Don’t look now, but July 1st is coming up fast, signaling the (now unofficial) start of college swimming recruiting for the class of 2016. Before we get caught up in the flurry of summer championship meets, we’re going to take a look back at last year’s recruiting season and rank the top 12 incoming classes, beginning today with #9-12 for the women.
- 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 (e.g., Abbey Weitzeil and Katie Ledecky) are not included
- Transfer are included, but devalued, depending on the number of remaining years. Would you rather have two years of Anika Apostalon (21.7/47.7), or four years of Amy Bilquist (22.1/48.3)?
- 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 later this week:
Honorable mentions (no particular order):
Duke Blue Devils
North Carolina Tarheels
NC State Wolfpack
#12: Indiana Hoosiers
Top-tier additions: #9 Lilly King, Miranda Tucker, Christine Jensen (53.6 100 fly)
The rest: Allison Cunningham, Hannah Sakaluk, Laura Morley, Mackenzie Atencio, Shelly Drozda
The Hoosiers had a [really, really, really] huge breaststroke problem in 2015, giving up at least full second in 200 medley relay to most of their Big 10 opponents, and more than double that in the 400. Ray Looze and company addressed that need in a big way by picking up two of the best breaststrokers available in Lilly King and Miranda Tucker.
King can’t arrive in Bloomington fast enough; her 59-low is already 3.5 seconds faster than any other Hoosier on the roster. Along with Brooklynn Snodgrass and Gia Dalesandro, the Hoosiers now have the makings of one of the country’s top medley relays. With King, IU would have run away with last year’s 400 medley (and overall team) Big Ten title, and probably landed in the 3:31-3:32 range at NCAA’s (good for a top 10 finish).
Although none of her other strokes are particularly good individually, they’re solid enough to put together a 1:58.8 200 IM.
Michigan National Junior Teamer Miranda Tucker (59.8/2:09.1) adds another layer of depth to that group, and also sports a very strong 100 fly (53.4) and 200 IM (1:57.9). The Livonia, Michigan native has been on fire for the past couple years, chopping nearly 1.5 seconds off her already strong 100 breast, and showing a flash of freestyle ability (23.3/50.1/1:47.7), as well.
Joining them this fall will be Christie Jensen–King’s Newburgh Sea Creatures teammate–who could be diving over King or Tucker a couple years down the road in medley relays. Jensen has only been swimming club for the last 2-3 years, and it’s showing; she’s still dropping time like a young age-grouper, including a full second in her 100 fly (down to 53.6) at the Indiana High School State Championships.
The class is rounded out by some solid talent, including Drozda and Sakaluk–mid-distance freestylers who could reach the next level in Looze’s high-mileage program.
#11: Georgia Bulldogs
Top Tier Additions: Shauna Lee, Sam Fazio, Caitlin Casazza
The rest: n/a
“Small but mighty” is Georgia’s class in a nutshell. Only three swimmers are listed, but all could be contributors for the ‘Dawgs as true freshmen. Given the amount of talent still on the roster, it’s not unlikely that Jack Bauerle and Harvey Humphries may have been squeezed from a scholarship perspective.
If Lee’s name sounds familiar, it may be because you saw her commitment article a couple weekends ago. Hailing from Great Britain, Lee wasn’t in our initial rankings, but 26.2/55.3/1:59.4 in the long course 50/100/200 freestyles, you can bet she would have been a top 20 recruit; those translate to something around 23.0/48.5/1:44.5. Provided she even has decent carryover to short course, expect her to slot right into the Bulldog 400 and 800 freestyle relays, which both finished third at 2015 NCAA’s.
We only have two other names listed in this incoming class, but both help Georgia add depth in areas where they’ve lost some athletes to graduation. Casazza is one of the slew of SwimMAC female athletes over the next couple years to be joining a high-level Division I team, and with 2016 Olympic Trials cuts in both the 100 and 200 fly, you can expect her to be an immediate contributor. She’s very good short course, as well, bringing 53.3/1:57.3 fly swims to the table, along with a 1:01 100 breaststroke and sub-2:00 200 IM
Fazio, a 22.7/49.7 sprinter from the loaded Scottsdale Aquatic Club (Amy Bilquist, Ryan Hoffer), gives the Georgia coaching staff another body to mix in on their sprint relays.
#10: Virginia Cavaliers
Top-tier additions: #16 Megan Moroney, Kasey Schmidt, Eryn Eddy, Vivian Tafuto
The rest: Peyton Baldwin, Rachel Politi
Megan Moroney was our #16 recruit last fall, and is the top name in this UVA class, bringing hard-to-find range in freestyle (23.6/49.4/1:45.8/4:43.1) and butterfly (53.5/1:59.8) events. With #1 flyer Ellen Williamson graduating, Moroney will be in the mix for the fly leg on the Cavalier 400 medley relay, and should immediately hop on the 400 and 800 free relays.
The Busch brothers added other immediate contributors to their growing sprint freestyle group, as well. Kasey Schmidt is a top-flight sprint product from the legendary Bolles School Sharks, boasting an eyebrow-raising 22.55 flat start 50 free, and a 22.17 lifetime best relay split. At this point in her career, she still fades in the 100 (never been under 50 seconds), but her pure speed is still an instant upgrade for Virginia’s freestyle relays.
Eryn Eddy doesn’t having the same speed as Schmidt, but definitely brings more endurance to the table, carrying bests of 23.7/50.1/1:46.8/4:45.8
Vivian Tafuto is best-known as a breaststroker (1:00.7/2:14.7), but, like her older brother Vinny who competes at the University of Michigan, she has developed into a strong sprint freestyler, as well, including a 50.4 100 freestyle.
UVA is slowly building a quality core in shorter events, which were not the focus under the more distance-oriented program of long-time coach Mark Bernandino. That strategy has begun to pay off; the Cavaliers were two points out of 4th at this year’s NCAA’s, and have the makings of a top 5-7 program for years to come.
#9: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Top-tier additions: Rachel Munson, Zoe Avestruz, Erin Emery, Kaia Grobe
The rest: Chantal Nack, Danielle Bergeson, Elisa Burgstahler, Erin Buck, Katelyn Sauder, Lauren Lalumiere, Maggie Werba, Nicki Ciavarella, Olivia Johnston
Strength in numbers. Minnesota is bringing in a bunch of high-quality swimmers, but Zoe Avestruz is the biggest name in this class; had we re-ranked the athletes in this class, she probably would fall inside the top ten after a big senior season. Hailing from the same club team (Aquajets) as Olympian and NCAA Champion Rachel Bootsma, Avestruz carries a remarkably similar event profile:
50 free: 22.48
100 free: 48.91
50 back: 24.38
100 back: 51.98
50 fly: 24.52
100 fly: 53.36
Having those backstroke times as leadoff leges would have pushed the Gophers from 4th to 1st at last year’s Big Ten’s, so you can bet the Minnesota staff is looking forward to having Avestruz on the roster.
The Gophers really went after breaststrokers last fall, picking up four with best times of 1:03.5 or better (Burgstahler, Ciavarella, Saunder, and Munson), with the last name being the biggest one on that list. With Kierra Smith planning to redshirt next season to focus on 2016 Canadian Olympic Trials, Munson (1:01.1/2:13.9) will be expected to play a bigger role upfront.
Junior Open Water World Championship team member Erin Emery could be the next big name in the historically strong Gopher distance program. The longer the event, the better she is; her 16:06.7 would have been good for a top five finish at Big Ten’s and less than a second out of scoring at NCAA’s. Expect her to excel training with All-American rising sophomore Brooke Zeiger.
Kaia Grobe, Avestruz’s club teammate, will be joining her older sister Bridgette in Minneapolis this fall, and should be looking to make an immediate impact for the Gopher sprint group. An in-state product, Grobe has already cracked the 23 and 50-second barriers in the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Come back tomorrow for #5-8!