With signing day come and gone, it’s time to see how the incoming classes are shaping up for next season. Like most of our incoming class rankings, many things factor into how a class is ranked, such as, but not limited to:
- How many swimmers are in the class
- How many ranked swimmers are in the class
- Whether or not swimmers have SCY experience
- Whether or not swimmers’ strengths address team needs
- Whether or not swimmers have improved in the last season or two
- Ability to score in dual meets as freshmen
- (Sprint) freestyle is weighted heaviest, as that is most valuable in the NCAA system
- Abundance/scarcity– if the class has a million strong butterfliers, that will be accounted for, and same goes if the class has very few strong breaststrokers
Most importantly, no SwimSwam author has ever owned a functioning crystal ball, nor do we claim to be able to predict the future. This is a look at what talent is coming to the NCAA next season, and which teams are expected to get the most out of their freshman classes– if you disagree with rankings, feel free to respectfully voice your opinion in the comments. If you’re still reading this disclaimer– amazing! You’ve done better than a staggeringly large portion of our readers. Thanks for doing that.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
- Arizona State
- Virginia Tech
- Notre Dame
#10 – DUKE
#13 Easop Lee, Brynne O’Shea, Lucy Callard, Melissa Pish, Rachel Peroni, Shae Nicolaisen, Shayna Hollander, Zoe Lusk, Cabell Ann Whitlow
It’s not every day you see Duke in the top 10 for recruiting classes, but this is class is a nice size with some impressive talent up top. After shifting to a full-scholarship program a few years ago, the move is starting to result in some hefty dividends, this class being an example.
The big get here is Korean NBAC freestyler Easop Lee. A big name since her early teens, Lee is a fantastic mid-distance freestyler (1:44.6/4:40.9), but it really doesn’t stop there. She’s been 54.1/1:55.7 in back, 1:03 breast, 53.2/1:56.5 fly, and 1:58.7/4:15.5, and altogether, she’s the fastest swimmer Duke has seen in recent years. In fact, her 200 free, 500 free, and 400 IM times are already faster than program records– the Blue Devils have a lot to be excited about with Lee on campus next year.
Melissa Pish out of Illinois could certainly tear things up in mid/distance free, too. She brings in bests of 50.1/1:46.0/4:44.0/9:50.7/16:30.1 in free, and what do you know, her 200 free is also faster than the current Duke record (1:46.15).
Lucy Callard (1:50/4:50 FR) and Shae Nicolaisen (1:49/4:50 FR) are solid mid-distance gets, while Rachel Peroni has been 24.8 in the 50 fly, flat start. Virginia Gators’ Cabell Ann Whitlow is a 1:59 flyer/backstroker, too.
Brynne O’Shea brings in a 1:56 200 backstroke, while 55.0 backstroker Shayna Hollander and 1:49 FR/54.9 BK/1:03 BR Zoe Lusk round out the Blue Devils class of 2022.
#9 – USC
#8 Erica Sullivan, Isabelle Odgers, Makenna Turner, Lara Bate
Just like this year, the Trojans only have four women joining the program next fall. The class doesn’t have the same all-around speed that this year’s does, but leading the charge is Sandpipers of Nevada’s Erica Sullivan. The distance specialist was all over the place this summer, winning U.S. Open titles in the 400 and 1500 free, then winning U.S. Junior National titles in the 800 and 1500 free, then going on to place 4th in the 1500 free at World Juniors after that.
Sullivan has been 4:39.6/15:47 in the 500/mile, and it looks likely that she’ll be able to score in at least the mile at NCAAs. British breaststroker Lara Bate is an interesting case. She’s not the first NBAC trainee from another country (think Easop Lee, Anna Belousova), and her LCM times in the breaststroke (1:10.1/2:26.5) are very strong, especially the 200.
Her SCY bests of 1:04/2:15 are nowhere near what you’d expect, but the British 15-year age group record holder has a lot of talent to be tapped. If Dave Salo and staff can make that speed conversion, add Bate to the list of great breaststrokers to go through the Trojan program.
Turner is a nice 53.6/1:58 fly pickup, while Odgers brings in 1:02/2:12 in breast.
#8 – FLORIDA STATE
Alexis Durlacher, Boglárka Bonecz, Hannah Womer, Ida Hulkko, Katherine Baker, Laura Glerup Jensen, Lauren Hew, Maddie McDonald, Maggie Emary, Nina Kucheran, Stephanie Holmes
If you’ve noticed that the ACC women are trending upwards, it’s because they are. With Todd DeSorbo at the helm in Charlottesville, you have UVA, FSU, Duke and NC State all rising to contend with the red-hot Louisville Cardinals, not to mention talents like Caroline Baldwin on UNC or the young and scrappy Notre Dame team.
As Florida State pushes on under coach Neal Studd, they have a huge class coming in, highlighted by a few international pickups that could prove invaluable next year.
Ida Hulkko of Finland, Laura Glerup Jensen of Denmark, and Boglarka Bonecz of Hungary could potentially be three of FSU’s 400 medley relay legs next season. Hulkko, a breaststroker, brings in LCM bests of 31.39 and 1:09.87, and she won the 2017 Finnish National title in the 100 breast. Jensen is a sprinter with bests of 56.10 and 2:01.99 in the 100 and 200 LCM free, while Bonecz has been 1:01.61 and 2:10.45 in the 100 and 200 LCM fly.
Bonecz’s 200 fly is the most intriguing, and she could wind up being an individual scorer right off the bat for FSU. Hulkko, meanwhile, comes at the perfect time– just after All-American breaststroker Natalie Pierce graduates.
Maddie McDonald and Nina Kucheran are Canadian pickups, with Kucheran boasting a 1:11 LCM breast, while California’s Hannah Womer (1:02/2:14 BR) adds even more breaststroke speed. Lauren Hew is a 23.4/50.7 sprinter and Stephanie Holmes has been 4:49/16:33 in distance free, making this a very deep class for the Seminoles.
#7 – NC STATE
#14 Emma Muzzy, Kylee Alons, Maddie Smith, Sami Nickerson, Shannon Kearney, Sophie Hansson, Taylor Bennett
#14 Emma Muzzy is an all-around talent for NC State. The Wolfpack have done a nice job on the women’s side climbing the NCAA, but their roster is largely without the kind of utility players that their men’s team has (think Andreas Vazaios, or Ryan Held, or Jacob Molacek, or Justin Ress, or–). Muzzy can truly figure in to most any event that her coaches want her in– she’s 49.8 FR, 24.9/52.6/1:53.8 BK, 1:02.6/2:13.5 BR and 1:57.8/4:08.3 in IM. Her backstroke and IM are her strongest events, and along with current freshman Julia Poole, IM is turning into a potential strength for the Wolfpack women.
In addition to snagging a top 20 recruit, the Wolfpack have reeled in Swedish breaststroker Sophie Hansson. While older sister Louise is taking names in sprint events across the country at USC, Sophie’s breaststroke LCM times convert to 26.9/59.0/2:09.8, while her SCM conversions are even faster in the 100 (58.7) and 200 (2:08.9). With All-American Kayla Brumbaum graduated, the NC State women have seriously struggled with breaststroke, sinking their medley relays this season and giving them no advantages against opponents in individual breast events. Hansson is a great solution to that problem.
The third heavy hitter is Kylee Alons. While Muzzy comes from an esteemed Virginia Gators club that tore up several 15-16 NAG records this last year, Alons swims with Fort Collins Area Swim Team in Colorado, where she and her teammates have also broken NAG records recently. Alons will slot into the sprint group, bringing in bests of 22.5/49.6 along with 53.1 FL and 53.4/1:55.1 BK. She’s split sub-22 on the end of relays on multiple occasions, but her fly and backstroke times are promising, too.
23.4 FR/1:03.0 BR Maddie Smith from in-state, 25.2/53.9/1:57.6 backstroker Shannon Kearney out of Illinois, and two divers round out the Wolfpack’s incoming class.
#6 – TEXAS A&M
#7 Gabrielle Kopenski, Amanda Armstrong, Caroline Theil, Claire Smith, Emma Carlton, Kylie Powers, Amber Conrad
Gabrielle Kopenski is the big get here, and she’ll help set a strong distance foundation for the next few years with current A&M freshman Joy Field. Her times in the 500 (4:37.94) and mile (15:56) are both NCAA scoring-worthy times, while her 1650 time would’ve been 10th at NCAAs last spring. While distance swimmers can sometimes be one-dimensional, with only one or two really strong events and no relay value, Kopenski has been 1:46.80 in the 200 free, making her a potential 4×200 relay leg with some improvements. She’s also been to the last two World Junior Championships, giving her some crucial international experience.
Emma Carlton was also present at the 2017 World Jr Champs, and her and Kylie Powers provide some stroke-specific speed for the Aggies. Carlton’s a pure sprinter, and her 50 fly (24.05 SCY/26.78 LCM) ranks among the very best in the class. She’s also been 22.5 in the 50 free and 52.8 in the 100 fly, and she could be a big medley piece going forward. Her presence is also timely, as the far and away best sprinter on the team, Beryl Gastaldello, is out of eligibility after this season. Amber Conrad, another in-state pickup with bests of 23.0/50.7, is a worthy sprint addition to join Carlton, too.
Powers, meanwhile, is one of the best breaststrokers in the class (1:00.6/2:12.5). That’s really the only thing she can do, but, with the very recent success in breaststroke from the Aggies, Powers falls in line with many All-Americans and should do well in that training environment.
Amanda Armstrong is a 22.7 FR/25.4 BK sprinter from in-state, while Caroline Theil of Nebraska has been 2:00/4:17 in IM and 1:03.2 in breast. Add in another in-state backstroker in Claire Smith (25.9/55.0/1:57.5), and you have a well-rounded class with enough sprint speed to adequately supply several relays in the future.
#5 – TEXAS
#10 Julia Cook, #17 Grace Ariola, Holly Jansen, Kendall Shields
Small but mighty, Texas is this high because of the huge implications from their two sprint studs.
Ranked just 17th, Grace Ariola is actually the fastest 50 freestyler in the class in both SCY and LCM. She had a successful summer including a silver medal at World Juniors in the 50 free, and her long course is certainly more impressive than what she’s done in yards (1:00 back). She’s still been 22.2/48.9/1:47.4 free and 25.0/53.0/1:54.6 back in yards, but expect those times to come down at SCY champ meets this winter and this coming spring. Head coach Carol Capitani could see some major returns on this investment in the future.
Julia Cook was snagged out of the Aggie Swim Club, and she has more enticing yards times than Ariola in general. 22.3/48.4/1:45.3 FR and 24.3/52.3/1:54.4 BK, and her and Ariola should buff up free relays and could serve as bookends for medleys, potentially. Cook is also 24.3/53.1 FL and 1:58.7 IM, making her a versatile sprinter with lots of options.
Because of how valuable a great sprinter is in the NCAA system where relays have lots of gravity, these two additions are big-time.
Holly Jansen is a breaststroker (1:01.1/2:10.8) with a solid 200 free (1:49.5) and 200 IM (2:01.3), while Kendall Shields is another freestyler (1:48.5)/backstroker (53.9/1:56.1) combo to flesh out the class.
#4 – CAL
#5 Cassidy Bayer, #18 Elise Garcia, Top 20 HM Alex Sumner, Ema Rajic, Alicia Wilson
Cassidy Bayer is the big snag here, a fantastic butterflier who will help pad the loss of outgoing senior Noemie Thomas. She’s been 52.7/1:55.2 FL in yards, but her 58.1/2:07.9 LCM times indicate she has much further to go than that. Bayer has battled knee injury that included a meniscus surgery, and she sat out her junior season– that’s a big reason why her best times are from 2016 or earlier, but a determined Bayer could bounce back and become a great weapon for the Golden Bears. She’s also a 1:58.2 IM’er and has been 22.9 in the 50 free, so she likely won’t be doing just butterfly at Cal.
Elise Garcia was also in our top 20, plus honorable mention Alex Sumner. Garcia is a strong sprinter (22.6/49.5), and she upped her worth with some development in butterfly this spring, spitting out bests of 52.7/1:56.6 and adding another dimension to her abilities. Meanwhile, Sumner is one of the best 200 backstrokers in the class (her 1:52.33 would’ve scored at the 2017 NCAA Champs), and she’s also been 53.41 in the 100 back and 1:59.05 in the 200 fly.
Rounding out the class is Ema Rajic and Briton Alicia Wilson. Rajic is a big breaststroke get, having been 1:00.7 in the 100 and 2:14.1 in the 200, with the 100 being most exciting for the Bears. Cal has notoriously had trouble with breaststroke, having to co-opt IM’er Caitlin Leverenz to the medley relays several years ago, putting relay duties on 200 specialist Marina Garcia up until last year (and still DQ’ing their 400 relay in finals at NCAAs), and still never having anyone under 59.00 in program history. Rajic could be an option to buck that trend with some improvement, though she’s also a capable IM’er (2:00/2:14). Wilson is another IM talent, with LCM bests of 2:14/4:52 as well as PRs of 26.2/56.7 in sprint free.
#3 – FLORIDA
#6 Vanessa Pearl, Mabel Zavaros, Rosie Zavaros, Leah Braswell, Layla Black, Kirschtine Balbuena, Ellie Zweifel
The Gators, currently in rebuilding mode, picked up key domestic recruits along with several international standouts to build a very strong incoming class.
#6 Vanessa Pearl is huge for her face value but also considering the need for an elite breaststroker in Gainesville. The Gators have been scrambling to fill medley relay holes to no avail for a few seasons now, but it seems they won’t have to wait much longer. She’s been 1:00.3/2:08.5 in yards and 1:09/2:25 in LCM, with her 200m time being the most impressive. Pearl is also a fantastic IM’er (1:57.3/4:06.7) and a strong freestyler, too (1:47/4:48). Add in English breaststroker Layla Black (1:09.2/2:26.6), and breaststroke could suddenly flip into a strength for the Gators.
The Zavaros twins Mabel and Rosie add fly and back speed from Canada. Florida also needs fly speed, and Mabel can provide– she’s been 27.2/59.2/2:09.7 LCM, and considering Liliana Szilagyi‘s debut for the Gators never came to fruition, Mabel’s commitment is that much more important. She’ll come in as Florida’s go-to flyer next fall. Rosie is a 1:02.5/2:11.7 LCM backstroker, and both have been under 2:20 in IM (Mabel 2:17, Rosie 2:19), while Mabel has been 4:49 in the 400 IM and 2:01.4 in the 200 free.
2017 YMCA Champion Leah Braswell is another heavy hitter in this class, bringing in bests of 1:48.3/4:43.7/16:17.0 in yards freestyle, making for a nice pairing with current freshman distance specialist Taylor Ault. Two more make up this class: in-state sprinter Kirschtine Balbuena (23.2/50.5/1:49.9 free) and Missouri breaststroker Ellie Zweifel (1:03.3/2:18.9).
#2 – GEORGIA
#1 Eva Merrell, #11 Dakota Luther, #12 Olivia Carter, Top 20 HM Madison Homovich, Callie Dickinson, Portia Del Rio Brown, Caroline Aikins, Tatum Smith, Addison Kelly
Where to start… If it’s not already clear, the classes coming in for UGA and Stanford are a tier above the rest.
Georgia takes #1 Eva Merrell, a medley relay godsend– 22.2/48.5 FR, 51.9 FL, 52.2/1:52.2 BK. She impressed early in high school as a standout 100 LCM butterflier, but Merrell has shifted more to backstroke, especially the 200. Considering Kylie Stewart is now a senior, Merrell’s commitment couldn’t be more timely, and her sprint free speed is crucial to a UGA team that has been bleeding in that part of its lineup this year with Olivia Smoliga and Chantal van Landeghem gone. 200 backstroke specialist Callie Dickinson is also here for the ride– she’s been 1:56.0, as well as 1:59.0 fly.
Butterfliers Dakota Luther and Olivia Carter are huge here, too. Luther represented the US at the World Championships this summer in the 200 fly, and brings in 52.2/1:55.0 fly bests. She’s also great in mid-distance free (49.8/1:45.6/4:44.2). Carter is right behind her at 52.6/1:55.7, though she’s also great in backstroke (53.9/1:57.2) and IM (1:57.9).
Everything is covered in this class except breaststroke– Madison Homovich is a big distance get, with scoring potential in the mile (16:03.01) as well as worthy times in the 500 free (4:40.90), 200 back (1:55.88), 200 fly (1:58.53), and 400 IM (4:11.84). Tatum Smith is another 22-high sprinter, and despite the complete lack of breaststroke specialists in the class, there is a ton of value here.
#1 – STANFORD
#2 Taylor Ruck, #3 Zoe Bartel, #4 Morgan Tankersley, #9 Allie Raab, #15 Amalie Fackenthal, #16 Lucie Nordmann, Anya Goeders
Where do we begin?
Taylor Ruck is the biggest name here– one of the more prominent names in the Canadian women’s youth revolution, Ruck is a force in the 50 through the 500 free was well as backstroke, and she’s not a bad 200 IM’er, either. She didn’t perform well at the 2017 Canadian Trials and missed World Champs, but still swam at World Juniors which produced some incredible times for her. She went PRs in the 100m free (53.63), 200 free (1:57.07), and 100 back (59.23), while also putting up a lifetime best 2:07.62 in the 200 back this summer as well. Ruck’s SCY times are great (22.3/48.5/1:44.3/4:41.3 FR, 52.9/1:53.1 BK), but they definitely should be faster considering her LCM times.
The freestyle spread is incredible for this class, with Morgan Tankersley, Amalie Fackenthal, Lucie Nordmann, and Anya Goeders incoming. Goeders, though not ranked top 20 (and the ONLY non-top 20 commit in the entire class), is actually the 2nd-fastest 50 LCM freestyler in the NCAA class of 2018 (24.70) behind Grace Ariola, and has been 22.4/49.3 in SCY. Fackenthal and Nordmann are better in shorter distances, with Fackenthal bringing in bests of 22.3/48.6 and Nordmann 22.4/48.3. Tankersley, meanwhile, has a freestyle array similar to that of Ruck’s: 22.6/48.6/1:44.3/4:37.6, and she’ll likely specialize into a 200-500 swimmer or even go up to the mile for the Cardinal (she’s been 16:27 there).
Fackenthal and Nordmann have stroke implications, too. In butterfly, Fackenthal has been 52.7/1:58.6, with her 200 PR coming just a week or so ago at what seems to be just a November training meet. In the 50 LCM fly, Fackenthal also went a 27.0 this summer. Nordmann is perhaps best known for her backstroke speed, with bests of 52.4/1:53.9 and 1:00.1/2:09.4 LCM. She also popped a 59.90 in the 100m fly this summer.
Considering all of the talent incoming, perhaps the most crucial gets for the Cardinal are breaststrokers Zoe Bartel and Allie Raab. If the aforementioned stars did not already set this class above the rest, it’s the breaststrokers, as neither Cal nor Georgia were able to snag any breaststrokers. Bartel is 59.0/2:07.7 in yards and she’s been 53.4 in backstroke as well, an odd pairing reminiscent of Allie Szekely and Emma Schanz. Raab is 1:00.0/2:09.6, and both are 1:07 in long course while Bartel (2:25) is a tick ahead of Raab (2:26).
It’s difficult to see a future where Stanford is NOT winning national titles through this class’s senior collegiate seasons.