After much anticipation (and delay), here are SwimSwam’s top four 2015 Women’s NCAA recruiting classes. While the case could be made for Stanford to be in the top four, these classes are a cut above the rest, particularly the top three, which all come from the most dominant conference in swimming.
#4: Texas Longhorns
It’s been a pretty long road back for the Longhorn women, but Carol Capitani nailed another recruiting class, including two of our top 10 recruits from last fall. With last year’s freshmen (Mimi Schneider, Rebecca Millard), this group, and two more years of Madison Cox, Texas is on the upswing.
The Longhorns started by replenishing their mid-distance/distance group following the graduation of Kaitlin Pawlowicz and Kelsey LeNeave with an impressive trio of swimmers, highlighted by Quinn Carrozza, #7 swimmer in our class and best mid-distance recruit not named “Katie Ledecky”. Carrozza is already an NCAA scoring threat in the 200/500 freestyles with bests of 1:44.9/4:40.0, despite not swimming high school in choosing to focus heavily on long course (she’s been 1:58.3 in a 50m pool). With no returning swimmer under 1:45.5/4:45 on the roster, Carrozza will be setting the tone for the mid-distance group from day one.
She’ll have help, though, from Nora McCullagh, our #10 recruit, and emerging distance stud Joanna Evans from the Bahamas. McCullagh isn’t the 500 swimmer that Carrozza is, but she has more speed (22.7/49.0) to go with her 1:46.2 200 freestyle and 4:10.3 400 IM. Evans lacks short course yards experience, but she’s proven to be a great long course swimmer, with bests of 4:12.1 and 8:39.8 in the 400 and 800 meter freestyles (both are second-fastest among female swimmers entering college this fall).
Junior National Teamer Remedy Rule doesn’t have the freestyle chops of some of her classmates, but she’s an excellent butterflyer (52.9/1:55.9), and also brings a 1:54.5 200 back and 4:15.7 400 IM to the table. That makes her the perfect fit to take over for LeNeave, the Longhorns’ #1 flyer last season.
It’ll be really hard to replace individual All-American Gretchen Jacques, but the addition of Olivia Anderson (1:01.0/2:14.8) from the Aquajets Swim Team in Minnesota will help fill the void. Anderson has a long history of swimming on fast relays (she’s been on six NAG record-setting medleys), so she’s no stranger to pressure relay situations. However, the breaststrokes remain the Longhorns’ biggest weakness coming into the 2015-16 season, and Anderson will have to take the next step if Texas wants to sniff the top 8 in either medley.
#3: Arizona Wildcats
Top-Tier Additions: #8 Taylor Garcia, #13 Katrina Konopka, #17 Daniela Georges, Annie Ochitwa, Sam Senczyszyn, Ashley Sutherland
The rest: Emma McCarthy, Karli Thuen, McKenzie Rumrill, Sarah Shimomura, Ali Powell
This is the class the Wildcats needed to turn things around; Arizona’s roster had become increasingly thin, going from finishing in the top five routinely to piece-mealing relays and barely cracking the top 15 last season. Granted, those results shouldn’t be put on Rick DeMont; the cupboards were pretty bare when he took over a little more than a year ago. In his first full recruiting class, DeMont hit it big: eleven athletes, including three top-20 recruits, an additional two 22.6/49.5 freestylers, and a 1:00.7/2:15.0 breaststroker.
DeMont and his staff addressed a ton of needs with this class, but the heaviest focus was on rebuilding Arizona’s relays. Katrina Konopka and Taylor Garcia will be at the heart of that effort, with the former taking over as the #1 sprint freestyler (22.2/48.5, also 52.7/53.1 in the 100 back/fly), and the latter coming in as one of the superior high school backstroke talents in recent years (24.8/52.0/1:55.8). Both swimmers are NCAA qualifiers / fringe scorers with their current lifetime bests, and would have helped the Wildcats score 30-50 more relay points last season.
Another pair of incoming sprint freestylers (Annie Ochitwa and Ashley Sutherland) are also in the mix for relays. At 22.6/49.5, Sutherland and Ochitwa carry nearly identical times in the sprint freestyles, and will provide an immediate boost for the Wildcats. Ochitwa also carries a bit more versatility, with sub-54 personal bests in the both the 100 fly and 100 back.
Daniela Georges, Arizona’s third top-20 recruit, is towards the other end of the spectrum distance spectrum. While the 1650 may be a bit long for her, Georges is an excellent 500 freestyler (4:39.8, good for an NCAA B-final) and 400 IMer (4:13.8, on the edge of qualifying), and also has the speed to crank out a sub-1:46 flat-start 200 freestyle. Combined with All-Americans Bonnie Brandon and Tjasa Oder, the Wildcats are putting together one of the better mid-distance groups in the country.
Rounding out the big names in this class is Sam Senczyszyn, a 6’1″ Wisconsin native with one of the more interesting event combinations around; she’s a top-flight breaststroker (1:00.8/2:15.1) and sprint freestyler (22.9/50.6), who will compete with senior-to-be Emma Schoettmer from day one for relay spots this season.
#2: USC Trojans
Top-Tier Additions: #14 Riley Scott, #18 Sydney Lofquist, #20 Madison Wright, Anika Apostalon (transfer), Allie Wooden, Hanni Leach, Kirsten Vose, Tamara Santoyo, Victoria Toris
The rest: Destiny Nelson, Elizabeth Stinson, Katie Christy, Olivia Ontjes, Lily Dubroff
Like their Pac 12 rivals in Tuscon, USC loaded up their roster with this class: twelve swimmers, including three in the SwimSwam top 20, along with the #1 transfer (Anika Apostalon). So many names to highlight to give everyone their own paragraph, so bullets will have to do:
- The addition of Apostalon pushed this class up at least two spots. In her two years at San Diego State, Apostalonhas rewritten the Aztec record book. Now with two years under Dave Salo to focus strictly on swimming (she also played water polo at SDSU), she has the makings of a top contender in her best events; she brings lifetime bests of 21.7/47.7 in the sprint freestyles and 51.9 in the 100 back, giving the Trojan relays a much-needed boost.
- Apostolin isn’t the only new sprinter on the roster. USC also picked up three other swimmers with bests of 23.0 or better in the 50 (Allie Wooden, Tamara Santoyo, and Victoria Toris). Wooden has the most range of the trio (49.4/1:46.9 in the 100/200), but Tori (49.5 100 free) and Santoyo (53.0 100 fly) also have very good second events. Assuming a 0.5-second advantage for relay starts, these three plus Apostolin would have been 3:15.1 in the 400 free relay, nearly two seconds faster than USC was at NCAA’s.
- Riley Scott and Kirsten Vose couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Top breaststroker Alicia Kropp just exhausted her eligibility, leaving the Trojans without a sub-1:02 swimmer on the roster. Scott (1:00.5) and Vose (1:00.5) are well under that mark, and have decent range for the 200 (2:11.2 and 2:13.7, respectively). Vose is a good freestyler, too, with lifetime bests of 23.3/50.0
- The Trojans got some help in the other strokes, as well, with Leach and Wright providing boosts in the backstroke and butterfly events. At 53.0/1:54.3 in the backstrokes, Leach is already good for a pair of Pac 12 A-finals, while Wright would have scored in the 200 fly at NCAA’s last season (1:55.3). Wright, the #20 recruit in our rankings, is also a solid freestyler (1:47.6 in the 200).
- Not to be lost in the shuffle is Sydney Lofquist of Cincinnati, Ohio, who brings more range (4:42.3 500 free, 4:10.9 400 IM) than the rest of her classmates, and is already knocking on the door of the top 16 at NCAA’s. Lofquist is a huge pickup for USC, who didn’t have a single swimmer in the 400 IM at last year’s NCAA’s, and just one 500 freestyler (Chelsea Chenault)
#1: California Golden Bears
Not included: #2 Abbey Weitzeil (deferral)
Where to start? Even with the deferral of Weitzeil (who would have been the top recruit in virtually every other recruiting class in history), the Bears are an unquestionable #1. The Bears have come away with three of the top four recruits entering college this fall, along with the second-best transfer and a key diver.
We could begin with Kathleen Baker, a 2014 Pan Pac team member who is probably the most versatile prep swimmer since Tracy Caulkins (22.6/48.2/1:43.6 freestyler, 24.4/51.5/1:54.3 backstroker, 59.4/2:11.2 breaststroker, 52.7 butterflyer, 1:54.5/4:11.4 IMer). Or NAG / High School / World Junior record-holding butterfly Katie McLaughlin (51.5/1:54.2 flyer, 22.6/48.3/1:43.0 freestyler). Or short course World Champion Amy Bilquist (22.1/48.3/1:45.0 freestyler, plus 52.2 backstroker). Or even Auburn transfer Valerie Hull (22.2/48.9 sprint freestyles).
We haven’t even mentioned Jennifer Campbell, a very good 200/500 freestyler (1:46.3/4:45.8), who would have a spot on almost every school’s 800 free relay, or U.S. National Finalist Phoebe Lamay, who gives the Bears an immediate threat on the diving boards. Like Missy Franklin’s class from two years ago, this is one of the fastest, most decorated on-paper classes we’ve seen (even without Weitzeil). Teri McKeever has all-freshman 400 and 800 free relays that could go 3:12 and 6:57, along with the pieces for a 3:30 400 medley. With Weitzeil, they’re probably at 3:10, 6:55, and 3:28. That’s a whole new level of crazy.
Franklin and some other key swimmers are gone, but with one more year of Elizabeth Pelton and Rachel Bootsma along with this class, look for the Bears to make a historical run next season.