With the majority of the next two months largely dedicated to U.S. Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games in Rio, and July 1st knocking on the door, we’re overdue to examine last year’s recruiting season, and rank the top 12 incoming classes, beginning today with #9-12 for the women. We’ll finish this series over the next week, with a new set of four teams published on each weekday.
- The rankings numbers listed for some individuals are from our pre-recruiting season rankings done almost a full year ago. Had we re-ranked these swimmers today (including some previously-unknown internationals putting their hat in the ring), the rankings would undoubtedly be different.
- Like most of our rankings, these placements are subjective. Rankings are based on a number of factors, including prospect’s incoming times, team needs filled, prospect’s potential upside, class size, and potential relay impact. Greater weight is placed on known success in short course yards.
- Deferrals from last season (e.g., Abbey Weitzeil and Katie Ledecky) are considered a part of this year’s class, as we didn’t include them in our 2015 class analyses
- Transfer are included, but devalued, depending on the number of remaining years
- We’ve linked to some of the athletes’ commitment announcement pages. For the full list of committed athletes, click here
Here are the 9th-through-12th-ranked Women’s NCAA Swimming & Diving classes (plus some honorable mentions), with the top 8 to follow Monday and Tuesday of next week:
HONORABLE MENTIONS (NO PARTICULAR ORDER):
Minnesota Golden Gophers
NC State Wolfpack
#12: Florida Gators
Top-tier additions: #12 Savanna Faulconer, Kelsey Dambacher, Makayla Sargent, Georgia Darwent, Sherridan Dressel, Laura Rodriguez Cao
The rest: Isabella Garofalo, Kelly Fertel, Danielle Keymont, Nicole Urquidi, Emma Ball, Madison Conway, Tori Bindi
The Gators class of twelve women is the largest in our rankings, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With the graduation of Natalie Hinds, Jessica Thielmann, and Kahlia Warner, the Gators will return just three individual NCAA points from last season. Luckily, this group brings a little bit of everything, beginning with Savanna Faulconer, the 12th-ranked recruit from our rankings last summer. Faulconer is a top-flight IMer and breaststroker who has a career best in the 400 IM (4:08.6) that would have scored at NCAA’s, and a 200 breast (2:10.8) that is nearly top eight caliber at SEC’s.
While Faulconer is unlikely to add much relay value for the Gators, classmates Sherridon Dressel (who is–you guessed it–Caeleb’s younger sister) and Kelsey Dambacher certainly will. Dressel (22.7/50.0 in the sprint freestyles) has more stroke versatility (53.9 in the 100 fly and 54.6 in the 100 back), while Dambacher (23.1/49.6) adds a bit more range as a sub-1:48 200 freestyler.
On the other end of the spectrum, Gregg Troy picked up three strong distance swimmers positioned to immediately score well at SEC’s. New York native Makayla Sargent, with bests of 16:30.9 in the 1650 and 4:13.8 in the 400 IM (both well inside the conference top 20), is the only one with short course yards experience, but Georgia Darwent (4:15/8:46 LCM 400/800 free) and Laura Rodriguez Cao (16:34 LCM 1500 free) have both easily cleared U.S. Olympic Trials times.
#11: Duke Blue Devils
Top-tier additions: Alyssa Marsh, Kylie Jordan, Suzanne Dolan, Kira Page, Brittany Kampfer, Jaina Gaudette (diving)
The rest: n/a
From a funding perspective, the Duke program could still be considered in its infancy; the athletic department bumped women’s swimming from two scholarships to a fully-funded 14.1 just three years ago. The Blue Devils haven’t wasted time in acquiring some solid talent, but this year’s class may be their best one yet. Most importantly, the focus of this group of six is the events that matter most at the NCAA level: sprint freestyle.
The class is led by Alyssa Marsh, a multi-event Olympic Trial qualifier and National Age Group record holder in her time at SwimMAC Carolina. While there was early speculation she could end up at Auburn, where her father David became one of the most successful NCAA swim coaches in history, Alyssa elected to stay closer to home and provide a big boost to the up-and-coming Blue Devils. Marsh will immediately be the fastest or second-fastest Blue Devil in each of her three best events, bringing in lifetime bests of 22.5/48.8 in the 50/100 free, as well as a 52.9 100 fly.
Coming in alongside Marsh are three other athletes who have been under 50.0 in the 100 freestyle in Kira Page (49.7), Kylie Jordan (49.92), and Suzanne Dolan (49.97). To put in perspective why this is a big deal for Duke: together, these four freshmen would have beaten Duke’s 4×100 free relay from ACC’s. Each of the three brings something different to the table. Jordan is the classic “anything but breaststroke” type, with very strong 53.0/1:56.7 butterfly times, alongside a 55.4 100 backstroke and 1:47.3 200 free. Dolan is both a 22.8 50 freestyler and 1:01.8 100 breaststroker. Page is more of a pure freestyler, but was 55.4 in the 100 back and 54.7 in the 100 fly back when she was 15 years old.
Duke is returning the three fastest members of both sprint freestyle relays (including Maddie Hess, who had a breakout freshman season), and the addition of Marsh and company gives the Blue Devils a group that can get in the mix for top three finishes at ACC’s down the line.
Outside of the sprints, Duke also picked up Brittany Kampfer, a 4:47.0/16:26.4 swimmer in the 500/1650 freestyles, and U.S. National Diving finalist Jaina Gaudette. The Blue Devils didn’t have a single top 15 finisher in the 500 or 1650 at ACC’s last season, but Kampfer’s best times would already place her in the top 20 and top 10, respectively.
#10: Kentucky Wildcats
Top-tier additions: #16 Ali Galyer, #19 Asia Seidt, Madison Winstead
The rest: Alex Nelson, Kierston Farley-Sepe, Morgan Lakes, Elizabeth Merriman, Jessica Wingo, Emma Skinner, Emma Dellmore (diving)
We can’t blame you if seeing the Wildcats in our top twelve seems puzzling; the Wildcats are far from a swimming power historically. That being said, they’ve made serious progress in the ultra-competitive SEC under coach Lars Jorgensen’s first few seasons. Throw in a class that includes a pair of top 20 recruits and a much-needed breaststroke upgrade, and the future looks bright.
First up is Ali Galyer, our #16 recruit and younger sister of Kentucky star / NCAA champion Danielle Galyer. Backstroke excellence runs in the family, but Ali, who holds career bests of 53.2/1:53.7, is lightyears ahead of where Danielle was coming into school (55.7/1:59.4). She doubles as a solid freestylers (50.0/1:48.0), as well, capable of jumping on Wildcat free relays right away.
Joining Galyer is Asia Seidt, the 19th-ranked recruit in our class, who has had a superb senior year. In addition to matching/surpassing Galyer in the backstrokes (52.6/1:53.8), she has also posted 52.8/1:57.1 butterflies and 1:56.8/4:11.8 IMs, giving the Kentucky coaching staff a plethora of event options for the Louisville native.
Breaststroker Madison Winstead is the final big piece of this class. Coming in as a 1:00.4 and 2:13.2 swimmer, Winstead is easily the fastest 100 swimmer on the roster, and just behind rising junior Ann Davies in the 200. Having Winstead on the breaststroke leg–combined with an NCAA champion leading off and a 52.8 incoming freshman flyer–gives the Wildcats an extremely competitive first three legs of a medley relay.
#9: Arizona Wildcats
Top-tier additions: #15 Kirsten Jacobsen, #20 Kennedy Lohman, Hannah Cox, Mallory Korenwinder
The rest: Abby Miller, Taylor Nations
The Wildcats raised some eyebrows last season, outperforming expectations to finish 12th at NCAA’s, despite having one of the country’s youngest squads. Throw these six swimmers–including three likely top-20’s if we were to re-do our rankings today–in the mix, and Arizona has a recipe to make its way back into the top 6 at NCAA’s.
Three big pieces are the focal points: Kirsten Jacobsen, Kennedy Lohman, and Hannah Cox. Jacobson has incredible freestyle, clocking in at 4:42.3/16:06.6 in the 500/1650 freestyles, while also kicking it up a notch in the 100 and 200 (49.6 and 1:47.0, respectively). That mile time would have been good for 14th at NCAA’s, and her 500 is also inside the top 24.
Next is Hannah Cox, a World Junior Championships bronze medalist who has burst onto the scene over the last 12 months, turning in some incredible times last summer before dropping a 1:44.7/4:37.8 in the 200/500 freestyles this past season. Both of those time scored at NCAA’s this past season, with the 500 good for a 6th place finish. She’s also an excellent IMer (2:00.2/4:11.6), giving Rick Demont lineup flexibility throughout the dual meet and championship season.
That leaves Kennedy Lohman. At 1:00.1/2:10.9 in the 100/200 breaststroke, Lohman would have scored at NCAA’s in the 100 last season, and finished in the top 30 in the 200. She arrives just as All-American Emma Schoettemer is leaving, opening up a spot on Arizona’s top-8 medley relays for the incoming freshman. She will have fellow freshman Mallory Korenwinder (1:01.1) to train alongside her next year.
Come back Monday for #5-8!