Ranking the 2017 Women’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #1-4

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We wrap up our rundown of the top women’s NCAA recruiting classes today, profiling the top 4 classes nationwide.

Please read these notes:

  • The rankings numbers listed for some individuals are from our pre-recruiting season rankings done more than 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, so foreign swimmers are slightly devalued because of their inexperience in SCY.
  • Transfers are included, and there were a lot of big ones this summer.
  • For the full list of the 1200+ committed athletes, click here.

Here are classes #1-4, with our men’s rankings coming soon:

#4: USC Trojans

Top-tier additions: #3 Margaret Aroesty (NY – breast/IM), #13 Marta Ciesla (FL – sprint free), #14 Caitlin Tycz (ME – fly), Isabella Rongione
The rest: N/A

This is a very top-heavy class and, well, the top is the only thing that’s there. Only four are joining the Trojans in the fall, but the kind of talent in those four is enough to get USC to the top tier of our rankings.

They snagged the fastest sprint breaststroker in the class, which is something that even schools like Cal and Georgia (and Stanford, though Grace Zhao might be able to buck that trend and the class of 2022 is certainly going to change that around) have a lot of trouble doing. Margaret Aroesty will join breastroke duo Riley Scott and Kirsten Vose this season, giving the Trojans three very strong options for medley relays and meet lineups. Aroesty’s 58.9 in the 100 is already fast enough to score in the top 8 at NCAAs, while her 2:09.4 would be good for B final points, so she’s going to be a big contributor right off the bat. Aroesty is also a 1:57.1/4:10 IM’er, and the 2:12.8 LCM 200 IM that she threw down at the US Open is really impressive– her talents align perfectly with those of Scott and Vose.

#13 Marta Ciesla and #14 Caitlin Tycz are two other top-20 pickups, with Ciesla bringing in sprint speed (22.5/48.9) and Tycz being one of the best 100-200 combo butterfliers in the class (52.4/1:56.6). With Anika Apostalon graduating and Stanzi Moseley transferring to Tennessee, Ciesla provides much-needed sprint power, while Tycz joins a butterfly group that includes Pac-12 champion and 49 100 SCY fly split Louise Hansson as well as 200 fly specialists Maddie Wright and Catherine Sanchez.

Distance specialist Isabella Rongione is the fourth and final member of the Trojan’s incoming class. She’s been 16:07 in the mile and 4:43 in the 500 free, but most of her best times are from early high school. Rongione did set a new PR in the 400m free (4:13.6) at the 2017 Worlds Trials, though, and she hit a 200y fly PR (1:59) in 2016, and if any coach can get a swimmer back on track, it might be Catherine Vogt at USC. Vogt is going into her 10th year at USC and is renowned as one of the best distance/open water coaches in the country.

#3: Texas A&M Aggies

Top-tier additions: #9 Taylor Pike (AR – fly), #16 Anna Belousova (MD/Russia – breast), #19 Joy Field (TX – distance), Haley Yelle (TX – distance)
The rest: Kara Eisenmann, Audrey McMurry, Camryn Toney, Jing Wen Quah, McKenna Debever (Auburn transfer), Charlye Campbell (diver), Haley Walding (diver), Kaja Skrzek (diver)

The Aggies did a great job of snagging in-state talent, with all but Taylor Pike (Arkansas) and Anna Belousova (Maryland/Russia) coming from Texas.

Those two aforementioned swimmers are stroke specialists, with Pike excelling in butterfly and Belousova in breaststroke. Both could score at NCAA’s as freshmen– Pike has been 1:54.9 in the 200 fly, and only #1 Courtney Harnish has been faster than Pike in the class. Pike has also been 53.3 in the 100 fly as well as a 16:24 mile. Belousova, meanwhile, brings in a 2:09.6 200 breast, which would’ve scored in the NCAA B final last year. Her yards times are a bit deceiving, as she’s been 1:07.9/2:26.7 in long course. Either way, she’s another great breaststroke pickup for the Aggies, who always seem to have endless sub-2:10 200y breaststrokers, and she could follow in the footsteps of Bethany Galat and take her times to another level.

Joy Field is another top 20 pickup, and she gives the Aggies a third scoring option in addition to Pike and Belousova with her 16:02 mile, a time that would’ve scored at 2017 NCAAs. Haley Yelle is right there with Field– both have been 4:43 in the 500 free, and Yelle’s been 16:17 in the mile. Yelle, though, has more speed than Field with a 1:47 in the 200 free, so it’s possible she’ll develop as a mid-distance freestyler (especially considering that distance ace #7 Gabby Kopenski is en route for 2018).

The supporting cast is also promising for A&M, which is ultimately what puts them ahead of USC on this list. Kara Eisenmann is a 53.4/1:59 butterflier, while Audrey McMurry and Camryn Toney both come in as 1:48 200 freestylers.

McKenna Debever was technically with the team last year, but didn’t compete in any NCAA competition that we can find, so she counts as a new addition in 2017-2018. She’s also 1:48 in the 200 free after transferring in from Auburn. According to Singaporean media, Jing Wen Quah is set to join the Aggies this season, but it’s always tricky to confirm when foreign athletes will become eligible. She’s 1:00 in the long course 100 fly and 56.4 in the long course 100 free. There are three divers with solid resumes joining up, too, which is another plus.

#2: Michigan Wolverines

Top-tier additions: #2 Sierra Schmidt (PA – distance), #15 Alexis Margett (CA – fly), Miranda Tucker (IU transfer), Taylor Garcia (Arizona transfer), Daria Pyshnenko (IL – sprinter), Kate Krolikowski (CA – free/IM)
The rest: Alex Hughes, Claire Maiocco, Emma Cleason, Margaret Rogers (diver), Nikki Canale (diver), Christy Cutshaw (diver)

Transfers have shaken things up a bit this summer, but Michigan really cashed in now that all the dust has settled. Miranda Tucker is the most impactful transfer this year, and she should be an A-finalist in both breaststrokes at the 2018 NCAA Championships. She’s had to sit out a year due to transferring within the conference by way of IU, but she produced a best time of 2:25.82 in the 200m breast this summer and her times of 58.1 and 2:06.2 make her a breaststroke weapon unlike anything Michigan has ever seen (she’s over a second faster than team records in both races). Meanwhile, Arizona transfer Taylor Garcia is back in her home state, and she brings a 51.8 100 back and 22.6 50 free to the table.

Michigan has seen a meteoric rise to the top dogs of the Big Ten, and this is looking like the best class they have ever had. #2 Sierra Schmidt joins a distance group that already consists of G Ryan and Rose Bi, and Schmidt comes in with very impressive times of 15:57 in the mile and 4:38.4 in the 500– both would score at NCAAs. If she ever wants to diverge from the mile, she has a 1:56.1 200 fly that’s among the best in this entire class.

#15 Alexis Margett is one of the bests butterfliers in the class, coming in with a 52.5 in the 100 and a 1:57.3 in the 200, and with Margett comes Claire Maiocco, who’s been a 53.8 in the 100 fly. Along with sophomore Vanessa Krause, Michigan has really built up a solid fly group that did not exist to nearly the same capacity a few years ago.

Kate Krolikowski and Daria Pyshnenko, meanwhile, provide some instant relay edge with Krolikowski coming in at 49.7/1:45.9 and Pyshnenko at 22.3/48.7. Pyshnenko is actually one of the best 50-100 combo sprinters in the entire class and Michigan needs some pure sprint power, while Krolikowski’s 200 could land her on the 800 relay with some development (or after Gabby Deloof or G Ryan graduate).

Essentially, Michigan has covered all of the bases with lots of added depth in fly and free, and they are shoring up their backstroke and breaststroke groups with incoming transfers. There’s no pure IM talent in this class, though Krolikowski has been 2:00/4:15 in the IM’s and could go that route instead of the mid-distance free track.

#1: Stanford Cardinal

Top-tier additions: #4 Brooke Forde (KY – IM/everything), #6 Lauren Pitzer (TX – free), #8 Hannah Kukurugya (IN – fly), #10 Grace Zhao (CA – breast), #12 Ashley Volpenhein (OH – sprint free)
The rest: Lauren Green, Katie Glavinovich

Rarely do we see something like four top 10 and five top 20 recruits committing to the same school quite like we’ve seen it happen with the Stanford women. Welcome to Greg Meehan’s dynasty.

Brooke Forde is the Ryan Hoffer of the women’s class, and if we were to rank them all again right now, Forde would be the clear #1. She brings in times of 1:55/4:02 in the IM’s while proving to be invaluable in nearly every other race (49.7/1:44.6/4:39.8 free, 1:57.1 back, 1:01.6/2:09.1 breast, 53.4/1:56.3 fly). She keeps getting faster, too, as we continue to see improvement from her year-to-year. Forde will be a top 3 contender in the 400 IM this year, and she could score in the 200 IM, 200 breast, 200 free, 500 free, and she’s not far off of the 200 fly cutoff.

#6 Lauren Pitzer and #8 Hannah Kukurugya are two more big names that are just a touch off of NCAA-scoring times. Pitzer is a rangy freestyler, with bests of 22.6/48.7/1:45.6/4:42.8 in the 50 through 500 free. She’ll likely project more to mid-distance than sprint with a better 500 than 50, or she might just rock being a do-everything freestyler at Stanford. Pitzer has also been 25.5/55.7/1:59.8/4:12 in LCM, suggesting that there’s more potential to tap for her. Kukurugya, meanwhile, is one of the standout 200 flyers of the class, having been 1:55.6 in yards as well as 53.0 in the 100 and 1:57.9 in the 200 IM. The 200 free for Pitzer and 200 fly for Kukurugya might be the best spots for them to earn NCAA points right away as freshmen.

#10 Grace Zhao is at NCAA scoring level in the 200 breast at 2:09.1, and her 1:00.5 100 complements that nicely. She’ll be a big help to Kim Williams, who had to ditch the IM’s for the most part last season to take over as Stanford’s medley breaststroker. Zhao has also been 22.7 in the 50 free, and that adds to the sprint free speed that #12 Ashley Volpenhein brings to the table. Volpenhein has been 22.3/48.9 as well as 1:49 in the 200, looking pretty similar to a newcomer like Pyshnenko for Michigan. With Lia Neal graduated and 200 free relay members Janet Hu and Ally Howe heading into their senior seasons, Volpenhein will help keep their sprint relays intact.

In practically any other class, Katie Glavinovich and Lauren Green would be top tier additions, but this is Stanford we’re talking about. Still, there’s no reason to dismiss the talent that each brings, and seeing as it’s difficult to predict how high school recruits will fare in their new college environments, there’s no doubting that either will excel at Stanford. Glavinovich has been 1:46 in the 200 free and 4:13 in the 400 IM, while Green has been 22.4/49.4 in free and 52.7 in fly.

Stanford’s class is much like Michigan, getting elite speed in nearly every event, and whereas Michigan lacks IM talent, Stanford is missing backstroke power. With Hu, Howe, Erin Voss, and Allie Szekely on the roster, though, there’s no immediate need for that anyways.

Jared Anderson also contributed to this report.

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crooked donald
5 years ago

Ryan Hoffer is the Brooke Forde of the men’s side.

5 years ago

Potential correction: Caroline Vogt? I thought her name is Catherine Vogt?

5 years ago

Michigan likely just gained a completely new front half of their Medley relays, and also added some fire to the sprint free relays… it’s going to be exciting!

Reply to  Jackman
5 years ago

It will also be interesting to see if any of the lower level recruits have a breakout season like Vanessa Krause did last year.

5 years ago

What happened to Heidi Poppe?! So much upside as an elite breaststroker – and more.

Reply to  NCAASwam
5 years ago

I think she battled injuries her sophomore season?

5 years ago

I am excited to see what Michigan does this year! So much new talent with Tucker, Schmidt, Garcia, and all the new blood. The womans team will be an absolute joy to watch this season! Kick butt ladies!!!

Reply to  Miswimfan
5 years ago

#2 recruits gonna help Michigan kill it maybe top 5
hope they improve on there 368 pt loss to Stanford 🙂

wonder if anyones can get within 200 pt of #1 tho
#notachance #nerdnation #fearthetree

5 years ago

This year, I’d guess it’s partially a product of limited roster spots. Every team’s incoming class is somewhat defined by the class that just graduated. USC only graduated 5 seniors. To keep a similar roster size moving forward, they can only recruit somewhere in the ballpark of 5 athletes.

USC got Rongione really early (May of 2016), so with only a few roster spots left, they could probably make a really targeted push for a couple key prospects they liked.

5 years ago

Texas A&M has several other additions to the team. This includes Jing Wen Quah, transfer Mckenna Debever who will be eligible to swim this year, and transfer Victoria Roubique from UH!

Hello SwimSwamSwum
5 years ago

A 22.6 100 free for transfer Taylor Garcia? Wow.

Reply to  Hello SwimSwamSwum
5 years ago

I heard her middle name is “Caeleb”

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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