Ranking the 2018 Women’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #5-8

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After a whirlwind of a summer season, it’s time to shift gears and start preparing for NCAA season. To help out, we’re launching our yearly series ranking the top 12 recruiting classes in the nation – these swimmers will be starting their freshman seasons in the next month.

Here are a few important notes on our rankings:

  • The ranking numbers listed for individual recruits are from our Class of 2018 Re-Rank, which was done this past spring. Certainly, some of those ranks would change after this summer’s season.
  • 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 are lots of big ones.
  • For the full list of the 1200+ committed athletes, click here. A big thank-you to SwimSwam’s own Anne Lepesant for compiling that index – without it, rankings like these would be far less comprehensive.

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:

#8: USC TROJANS

Top-tier additions: #5 Erica Sullivan (NV – distance), Courtney Caldwell (NC State transfer – sprint free/back), Jemma Schlicht (Australia – sprint fly/free)
The rest: Lara Bate (Great Britain – breast), Isabelle Odgers (CA – breast), Makenna Turner (CA – fly)

The Trojans have landed the top distance swimmer to enter the NCAA since Katie Ledecky with Erica Sullivan, whose 15:40.42 in the mile makes her one of just two swimmers in the entire 2018 freshman class with top 8-worthy times based on yards bests. Her best of 4:38.13 in the 500 is also fantastic, and NCAA B final worthy. There are typically only a few freshmen who can score in their debut NCAA seasons, let alone A final, and thanks to Ledecky’s departure from the amateur and collegiate swimming world, Sullivan has a very legitimate shot at a mile national title as a rookie.

On the other end of the distance spectrum is Courtney Caldwell, a much-needed sprint weapon as the Trojans struggled to build much depth around elite Swedish sprinter Louise Hansson and pure sprinter Marta Ciesla. Caldwell only has two seasons left, so there’s some devaluation there, but as a 21.99/47.74 sprinter, her individual and relay contributions will be huge. Most importantly, though, is the fact that Caldwell’s 51.35 best in the 100 back fills the gap left by medley lead off Hannah Weiss, who just graduated.

Jemma Schlicht and Lara Bate are both from out of the country, and their PRs come from 2015 (and more in the 2013/14 range for Schlicht). Still, Bate figures into USC’s strong breaststroke group with long course bests of 1:10.1/2:26.5, while Schlicht’s been 59.0 fly and 25.8/55.6 free. Successful yards debuts by these two could prove very fruitful for the Trojans, who have had star power the last few seasons but have been a little lacking in depth.

Finally, in-state products Makenna Turner (53.6/1:58.6 fly) and Isabelle Odgers (1:01.8/2:11.6) are more names to address the depth issue. There’s a little bit of everything in this class.

#7: TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Top-tier additions: #17 Gabrielle Kopenski (TX – distance/IM), Emma Carlton (WA – sprint fly/free), Kylie Powers (TX – breast), Caroline Theil (NE – breast/IM)
The rest: Amanda Armstrong (TX – sprint free), Amber Conrad (TX – sprint free), Claire Smith (TX – back)

We just talked about a fantastic distance newcomer, and here’s another: Gabrielle Kopenski. Her distance free bests are from 2014-2016, but it’s hard to ignore her 4:37.94, the 2nd-best 500 free PR coming in other than Stanford’s Morgan Tankersley. She’s also sub 16:00 in the mile at 15:56.39, and some plateau concerns are quelled by her 4:09.92 best in the 400 IM, done in February of 2017.

Immediate medley relay candidates on the scene are Emma Carlton of Washington and Kylie Powers from in-state. Carlton’s skillset is reminiscent of Mizzou senior Annie Ochitwa‘s: great sprint flyer, great sprint freestyler, and she can lead-off medleys if needed. Carlton’s been 52.11 in the 100 fly, one of the best fly prospects in the class, and her 23.9 flat start 50 is really exciting for the Aggies. She’s also been 22.5 in the 50 free and her 53.4 100 back isn’t too shabby, either. Powers, meanwhile, is a 1:00.4/2:12.2 breaststroker and the next name in a long line of fantastic breaststrokers to go through Steve Bultman’s program.

Caroline Theil is a 2:00/4:17 IM’er with a 2:15 breaststroke to be developed, and more sprint reinforcements are inbound thanks to in-state pickups Amanda Armstrong (22.7) and Amber Conrad (23.0).

#6: INDIANA HOOSIERS

Top-tier additions: Bailey Andison (Denver transfer – IM), Christin Rockway (FL – IM), Ileah Doctor (MI – sprint free), Mackenzie Looze (IN – IM/breast), Morgan Scott (PA – free)

The rest: Noelle Peplowski (IL – breast), Maggie Wallace (NJ – distance), Julia Wolf (IN – sprint free), Lauren Miller (IN – sprint free), Ashleigh Lechner (NC – fly), Savanna Spears (IN – sprint free) Kayla Luarde (IN – diving), Alyssa Wang (NC – diving)

Though she only has a year of eligibility left, Denver transfer Bailey Andison is a likely double A finalist next year for the Hoosiers in both IMs. She’s been 1:54.38 in the 200 and 4:03.09 in the 400, and the Canadian could bring in big points individually for IU. She doesn’t have the skillset to be a relay asset, but she will still be a high impact addition this year.

Christin Rockway just competed at the 2016 Jr Pan Pacs, and she’s a tough racer with bests of 4:12 IM, 1:57.6 fly, and 4:46 free. Sprinters Ileah Doctor (22.1/49.5), Julia Wolf (22.5/49.7), and Morgan Scott (22.7/49.2/1:46.3) will be very useful for the free relay pool, especially the range-y Scott.

More breaststroke speed is on the way for IU thanks to Noelle Peplowski (1:01/2:13) and Coach Looze’s daughter Mackenzie Looze, who had huge drops this summer in producing a 1:10/2:29 breast combo in long course and an equally impressive 2:16/4:46 in the IM’s. Her yards times haven’t popped, but they sure might this year. Another nice piece to this large class is distance specialist Maggie Wallace, as she’s been 4:46/16:14 in the 500/1650.

#5: NC STATE WOLFPACK

Top-tier additions: #8 Emma Muzzy (VA – IM/back), HM Kylee Alons (sprint free/back), Sophie Hansson (Sweden – breast), Makayla Sargent (Florida transfer – IM/distance)
The rest: Shannon Kearney (IL – back), Felicity Buchmaier (MI – fly), Maddie Smith (NC – breast), Hailey Fisher ( – diving), Michelle Smith ( – diving), Sami Nickerson ( – diving), Taylor Bennett ( – diving)

This is an exciting time for the Wolfpack, as top-ranked pickups like Emma Muzzy and Kylee Alons are snags that we typically see go to perennial programs, meaning precisely that NC State is starting to draw attention as a high profile program and get on par with its men’s team. Putting the reputation to the side, though, Muzzy and Alons are great gets for this team. Muzzy is a 52.1/1:52.0 backstroker and 1:57.4/4:06.7 IM’er, and in both backstrokes and the 400 IM, she’s targeted to B final at NCAAs. Alons is a 22.4 freestyler who has split sub-22 several times on FAST’s NAG record-setting relays, and she’s also a 52.6/1:53.5 backstroker, 52.7 flyer, 49.6/1:46.8 freestyler, and 1:58.4 IM’er.

Muzzy and Alons are incredibly versatile, and Alons in particular might end up being on at least four of the Wolfpack relays by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, offshore talent Sophie Hansson of Sweden, sister of 2018 100 fly NCAA champion Louise Hansson at USC, makes for another huge contributor. At 1:07.5/2:28.0 in the breaststroke, she’s the best long course 100 breaststroker in the class. This means a lot more to NC State than it might mean to other teams, though, because the Wolfpack’s lack of breaststroke elite talent really sunk their medleys and was a dual meet gap all year.

Florida transfer Makayla Sargent could make some noise with her 4:10 400 IM, and Shannon Kearney is another standout with a 53.9 backstroke.

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Sun Devil Swim Fan

Steve Bultman has and will continue to be great at developing talent in College Station! All doubters should check the results (still hanging SEC championship banners)! An ASU swim fan but gotta look at what has and is happening in College Station!!

GrantJ

I believe the Wolfpack also add 2017 NCAA qualifier Sirena Rowe (listed as SO on roster). With best times of 22.0/49.4 FR and 53.6 in 100 BK she’s a great addition. Go Pack!

Eddie Rowe

Sirena’s mother is from Colombia, so she has dual citizenship. She represented COL at the Central American and Caribbean games this summer. Sirena transferred from Marshall after her NCAA-qualifying freshman year, but wasn’t released and as such had to sit out last year.

Oldswimfan

Good catch. I did some digging, didn’t realize Rowe is Columbian?? She went 25.6 in 50 free and 26 in 50 Fly this summer. That’s a good addition for the Wolfpack.

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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