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.
#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: n/a
“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!