After taking the end of last week to focus on the Arena Pro Swim Series at Santa Clara, we’re resuming our countdown of the 2015 NCAA recruiting classes, with #5-8 on the women’s side today, which includes two Pac 12 schools, one Big Ten, and one SEC. The gap between #10 from last week and #7 here is pretty slim, followed by a pretty big gap to #6 and #5
If you missed last week’s article, which included our methodology and a link to the full list of athletes, click here.
#8: UCLA Bruins
UCLA has been a perennial 4th and 5th place finisher, but the Bruins have built a solid core now over the past three recruiting classes that will continue to rewrite their record books. In total, new team standards have been set in 13 of 19 events, including four of five relays this past season. With the seven swimmers in this class. led by Caroline McTaggart and Emma Schanz, expect that trend to continue.
Despite their youth, UCLA was highly competitive with USC, Arizona, and up-and-coming Arizona State at Pac 12’s across the four shorter relays. The Bruins are bringing back at least three of four swimmers of their 200/400 relays, with McTaggart–the #15 recruit in our class–providing an immediate upgrade each. A 22.7/48.8/1:47.4 freestyler, McTaggart is a huge get for the Bruins who can jump right in alongside star sophomore Linnea Mack in the sprint freestyle events. She’s also an excellent butterflyer at 52.8, putting her in contention for a spot on both medley relays.
Schanz is one of the most intriguing stories to come out of this class (she spends a majority of the year training in a 20-yard hotel pool without a coach on deck, as Mike Gustafson covered in this 2013 article), and is definitely a high-potential talent. Despite the severe disadvantage, her backstroke bests (52.8/1:54.4) are already good enough for a pair of top six finishes at Pac 12’s. She’s a great breaststroker (1:01.4/2:09.0) as well, giving her the two key legs necessary for a high-quality short course IM.
Mid-distance freestyler/IMer Mary Pelton (yes, that Pelton) and distance freestyler Sandra Soe are the other two notables. Pelton will arrive on campus this fall as UCLA’s fastest 200 freestyler (1:46.5) and 200 IMer (1:58.4) , while Soe will fit in nicely alongside school record holder Katy Campbell in the 500 (4:45.2) and 1650 (16:13.4).
#7: Michigan Wolverines
On paper, this isn’t the same caliber of class the Wolverines brought in last year (Gillian Ryan, Clara Smiddy, Hannah Moore), but this group, led by Hong Kong record holder Siobhan Haughey, easily falls inside the top 10. Haughey is arguably the #1 college-bound sprinter in the country, with lifetime long course bests of 25.4/54.5/1:59.7, all of which would sit among the top 3 times of the U.S. swimmers in this class. She hasn’t had a ton of short course competition, but she is the unofficial Hong Kong national record holder in the 100 SCM free (53.72) from a World Cup appearance last year.
Haughey will be joined by countrymate and fellow Hong Kong National Teamer Jamie Yeung, a 1:11/2:33 breaststroker. Like Haughey, Yeung doesn’t have a ton of short course experience, but she has a strong international track record, including a pair of individual bronze medals at the 2013 Youth Asian Games.
Possibly joining Haughey in the sprint group this fall will be Becca Postoll, a 23.3/49.5/1:46.5 freestyler from a loaded SwimMAC Carolina squad that has smashed nearly NAG relay record possible over the past few years. Expect her to provide immediate relay depth and solid individual points at Big Ten’s; she’ll be third-fastest Wolverine on the roster in the 100 and fourth-fastest in the 200 coming into this fall.
Massachusetts butterflyer Astrid Swensen is the final major piece of this class. While she doesn’t have a ton of top-end speed (she’s just 54.6 in the 100), Swensen is an excellent 200 flyer, with a best time of 1:57.6 that already puts her right in the Big Ten A-final.
#6: Auburn Tigers
The Auburn women are still a large step from where they were a decade ago, but the six women signed on to join the Tigers have the makings of a core to build around. Anchoring the class is free/back/fly sprinter and #11 recruit Aly Tetzloff—a 22.7/50.0 freestyler, who also boasts lifetime bests of 53.6 in the 100 back and 52.7 in the 100 fly. Essentially, she’s a classic Auburn recruit who can provide an instant upgrade to at least three Tiger relays. With the graduation of Megan Fonteno and departure of Valerie Hull, Tetzloff will need to deliver early to help bring the Tigers back up the SEC and NCAA rankings.
Joining Tetzloff in the sprint group is Shannon McKernan, a 23.1/49.9 freestyler who trained under legendary Germantown Academy couch Dick Shoulberg. McKernan is another very solid sprint piece for coaches Brett Hawke and new associate women’s head coach Lauren Hancock, who could fit in nicely on Tigers relays with even just a bit of improvement.
The next name on the list is Bailey Nero, a Fort Collins, Colorado flyer/IMer who shown some huge improvement over the past 6-8 months:
|Event||Lifetime best, Nov 2014||Lifetime best, present|
Swims like these have made Nero’s value skyrocket; those fly/400 IM times that were C-final-caliber are now A-finals at SEC’s. Considering the Tigers are returning just two scorers in the 100 fly and one in the 200 fly and 400 IM, Nero will help resolve a big need for the Tigers.
The last big name is Erin Falconer, 23.2/50.1/1:46.4 freestyler who is already good for a mid-B-final in the 200, and comes in as Auburn’s second-fastest 200 swimmer. That should give the Tigers a big boost in the 800 free relay, where they finished a highly disappointing 11th at 2015 SEC’s.
#5: Stanford Cardinal
Not included: #1 Katie Ledecky (deferral)
The deferral of arguably the best freestyler of all time pushes the Cardinal down this list a few notches, but the remaining pieces addressing some very large needs. The Cardinal scored zero points between the IM’s and distance freestyle events at NCAA’s last season last season, which Ella Eastin, Kim Williams, and Leah Stevens were brought in to address.
Eastin, the #6 recruit on our list, is the premier IMer in the class, with times (1:53.9/4:05.2) good for A-finals at last year’s NCAA’s, including the #2 returning time in the 200. She’s very good at all four strokes (it’s hard to go sub-1:54 if you’re not), but she has really shone through in butterfly (52.5/1:54.4) and breaststroke (1:00.3) events individually in the past 6-8 months. You won’t see her on either 200 relay with all of Stanford’s sprint talent, but with that 100 fly time and a 49.2/1:47.6 in the 100/200 freestyles, don’t be surprised if she lands on at least one Cardinal relay.
In addition to Eastin, the arrival of 2014 Junior Pan Pac teammates Stevens and Williams turn the 400 IM from arguably Stanford’s weakest event to one of its strongest. Stevens, our #19 recruit, is one of the best distance freestylers entering the collegiate ranks (1:47.9/4:43.1/16:07.7), with a surprising amount of breaststroke talent to mix in (1:02.0/2:13.5), making her a candidate for an NCAA-scoring 400 IM if she can improve her front half (current best time is 4:11.9).
Williams, a Bellevue, Washington native, is another highly-touted IMer, but is a cut above Stevens in the breaststroke department. She’s more established in long course, where she was a double winner at last summer’s Junior Nationals and a bronze medalists at Junior Pan Pacs, but her 1:58.8/4:12.8 in the 200/400 IM and 2:11.3 in the 200 breast give her three events where she can be an immediate difference maker.
The last piece of this class is Kaitlyn Albertoli of San Clemente, who will add a layer of much-needed depth to the Cardinal sprint group; for as dominant as Stanford has been in the sprint freestyle relays the last few seasons (they’ve won 5 of 8 relays at NCAA’s since 2012, and narrowly missed out on a sixth), they don’t have much beyond their top 4-5 talents. At 22.7/49.2, Albertoli likely won’t jump on A relays her freshman year, but should be an important piece for the next four years.