How Would Top Age Group Swimmers Stack Up At NCAAs?

by SwimSwam Contributors 36

April 19th, 2024 Club, College, News

Courtesy: Henry Lyon

The Men’s 2024 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships just concluded, and I was wondering: How would incredibly talented age group swimmers like World Championship finalist Thomas Heilman or six-time World Championship qualifier Kayla Han do if they had swum at their respective NCAAs? To answer this question, I went through some of the top recruits in the classes of 2025 and 2026 and compared them with the most recent NCAA Division 1 Swimming and Diving Championships. Before we dive in, a few notes:

First off, these are of course completely hypothetical, and I assumed that swimmers would replicate their best times in both prelims and finals, which obviously (probably) wouldn’t happen. This isn’t an article to show what future NCAAs may look like, it’s more to just marvel at how incredible these kids’ accomplishments are. Something I will say, though, is that if you do want to look at this as a distant NCAA preview, you should keep in mind that these athletes have tons of time to improve, and they will probably be able to put up even more spectacular times by the time they’re swimming with the NCAA.

Secondly, I chose to exclude the class of 2024. This was because they’re going to be in the NCAA next year, it wasn’t quite in the spirit of what I was writing about.

Let’s start with class of 2025 Cal commit Claire Weinstein. Weinstein, a very talented freestyler who recently turned 17, has a World Championship semifinal under her belt, where she placed 12th in the 200 free, barely missing finals. While she does not hold any current NAGs, she would have actually found a win in the 500 free at Women’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, with her swim of 4:29.38 last December, easily eclipsing Florida freestyler Bella Sims’s 4:32.47.

Event Time Place Points Next Fastest Next Slowest
500 Free 4:29.38 1 20 Bella Sims (4:32.47, Florida)
1650 Free 15:53.84 6 13 Emma Weyant (15:49.51, Florida) Erica Sullivan (15:54.82, Texas)
200 Free 1:43.77 14 3 Ayla Spitz (1:43.46, Northwestern) Paige Hetrick (1:43.98, Louisville)
400 IM 4:07.72 14 3 Callahan Dunn (4:07.26, Wisconsin) Kathryn Ackerman (4:08.42, Michigan)

She would have also gotten 6th in the 1650, where her time of 15:51.64 would have beaten out Erica Sullivan of Texas. Her 200 free of 1:43.77 would have also snuck into the ‘B’ final by 0.01 seconds, where her time, assuming she replicated it, would have jumped her into 6th in the ‘B’ final. Along with that, her 400 IM time of 4:07.72 would have also gotten her a 6th-place finish in the ‘B’ final, outtouching Michigan’s Kathryn Ackerman. Claire Weinstein would have scored 36 points, as she could only swim three of those scoring events.

Next up is 16-year-old Charlotte Crush, who hails from Kentucky. As a 15-year-old, she became the fastest 15-16-year-old ever in the 100 back, clocking a relay leadoff time of 49.53 at Speedo Winter Junior Championships in December. She also won the 100 back at that same meet. Not only does this time rank her #2 all-time among 18 & unders, it also would have placed 2nd at NCAAs this year, behind only Katharine Berkoff’s 48.55.

Event Time Place Points Next Fastest Next Slowest
100 Back 49.53 2 17 Katharine Berkoff (48.55, North Carolina State) Isabelle Staden (50.47, California)
100 Fly 50.19 3 16 Emma Sticklen (49.70, Texas) Olivia Bray (50.52, Texas)
200 Back 1:50.55 6 13 Josephine Fuller (1:50.49, Tennessee) Miranda Grana (1:51.96, Texas A&M)
50 Free 21.88 T-14 (3.5) Teresa Ivan (21.87, Ohio State University) Amy Fuller (21.88, Ohio State University)

She would have also found a 3rd-place finish in the 100 fly, with her time of 50.19 finishing behind Emma Sticklen’s 49.70 and Gretchen Walsh’s unbelievable 47.42. Her 200 back time of 1:50.55 would have also been good for a 6th place finish, displacing Texas A&M’s Miranda Grana, who went a 1:51.96. Her 50 free would have also scored, with a tied-6th place ‘B’ final finish with Ohio State University’s Amy Fulmer. Charlotte Crush would have scored a whopping 50 points, assuming she swam her three highest-scoring events.

Jumping to the men’s side, we have UVA commit and World Championship finalist Thomas Heilman. As a 16-year-old, Heilman is the fastest 18 & under 200 flier in American history with a 1:53.82 from the 2023 World Championship, barely sneaking by Luca Urlando’s 1:53.84. He swam that time to tie for 4th at Worlds, tying the NCAA champion in the 200 fly, Ilya Kharun.

Event Time Place Points Next Fastest Next Slowest
200 IM 1:41.41 T-9 8 Danny Kovac (1:41.41, SMU)
100 Fly 44.67 11 7 Kacper Stackowski (44.57, North Carolina State) Connor Foote (44.87, (TAMU)
200 Fly 1:40.73 12 5 Martin Esperbernger (1:40.64, Tennessee) Danny Kovac (1:41.17, SMU)

His short course mark of 1:40.73 would have made the ‘B’ final at NCAAs and would have gotten him a solid 4th place finish in said final, knocking out SMU swimmer Danny Kovac, who put up a 1:41.17. His 200 IM time of 1:41.41, the current 15-16 NAG record, would have just barely missed the “A” final, missing Nate Germonprez of Texas’s mark of 1:41.35. Heilman’s time would have tied Danny Kovac for 1st in the ‘B’ final. Also barely missing the “A” final in a blistering 44.67, Heilman’s 100 fly would have been the 1st seed of the morning in the ‘B’ final by 0.04 seconds, although it would have been taken over in the in the evening, dropping down to a 3rd place finish. Thomas Heilman would have scored 20 points, assuming he swam those three events.

Another class of 2025 UVA commit, Maximus Williamson, would have excelled at NCAAs this year. At only 17, Williamson holds a myriad of NAGs and has also taken down David Nolan’s legendary high school records in the 200 IM and 100 free. Not only that, he is world junior champion in the 200 IM with a 1:57.29, only three seconds off Ryan Lochte’s world record of 1:54.00. The short course version is one of his best events, where his time of 1:40.81 holds the national high school record, as well as his time of 1:41.18 from 2023 winter junior nationals being the 17-18 national age group record (the 1:40.81 doesn’t count due to it being done at a high school meet). Along with that, his time would have gotten him a 7th-place finish in the 200 IM, behind 400 IM runner-up David Schlicht.

Event Time Place Points Next Fastest Next Slowest
400 IM 3:39.83 7 12 Mason Laur (3:37.98, Florida) Gio Linscheer (3:39.90, Florida)
200 IM 1:40.81 7 12 David Schlicht (1:40.17, Arizona State University) Nate Germonprez (1:40.89, Texas)
200 Free 1:31.17 8 11 Gabriel Jett (1:31.16, California) Murilo Sartori (1:32.12, Louisville)

He would have also found a 7th place finish in the 400 IM (3:39.83) and would have been the 4th fastest time of the morning in the 200 IM (1:40.81), although that time would have dropped down to 7th in the evening. His 400 IM and 200 free are national high school records, with the latter of which won him the junior national title by four seconds. Maximus Williamson would have scored 35 points. He and Heilman would have combined for a whole 55 points, making UVA’s upcoming seasons look very promising.

Another member of the class of 2026 is Kayla Han, a Carmel Swim Club swimmer who has been absolutely electric the last couple of years, rewriting NAG record boards since the age of 10. The 15-year-old qualified for worlds in six events, and she also has won junior nationals in three separate events. One of those times, her 400 IM, would have been the top qualifier for the ‘B’ final at NCAAs in 4:06.20, although it would have finished 5th in the evening, displacing Texas’s Angie Coe, who finished in a 4:06.32.

Event Time Place Points Next Fastest Next Slowest
400 IM 4:06.20 13 4 Giulia Goerigk (4:06.12, Texas A&M) Angie Coe (4:06.32, Texas)
500 Free 4:38.12 14 3 Ayla Spitz (4:38.00, Northwestern) Mia Moetikaitis (4:38.63, California
1650 16:00.74 14 3 Emma Hastings (15:59.69, North Carolina State) Maddie Waggoner (16:00.85, Wisconsin)

Along with that swim, her 500 free time of 4:38.12 would have also been good for a ‘B’ final qualification, landing her a 6th place finish in the finals. Her 1650 time of 16:00.74 would have gotten her a 14th-place finish as well, getting just under Wisconsin’s Maddie Waggoner’s 16:00.85 from heat 5. The 15-year-old would have cracked double digits with an impressive 10 points.

Cal’s rising age group power is insane, and no one encapsulates that better than 2025 commit Alex Shackell. Shackell is a twelve-time junior national champion and a world silver medalist in the 800 free relay, where she anchored. While a sensational freestyler, her butterfly is her strong suit. Shackell’s 49.49 100 fly would have placed 2nd at NCAAs, behind only Gretchen Walsh, the fastest in history in the event. But, get this. Her 200 fly would have won an NCAA title. By almost a whole second. Emma Sticklen won it this year in a 1:50.99, and Shackell holds a best time of 1:50.15. If you remember Claire Weinstein, Cal now has two women in the class of 2025 who already could have won an event at NCAAs. While UVA may dominate the women’s side at the moment, I think that Cal may be ready to try to give them a run for their money in the next couple of years. Coming back to that 200 free I mentioned earlier, Shackell’s 1:42.23 would have gotten her a 4th place finish, knocking Aimee Canny, who is, coincidentally, a UVA swimmer, out of that spot.

Event Time Place Points Next Fastest Next Slowest
200 Fly 1:50.15 1 20 Emma Sticklen (1:50.99, Texas)
100 Fly 49.49 2 17 Gretchen Walsh (47.42, Virginia) Emma Sticklen (49.70, Texas)
200 Free 1:42.23 4 15 Minna Abraham (1:41.96, University of Southern California) Aimee Canny (1:42.33, Virginia)
50 Free 21.71 9 T-9 Grace Cooper (21.71, Texas)
100 Free 47.44 11 6 Camille Spink (47.05, Virginia) Kristina Paegle (47.57, Indiana)
400 IM 4:06.20 13 4 Giulia Goerigk (4:06.12, Texas A&M) Angie Coe (4:06.32, Texas)
200 IM 1:54.54 13 4 Zoie Hartman (1:54.50, Georgia) Sarah Foley (1:54.70, Duke)

Oh my. What a list. That’s an insane amount of scoring potential. Seven events. That’s ridiculous. Her versatility is made even more impressive by the fact that she would have also missed finaling in the 100 back by 0.08 seconds, with her 51.63 missing Texas’s Emma Kern’s mark of 51.55. While all of these kids would already be cream-of-the-crop swimmers at NCAAs, this one stands out. There are very few top NCAA swimmers that can top that potential performance. A great example of this is Virginia’s Jasmine Nocentini, the (kind of) breakout star, who transferred from Northwestern this year. She picked up a gold (56.09 100 breast), a bronze (21.10 50 free), and a 4th-place finish (47.00 100 free). Yes, she could’ve even topped Jasmine Nocentini, the second-fastest 100 breaststroker in history. Not bad. In total, the 17-year-old would have scored an absolutely mind-boggling 52 points, which is the highest on this list, along with potential spare change if she wants to swap events. That point total would make her the fifth-highest scorer, displacing the aforementioned Nocentini.

Now, lastly, I want to talk about class of 2027 14-year-old Luka Mijatovic. Mijatovic has national age group records in the 200 freestyle (LCM), 400/500 freestyle, 800/1000 freestyle, 1500/1650 freestyle, and the 400 IM (LCM and SCY) for the 13-14 age group. He was the youngest person ever under the nine-minute barrier in the 1000. He was 13. The second-youngest ever was 15. Along with those records, at just 14 Mijatovic already has a junior nationals gold medal under his belt in the 800 free (7:59.64), along with medals in the 400 and 1500 free. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive age group distance swimmers ever, how would he, still a relatively young athlete, stack up against college athletes competing at the highest level?

Let’s begin with the 500 free. Mijatovic holds a best time of 4:14.83, almost a mind-boggling 10 seconds ahead of the second fastest 13-14 year old in history, Lleyton Plattel, who was a 4:24.79 as a 14-year-old in 2017. In fact, that time makes him faster than any 15-16-year-old in history, eclipsing Drew Kibler’s mark of 4:15.36. With that in mind, his time would have placed him 22nd at NCAAs, only four spots away from him being an alternate in the event. It took a 4:13.00 to place, but I think it should be mentioned that he would have placed seventh in the ‘B’ final, ahead of ASU’s Daniel Matheson’s 4:15.21.

Event Time Place Points Next Fastest Next Slowest
1650 Free 14:45.79 14 3 Lance Norris (14:44.85, North Carolina State) Trey Dickey (14:46.70, Texas A&M)

The 1000 is one of Mijatovic’s strongest events, but it is unfortunately not swum at this meet. Instead, let’s focus on his 1650. Mijatovic holds an absolutely ridiculous best time of 14:45.79, a whole twenty seconds ahead of the second-fastest 13-14-year-old in history, Sean Green, who stands at 15:05.83. Amazingly, this swim would have actually gotten points at NCAAs this year, placing him at an impressive 14th, displacing Texas A&M’s Trey Dickey, who won heat 2 in a 14:46.70. Imagine that, a 14-year-old would have scored 3 points at NCAAs. That’s ridiculous. Mijatovic’s other short course times would not have made the championships. He also holds arguably more impressive long course times, but, since this is a short course meet, you can’t really compare them. The 14-year-old would have scored a total of 3 points, assuming he swam all of his top placements. That’s insane. He is a whole three and a half years away from swimming collegiately, and he’d already have been able to put up points for a team.

Well, I didn’t want to ramble on too long about Mijatovic, but what can you expect from someone that fast. All of these swimmers are incredibly talented, and watching them swim at the age group level has been unreal. I can’t wait to see them swimming in the NCAA. When there are 15-year-olds who can already win events at the fastest SCY meet in the country, it makes me very excited for what the future of college swimming holds.

ABOUT HENRY LYON

Henry Lyon is a distance swimmer with M3 Aquatics located in Chicago, Illinois. He has been swimming since the age of eight, and has been passionate about the sport ever since the beginning. Still only a sophomore in high school, he hopes to go on to make a difference in the sport as he gets older, starting with his work on the Illinois Swimming Age Group Committee, as well as working as a swim instructor for M3A’s swim school. He hopes to continue both of those things going into college and beyond. 

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flyohwhy
1 month ago

Fun read- correct me if im wrong but kayla han has been to junior worlds, not senior world champs. wording is confusing

Peter spamdrew
1 month ago

You guys realize Luke Ellis would have won the Mile correct?? And he’s not even mentioned…

doe
1 month ago

It is worth noting that Bella Sims was 4 seconds off of her 500 free PB when she won NCAA’s.

Jeah
Reply to  doe
1 month ago

Not really. The article is about where these age group swimmers best times would have placed at NCAAs

Swimfreak
1 month ago

How about one on the class of 2024? They’re still age group swimmers and will be joining NCAAs this fall.

Jersey Swimming
1 month ago

I know you did not do the class of ’27, but here in Jersey we have Audrey Derivaux who like Luka is only 14 years old and her 200 Fly time of 1:54.33 would have placed her 14th in prelims and then 15th in finals, scoring 2 points.

Not bad at all for a high school freshman.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jersey Swimming
Aragon Son of Arathorne
Reply to  Jersey Swimming
1 month ago

NJ in the house!!

Aragon Son of Arathorne
Reply to  Jersey Swimming
1 month ago

former CJAC swimmer here

Go Blue
1 month ago

All is see here is how top NAG swimmers are slower in College.

Swimamatic
Reply to  Go Blue
1 month ago

I’m pretty sure that half of the Sandpipers National group could have won or been A final at NCAA.

Last edited 1 month ago by Swimamatic
Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 month ago

Dec 16, 2023
Speedo Sectional Championship
Katie Grimes
500 FR – 4:28.27

Katie Grimes would have won the 2024 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships title in the W 500 FR by 4.2 seconds. Sheesh!

Quamchowder
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 month ago

Surprised she wasn’t included in the article. Esp after her less relevant, but elite, lcm 400IM 4:32. She’s close to the oldest women’s American record untapered. 👀

JimSwim22
Reply to  Quamchowder
1 month ago

The article was only about guys. For women we would have to talk about HS swingers seeing American records. It actually happens regularly

Swim Alchemist
1 month ago

Very nice article. I do think that Williamson’s 200 IM from High School States should/will count as the NAG record, though. Doesn’t USA Swimming usually recognize the bigger high school meets (like State)?