Ranking the 2016 Women’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #5-8

This is a three-part article.  If you missed the first article, where we covered teams #9-12 and our rankings methodology, click here.

We’re back with our 5th-through-8th-ranked Women’s NCAA Swimming & Diving classes (plus some honorable mentions), with the top 4 to follow tomorrow.  The SEC, Big 12, and ACC are all represented in today’s group, including the team that landed our #1-ranked recruit last summer.

Rankings #5-8:

#8: Georgia Bulldogs

Top-tier additions: #7 Veronica Burchill, Jordan Stout, Alexis Glunn, Katherine Parker, Meryn McCann
The rest: Mary Claire Cardwell, Katherine Aikins, Sandra Scott, Jordyn Gulle

Between the return of Chantal Van Landeghem and this sprint-focused class, the defending champion Bulldogs are in pretty good shape coming into next year, despite their graduation losses.  Veronica Burchill, the seventh overall recruit in our rankings from last summer, is a huge part of that optimism.  At 22.3/48.5 in the 50/100 freestyles, Burchill fits nicely on both sprint free relays, and is also an NCAA scoring threat right away.  Her best event, though, is the 100 fly, where her best time (51.8) would have nearly made the NCAA A-final in March, and gives the Bulldogs a great second option alongside Kylie Stewart.

The Georgia coaching staff also tapped into their active Canadian swimming pipeline to nab Meryn McCann, a World Junior silver medalist that is a perfect fit on paper in Georgia’s program that has churned out so many successful mid-distance swimmers.  While McCann doesn’t have much (if any) short course yards experience, her LCM 200 free (2:00.3) and 200 back (2:10.3) times are among the fastest of any American prep swimmer in the last several years.

McCann will have training partners in her events in Jordan Stout (50.2/1:46.5/4:47.3 in the 100/200/500 freestyles) and Katherine Parker (54.1/1:57.1 in the 100/200 back).  Both swimmers will be welcome additions to what feel like perpetually deep parts of the Bulldog roster.

#7: Louisville Cardinals

Top-tier additions: #9 Grace Oglesby, Casey Fanz, Jillian Visscher, Avery Braunecker, Hannah Whiteley
The rest: 
Margaret Jahns, Sofie Underdahl, Emily LeClair, Molly Fears (diving), Michaela Sliney (diving)

The Cardinals have done a great job to set themselves up for life after Kelsi Worrell.  Although their American record holder and multi-time NCAA champion has graduated, Louisville has multiple returning individual All-Americans on their squad, and added some important pieces (namely sprint freestylers) in their quest for a team trophy in the near future.

Butterfly extraordinaire Grace Ogelsby is the key ingredient for that success.  At 51.7 and 1:55.4 in the 100 and 200 fly, Ogelsby is the #2 100 flyer (narrowly behind Beata Nelson) and #1 200 flyer in this class.  Those times are good to score at NCAA’s, and effectively secure a spot on Louisville’s medley relays.  The Cardinals landed in the top three in each of those last season, and with their closest competitors also graduating critical members from their squads (Sarah Haase for Stanford, Courtney Bartholomew for Virginia, Rachel Bootsma for Cal), Ogelsby and company will be right in the mix of things.

Outside of Ogelsby, coach Albert Albiero and his staff have three other great sprint freestylers to work with in Casey Fanz, Jillian Visscher, and Avery Braunecker.  Fanz has more top-end speed than the other two (22.6/49.5), while Visscher (23.0/49.3) has the fastest 100 time and also doubles as a backstroker (54.1/1:57.8).  Braunecker (22.8/49.8), meanwhile, falls right between the other two in the 50.  All three will be asked to step up right away; the Cardinals only had one swimmer under 23.5 in the 50 (Worrell) at ACC’s in February.

Louisville jumped across the Ohio River to the nearby town of Mason for their last big signing, picking up Hannah Whiteley.  A 52.9/1:57.5 backstroker, Whiteley is already good for an ACC A-final in the 100, and is less than two tenths behind teammate Alina Kendzior for the Cardinals’ top time.

#6: Tennessee Volunteers

Top-tier additions: #1 Meghan Small, Erika Brown, Alexandra Atkins
The rest:
Madison Graham, Tessa Cieplucha

Matt Kredich and his staff landed just five swimmers in this class, but picked up arguably the nation’s top recruit in Meghan Small.  Our top-ranked name from last summer, Small is one of the more versatile prep swimmers in recent history, capable of dropping a 1:45.5 200 freestyle, a 52.2 100 backstroke, or a 1:00.2 100 breaststroke.  Put them together, and she’s the best IMer in this class, carrying personal bests of 1:54.2/4:04.0.  Both of those times easily put her in the NCAA’s top 8, as well as her 1:51.6 200 backstroke (her likely day three event).  Tennessee’s class is small, but a recruit of Small’s caliber that can instantly be counted on for three individual NCAA A-finals and multiple relay swims boosts this class above a bigger/deeper class like Louisville’s.

The Volunteers have pretty large sprint void left from graduating sprinters Faith Johnson and Harper Bruens, but they went and landed a high-caliber recruit in SwimMAC Carolina’s Erika Brown.  At 22.8/48.9/1:45.3, Brown can slide onto the 400 and 800 freestyle relays immediately, and also find her way onto the 200 free relay with a bit of improvement.

Alexandra Atkins, meanwhile, boosts the other end of the spectrum for Tennessee.  Hailing from a Sarasota Sharks program that has produced numerous collegiate distance swimmers over the last decade, Atkins is the type of swimmer that gets better the longer the event gets.  Her 16:10.99 in the 1650 was well inside the NCAA qualifying standard, and would have garnered a top 20 finish in Atlanta in March.

#5: Texas Longhorns

Top-tier additions: #5 Claire Adams, #18 Lauren Case, Jordan Wheeler, Kaitlin Harty 
The rest: 

“Small but mighty” in a nutshell.    The Longhorns under-performed at NCAA’s, particularly across their relays, and this class is built to address those issues.  Three of these names are ready for prime time, led by formerjunior world record holder Claire Adams.  Adams is an elite-level freestyler (23.0/48.6/1:45.1) and backstroker (51.6/1:51.9) who is already in NCAA scoring position in three events, and will be an instant impact swimmer on 3-4 relays.  Tasija Karosas had a career year as Texas’ top backstroker last season, but with just one year of eligibility remaining, Adams is definitely in the running as the future leadoff leg for the Longhorns.

Adams will have a battle, though, as she suddenly may not even be the top backstroke recruit in this class following Junior National teamer Kaitlin Harty’s incredible senior season.  Harty, whose brother Ryan competes on the men’s team in Austin, cut nearly 1.5 seconds off her 100 backstroker and five seconds off her 200 backstroke at Speedo Winter Juniors to skyrocket up the recruiting ranks.  Her best times (51.7/1:50.7) now score easily at NCAA’s, with her 200 good enough for a fourth place finish last year.  She’s a solid butterflyer (53.7 in the 100), as well.

Lauren Case, Texas’ other top 20 recruit, has perhaps the best freestyle range in the class (outside of a certain redshirt we’ll mention later), dipping under the 23.0 barrier in the 50, and also turning in times of 49.4/1:45.8/4:40.3 in the 100/200/500 freestyles.  That 500 time would have slipped in the top 16 in Atlanta last March.  Between Case, Quinn Carrozza, and Joanna Evans, the Longhorns are putting together a quality deep mid-distance group.  In addition, at 52.8/1:56.1, she’s an excellent butterflyer who can fight for a spot on the 400 medley.

Their final recruit is in-state pure sprinter Jordan Wheeler.  Texas has a young sprint squad, with two freshmen and two sophomores competing on last year’s 200 freestyle relay, but at 22.8 flat start in the 50, Wheeler is already quick enough to contend for a spot on the 200 free relay, and will easily score big points at Big 12’s  Although not quite at the NCAA individual scoring level yet, she has shown plenty of raw speed.

Come back tomorrow for #1-4!

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bobo gigi
6 years ago

Kaitlin Harty is a huge recruit for Texas.
She will be tough to beat in the 200 back at next NCAA championships.
I see her finish in the top 5 at olympic trials.

Vol Fan
6 years ago

I believe UT has 7 incoming women, not 5

Reply to  Vol Fan
6 years ago

8 incoming. 7 freshmen and 1 transfer

Reply to  VFL
6 years ago

Tennessee should be ranked ahead of the USC women! They killed it in all areas and will definitely be top 4 or 5 at NCAAs

6 years ago

When will the men’s rankings be published?

Attila the Hunt
6 years ago

In what event is Claire Adams Junior World Record Holder? I don’t see her name on the latest FINA official list.

College swimmer
6 years ago

Heard some UGA rumors about some possible red shirts, can anyone confirm?

6 years ago

Will there be or has there been a review of last year’s recruiting class rankings? Just curious to see how things played out for that group of ranked teams, or unranked if a team(s) out performed expectations.

Reply to  Morgan Priestley
6 years ago

Maybe even go back to first year this was done. Couple of busts there (Purdue men)

Reply to  Morgan Priestley
6 years ago

Yeah, look at freshmen points earned at NCAAs this year. Some highly ranked freshman classes scored the big zero at NCAAs while some non-ranked recruiting classes contributed heavily in the points. Is it just me? Or, does it seem like certain schools tend to consistently over achieve vs their rankings while other certain schools tend to consistently under achieve? I’d love to see some analysis on this.

Reply to  1anda2
6 years ago

It would also be interesting to see a review of how individual top recruits did during their freshman season

The facts
6 years ago

Lauren case also is one of the top butterfly recruits in this years class

Reply to  The facts
6 years ago

It mentions that.

The facts
Reply to  Maverick
6 years ago

Yeah it does now

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the mid-distance freestyles. While …

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