It’s a bit jaw-dropping to look at the swimmers in the girls’ high school class of 2025 and internalize the fact that last season, there were several high school sophomores who could’ve made a significant impact at the 2023 Women’s NCAA Championships three years out from them being eligible.
But that’s the case with the talent-stacked class of 2025, with our Way Too Early recruiting ranks dropping on Monday morning.
The class already has two World Championship medalists in Alex Shackell and Claire Weinstein, plus National High School Record holder Teagan O’Dell and some other names who have made a national impact early on in their career, including 2022-23 U.S. Junior National Team members Lilla Bognar and Chloe Kim.
It’s still incredibly early, with these swimmers having two full seasons of racing before they’ll begin college in two years’ time, but the high-level ability at the pointy end of the class begs the question: Is it the best ever?
SwimSwam began ranking recruiting classes in 2012, starting off with ranks of the 2013 recruiting class when they were high school juniors, while the Way Too Early rankings during the athlete’s sophomore year didn’t start until 2018 (class of 2020).
So with the caveat that we don’t have sophomore ranks or times for some of the earlier classes, looking at the past 12 classes on the girls’ side, it’s clear that one stands out above the rest: The class of 2015.
Leading off with arguably the greatest female swimmer of all-time is a good start, as Katie Ledecky headlined the class, and at the time of the rankings being published, she was already an individual Olympic champion, world record holder and multi-time world champion.
Four more swimmers in the class went on to win multiple individual NCAA titles, setting U.S. Open and American Records on the way: #2 Abbey Weitzeil, #3 Kathleen Baker, #6 Ella Eastin and #9 Lilly King. Weitzeil, Baker and King also won multiple Olympic medals during their careers (with Ledecky, Weitzeil and King still active).
Ledecky was already a bonafide star, but it’s fair to say that Weitzeil, Baker, McLaughlin, Eastin and King turned out as good or better than anyone could’ve hoped in college (not factoring in some of them turning pro early which hurt their total scoring).
|Rank||Class of 2015||Class of 2025|
|1||Katie Ledecky||Alex Shackell|
|2||Abbey Weitzeil||Teagan O’Dell|
|3||Kathleen Baker||Claire Weinstein|
|4||Katie McLaughlin||Madi Mintenko|
|5||Amy Bilquist||Lilla Bognar|
|6||Ella Eastin||Addie Robillard|
|7||Quinn Carrozza||Annie Jia|
|8||Taylor Garcia||Raya Mellott|
|9||Lilly King||Lynsey Bowen|
|10||Nora McCullagh||Chloe Kim|
Comparing them to the class of 2025 is hypothetical, given that we don’t know how the current group will blossom in the future, but there are some interesting notes that tell us just how good the 2025 crop is.
Comparing Class Times
- As a sophomore, Alex Shackell is already faster than Abbey Weitzeil was as a junior in the 50 and 100 free.
- As a sophomore, Alex Shackell is already faster than Katie McLaughlin was as a junior in the 100 and 200 fly.
- As a sophomore, Teagan O’Dell is already faster than Kathleen Baker was as a junior in the 100 and 200 back, and she’s faster than both Baker and Ella Eastin were in the 200 IM.
- As a sophomore, Raya Mellott is already faster than Lilly King was as a junior in the 100 breast, while the class is full of swimmers faster than King was in the 200 breast as a junior (2:11.17), including Addie Robillard (2:08.40) being almost three seconds clear.
- Eastin, who was a force in the 400 IM throughout her career, was only a quarter of a second faster as a junior (4:05.25) than Lilla Bognar is as a sophomore (4:05.50).
- Katie Ledecky as a junior would be the fastest in this class in the 200, 500, 1000 and 1650 free, which is no surprise, though a margin of just over four seconds on Claire Weinstein in the 500 free is relatively close given Ledecky’s dominance.
All of these time comparisons come with the caveat that swimming has gotten faster as a whole over the last nine years, but we still can’t ignore the favorable comparisons that this class has to a group of Olympians and NCAA record holders despite having a one-year disadvantage.
The class of 2015 had arguably the best sprint freestyler (Weitzeil), distance freestyler (Ledecky), backstroker (Baker), breaststroker (King) and IMer (Eastin) of a generation of NCAA swimming, so comparing any group of athletes to them is somewhat unfair.
But do Shackell (sprint free/fly), Weinstein (distance free), O’Dell (back/IM) and Mellott/Robillard (breast) have the potential to reach that level down the line? It’s certainly possible. Will they? We won’t have a full dataset to revisit this discussion until 2029, but it’s up for debate.
OTHER CLASSES SINCE 2015:
- Class of 2016: The top recruit in the class as a junior was Meghan Small, who had a solid NCAA career, but the leading domestic scorers outscored were #19 Asia Seidt, #2 Beata Nelson and Erika Brown.
- Class of 2017: Brooke Forde was the top scorer in the class overall, while the top-ranked recruit as a junior was Courtney Harnish.
- Class of 2018: Among those featured in our domestic rankings, Taylor Ruck (despite being Canadian) ranked #1 as a junior and was the top scorer, while Maggie MacNeil was the clear #1 in terms of performance.
- Class of 2019: Kate Douglass, Ella Nelson and Katharine Berkoff highlight an impressive class.
- Class of 2020: Regan Smith and Alex Walsh give this class the top-end that can rival the 2015 class, and there’s not a huge drop-off in depth with Phoebe Bacon, Emma Sticklen, Emma Weyant and Kaitlyn Dobler also in the class.
- Class of 2021: This group also has an elite high-end, with Gretchen Walsh and Torri Huske, but there’s a drop-off after that.
- Class of 2022: Claire Curzan and Lydia Jacoby are strong at the top, but it remains to be seen who among the others can flourish in the NCAA.
- Class of 2023: Set to kick off their careers in a number of weeks, Bella Sims (and perhaps Erin Gemmell) is the only name that really matches up with the top three in the current class, though Sims is on a different level to most swimmers in the country, period.
- Class of 2024: It’s still not clear if Katie Grimes will compete in college or not, but if so, she brings this class to a high level on her own, while Leah Hayes gives it two World Championship medalists and there are some other intriguing names at the top.