time would’ve placed top-16 at Pac-12s and gives her a good shot at making the 800 free relay.
After regressing from 3rd to 5th to 8th the last two seasons, USC looks poised to climb their way back up the ladder this year.
With just a few notable losses from last season, their impressive rookie class comes in with tons of talent and ability across the board. They’ve gained many top tier freestylers, backstrokers, breaststrokers and butterflyers. Add in 500 free/400 IMer Sydney Lofquist and USC has covered all of their bases this season.
After finishing 3rd at Pac-12s last season, it will be difficult to improve that result this season. Even with their impressive rookie class, both California and Stanford have proved to simply be a class above them the last few years. Even with distance star Katie Ledecky deferring this year at Stanford, USC will likely be looking at another 3rd place finish at Pac-12s this year. They should at least be much closer than the 300 points they trailed Stanford by last year.
After being disappointed by their team ranking at NCAAs last season, USC should be able to improve their 8th place finish by quite a bit. They were just barely beaten out by Texas by 1 point, and trailed Texas A&M, Virginia and Louisville by 30-90 points. USC boasts a better recruiting year than everyone but defending champion Cal, so look for them to move up significantly this season. There’s no reason they can’t jump over Texas A&M, Virginia, Louisville and Texas and move up to 4th place overall. Of course, it is incredibly hard to accurately predict at this stage. A lot of it is hinging on how their freshmen perform this season.