We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs for the 2018-2018 season – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24. Can’t get enough college swimming news? Check out the College Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine for more in-depth college swimming coverage, including a bird’s-eye view of the flood of coaching changes and our ever-popular rankings of the top 50 individual swimmers in college swimming.
#4 TEXAS LONGHORNS
Key Losses: Rebecca Millard (5 NCAA points, 5 NCAA relays)
Key Additions: Julia Cook (TX – sprint free/back), Grace Ariola (IL – sprint free/back)
As the NCAA finish order is determined by points, we base our grading scale on projected NCAA points. Versatility and high ceilings are nice, but they don’t win you NCAA titles unless they bring points with them. Bear in mind that all of these grades are projections more than 6 months out – and as none of us has a working crystal ball, these projections are very subjective and very likely to change over the course of the season. Disagreeing with specific grades is completely acceptable; furiously lashing out at a writer, commenter or specific athlete is not.
- A = projected to score significant (10+) NCAA points per event
- B = projected to score some (3-10) NCAA points per event
- C = projected on the bubble to score likely only a few (1-2) or no NCAA points per event
- D = projected to score no NCAA points
We’ll grade each event discipline: sprint free (which we define to include all the relay-distance freestyle events, so 50, 100 and 200 plus the 200, 400 and 800 free relays), distance free, IM, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.
2017-2018 LOOK BACK
The Texas Longhorns had another strong season, as they went top 8 in all five relays and keyed in on fantastic meets from sophomore Claire Adams and freshman Evie Pfeifer. Adams found her way to the A final of the 100 back and scored in the 100 free B final, and she delivered sound medley relay lead-offs as well as a menacing 1:41.71 split on Texas’s highest-scoring relay, the 800 free relay (5th). Adams’ development in the sprint frees has made her an invaluable part of this Longhorns team. Meanwhile, Pfeifer reached All-American status with a lights-out performance in the 500 free and picked up some points in the 400 IM and 1650, too.
The Longhorns finished out the meet in 6th, just 10.5 points behind Louisville.
SPRINT FREE: B+
The loss of Rebecca Millard stings, as she was on all five relays and scored in the 50 free B final at NCAAs. However, Texas’s incoming class is entirely equipped to replace Millard and then some.
Julia Cook, the best 100 yard freestyler in the class, and Grace Ariola, the best 50 freestyler in the class, are here to save the day. Cook has been 22.1/47.8/1:44.2 and Ariola has been 22.1/48.3, though Ariola’s 24.8 long course best in the 50 suggests her yards times could take a leap this year. Cook’s 100 free and Ariola’s 50 free would’ve both B finaled at NCAAs. Additionally, the kind of immediate boost to any relay from both of these women is going to be exceptional, and hard to come by when you’re dealing with freshmen.
Meanwhile, Claire Adams is already a fantastic sprint freestyler who can hold her own, and seniors Anelise Diener and Brooke Hansen are back after splitting 48-mids on Texas’s 400 free relay at NCAAs.
DISTANCE FREE: A-
Evie Pfeifer excelled in her NCAA debut, most notably with a 6th place finish in the 500 free. She added a 12th place finish in the mile, too.
Meanwhile, Joanna Evans may well join her in that 500 free A final this season. Despite a 4:35.05 season best coming into NCAAs, Evans was well off that at NCAAs and was unable to break 4:40, settling for 35th place. It’s unknown whether Evans was sick or injured, as she didn’t swim the mile despite her entry time of 15:51.74 positioning her for a top 8 finish. A healthy and on-point Evans would give the Longhorns another distance weapon capable of bringing in big points.
Though she was a bit off her game this past year, Lauren Case lost a swim-off for 16th place in the 500 free as a freshman in 2017, and her lifetime best 4:39.97 makes her a candidate for a finals appearance this year. 200 free specialist Quinn Carrozza has range, too, and was 4:40.97 at the Texas Invitational mid-season last year.
Pfeifer leads the charge as a returning NCAA scorer in the 400 IM. Past that, she is part of a 200 IM group with three women at 1:56 — leading the way is Brooke Hansen, who went 1:56.29 at the Texas Invitational last year to beat out Pfeifer’s 1:56.82. Meanwhile, Nora McCullagh hit a 1:56.96 at the 2018 Big 12 Champs.
The 400 IM still looks to be the only solid scoring bet with Pfeifer, but there are good things happening with the IM group in Austin.
Remedy Rule and Lauren Case are staple butterfliers, though they’re both most lethal in the 200 leaving the ‘Horns without a hammer medley leg. Both qualified for the 200 fly A final as freshmen in 2017, though Rule was called for a controversial DQ in the final. Case finished 6th.
In 2018, just about a tenth back, Case and Rule finished 17th and T-18th, incredibly close to scoring but just outside of the B final cutoff. The two are eerily similar — in the 100 fly, Rule was 27th in prelims and Case 28th in 2018. In 2017, Rule was 23rd and Case 24th.
There’s the potential for Rule and Case to roar back and claim points in the 200 fly A final, but the event is deep and they were on the wrong side of the line last year. The medley fly legs will likely go to one or the other again, but neither have popped enough yet in the 100 fly to be a 2019 scoring threat there.
While Adams has honed her freestyle, she’s still an A final threat in the 100 back, which is the event where she most excelled as a high schooler. She has been as fast as 50.95 from the 2017 NCAA Champs, and she’s back after finishing 7th in the event last year. Though she’ll likely be gunning for a 100 free finals appearance thanks to the insane depth nationally in the 200 back, she’s been 1:51.16 from 2017. Quinn Carrozza is a capable 200 backstroker who wasn’t far off scoring at NCAAs in this event, hitting a PR at the big meet with a 1:52.73.
Freshmen Cook and Ariola are both potential scorers in the 100 back, with Cook coming in at 51.64 and Ariola 52.56. Again, Ariola is better in LCM (1:00.3), while Cook (1:53.19) and Ariola (1:54.60) are also very strong in the 200.
There are lots of options for medleys between the two freshmen and Adams, as Cook (24.3) and Ariola (24.4) are very solid in the 50 back, while could allow for Adams to throw down on the anchor leg on either medley.
Kaitlyn Harty has superior mesenteric artery (SMA) syndrome, which sidelined her for 14 months from the sport in high school. In her comeback year, her bests (which still are her PRs today) stand at 51.67/1:51.27, both in prime scoring position if she can get back to that.
Since her transfer from Arizona, Kennedy Lohman has been Texas’s go-to breaststroker. Last season, as a sophomore in her Longhorn debut, she just missed NCAA scoring in the 100 breast. She held things down on both of Texas’s medley relays, splitting 27.2/59.2 at NCAAs — she could be much faster next year if she can hold her taper, as she split quick 26.7/58.2 legs at 2018 Big 12s.
Olivia Anderson is a solid second-in-command at 1:00.0/2:11.0, while newcomer Holly Jansen comes in with bests of 1:01.1/2:10.8.
Before we get into our outlook, it’s important to note that Texas is a team that will again benefit from its diving group — the Longhorns return two NCAA scorers, including 2018 platform runner-up Murphy Bromberg.
Adams and Pfeifer are back with potential for more than one A final appearance each, with freestylers Evans and Carrozza and butterfliers Rule and Case lurking and carrying potential for individual scoring. There isn’t a significant weak point in this roster, and the stud freshman sprinters are going to elevate relays and should both have great scoring chances on their own.
Texas should give Louisville a run for their money, and with Michigan and Texas A&M suffering considerable graduation losses, the ‘Horns may have enough in the tank to jump up– maybe just enough for a coveted top 3 finish.