Ranking the 2018 Women’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #9-12

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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:


Michigan Wolverines: Maggie MacNeil, a Canadian product, is a butterflier/sprint freestyler with international experience under her belt. She’s fresh off of a Jr Pan Pac title where she hit a lifetime best 58.3 in long course, which leaves her as the second-best LCM 100 flyer in the entire class behind only Cal’s Cassidy Bayer. She adds 26.0/56.0 sprint free speed, too. South African Mariella Venter (28.8/1:01.7/2:13.5 BK) and 53/1:56 backstroker Katie Minnich will add backstroke depth to complement Chloe Hicks, a Virginia Tech transfer with bests of 53.1/1:53.6. 

Harvard Crimson: The gem of this group is #15 Samantha Shelton of SOCal Aquatics. Her 200 free is one of the best in the class at 1:44.05, and she’s a tough IM’er, too (1:57.5/4:10.2). Mikki Thompson is another strong IM’er (1:59.1/4:13.5) with a nice 4:46.3 in the 500 free, and then a couple divers join 2:02/4:19 IM’er Maddie Heilbrun and 1:02/2:16 breaststroker Liz Boyer.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: FAST’s Bayley Stewart is a big name who brings in a 53.3/1:54.4 backstroke combo, and Arkansas’s Luciana Thomas is a sniper in the 200 fly with a 1:56.8 PR. The Irish get two strong breaststrokers from out west in Sammie Eyolfson (1:02/2:13) and Sarah Nicholls (1:01/2:13) in addition to a fantastic freestyler, Sinead Eksteen (49.8/1:46.5/4:44.1).


Top-tier additions: #16 Easop Lee (MD – everything), Melissa Pish (IL – free), Quinn Scannell (UPenn transfer – back)
The rest: Zoe Lusk (CA – IM/breast), Brynne O’Shea (OR – back), Cabell Ann Whitlow (VA – fly), Shae Nicolaisen (AZ – distance free), Lucy Callard (OH – distance free), Shayna Hollander (NJ – fly), Rachel Peroni (OH – fly)

Easop Lee of NBAC is the biggest fish to land in Durham since the Blue Devil women were set to full scholarship status back in 2013, and she will help keep momentum going in a fast-rising program even after the graduation of All American HM and 2018 ACC Champion Leah Goldman. Lee could be an instant three-event scorer at NCAAs, as she’s been 1:44.6/4:40.8 in free, 1:53.7 in back, 1:56.5 in fly, and then 4:08.5 in the IM. The fact that she’s at or near national scoring level in five different events is huge for Duke, which has been a relay-scoring team these last few years on the national scene but needs more individual contributions to keep rising.

Lee is great for team standing progressions at ACCs and NCAAs, but from a sheer program history standpoint, her impact could be monumental. She comes in well ahead of Duke school records in the 200/500 free (that’s prolific miler and Open Water specialist Ashley Twichell’s 500 free mark), 200 back, and 400 IM, and is set to take the program to new heights.

Melissa Pish (Waves/Bloomington in Illinois) and Quinn Scannell, a transfer with three years of eligibility left from Penn in the Ivy League, are two more heavy hitters that strengthen this class behind Lee. Pish is a mid-distance freestyler with bests of 49.8/1:46.0/4:44.0. If Lee weren’t in this class, we’d still be talking about Pish’s mid-D impact seeing as she’s currently a tenth off of the school record in the 200 free and just over a second off of Twichell’s 500 record. Suddenly, Duke could have an 800 freestyle relay that can threaten to score at NCAAs. Scannell, meanwhile, is coming off of an Ivy League title in the 200 back and bests of 53.5/1:54.6 in the backstrokes. She’s right off of the Duke record in the 200 back, and that could be hers if Lee focuses on other events as she progresses through college.

The rest of the Blue Devils class is solid across the board, with a smattering of stroke specialists and distance freestylers. Lucy Callard has been 1:48/4:49/16:33 in free, while Shayna Hollander brings in a 53.8 backstroke and Zoe Lusk contributes a 2:00.9 IM. The lack of sprint free power is a bit worrying and worthy to note, but it’s clear that this is a huge and deep class for Duke that should keep the Blue Devils relevant at the conference level and nationally.


Top-tier additions: Alexis Wenger (MI – breast), Julia Menkhaus (NC – back/IM), Kaki Christensen (CT – breast)
The rest: Jessica Nava (FL – fly), Sophie Skinner (KY – free/IM), Julia Eskew (TN – breast), Carter Bristow (VA – distance), Emma Bulger (VA – diving)

Alexis Wenger no longer planning to stay close to home with the Michigan Wolverines and instead joining UVA is great news for the ‘Hoos. Wenger, the 13-14 NAG record holder in the 100 breast, brings in a 1:00.02 PR (albeit from when she was 14) in that event which, when added to the other breaststroke strength in this class, makes for a much-needed influx of talent in the slowest stroke. Wenger could have some drops waiting for her as she acclimates to the UVA regimen as she split her time between swimming and soccer in high school.

Virginia struggled to produce top-end breast talent last year and missed scoring in the 400 medley relay, a tough fall after the impressive medley relays that came out of the Courtney Bartholomew/Laura Simon front half era. Now, they have Wenger, whose 27.88 flat start 50 breast from this sprint is several tenths faster than their relay flying start split from NCAAs. It doesn’t stop with Wenger, though, as Kaki Christensen comes in at 1:00.6/2:12.1 and Julia Eskew has registered a 1:01.7.

Speaking of building out the medleys, while freshman Abby Richter and a post-injury Megan Moroney delivered respectable lead-offs in the 200 and 400 medleys, respectively, at NCAAs, the UVA coaching staff had to throw some people around to make these relays work. Enter Julia Menkhaus and Jessica Nava. Menkhaus, a big-time SwimMAC name, is primarily an IM’er (1:59/4:12) but she brings in a 52.6 100 back. Meanwhile, Nava’s a 52.9 flyer from Florida who could sneak out a nice 50 fly split and contribute in the 100.

49.7/1:46.8 freestyler Sophie Skinner adds another ring into the gauntlet of 100/200 freestylers on the UVA roster, and this class hits most of the disciplines except for pure sprint free. UVA can handle that gap thanks to a sprint-y sophomore class and experienced talents like Morgan HillEryn Eddy, and Moroney, but the highlight here is their breaststroke gains as well as big potential from the versatile Menkhaus.


Top-tier additions: Adel Juhasz (Hungary – distance), Nina Kucheran (Canada – breast), Boglarka Bonecz (Hungary – fly), Ida Hulkko (Finland – breast), Laura Glerup Jensen (Denmark – sprint free)
The rest: Kertu Ly Alnek (Estonia – sprint free), Maddie McDonald (Canada – back), Stephanie Holmes (FL – distance), Katherine Baker (FL – breast), Lauren Hew (FL – sprint free), Hannah Womer (CA – IM/fly), Grace Cable (FL – diving)

The good: this class is enormous, with tons of potential and specialists in pretty much every stroke at every distance. The less good: the majority of the class is international, which means none of their top newcomers have extensive (or any) experience training and racing in yards. This is a big wildcard class — it might rise to the occasion and yield NCAA scorers and make for fantastic relays, or it could falter and fizzle out.

It’s clear, though, that this freshman class is stacked. Hungarians Adel Juhasz and Boglarka Bonecz are both 2:10’s in the 200 fly LCM, while Juhasz is a great distance swimmer: 4:12/8:33/16:22 from the 400 up to the mile. Breaststrokers Nina Kucheran and Ida Hulkko could prove invaluable medley relay assets and individual scoring weapons, as both come in with 1:08-lows in the 100 while Kucheran’s 2:28 shows she can aptly extend her range.

Denmark’s Laura Glerup Jensen and Estonian Kertu Ly Alnek are both 26-low in the 50 and 56 range in the 100 in LCM, while Jensen boasts an impressive 2:00.2 200 free and Alnek has flirted with the 27.0 barrier in the 50 fly. Finally, Canadian Maddie McDonald brings in a 1:02.8 100 back.

Hannah Womer is a capable IM’er out of California, with a 1:59 best and a 53.8 fly/2:14 breast combo, and in-state pickup Stephanie Holmes has potential with a 4:49/16:33 distance free pairing. All in all, this really could be a top 5 class if the success can come to life in the yards pool, but bottom line is the sheer number that FSU is bringing in is a good sign of yet another rising ACC program.


Top-tier additions: #17 Cassidy Bayer (DC – fly),  Alex Sumner (PA – back), Elise Garcia (CA – sprint free/fly), Ema Rajic (IL – breast), Alicia Wilson (Great Britain – IM/back)

It’s kind of strange to see Cal not in the top 5 classes considering what we’re used to. That said, while these five new Golden Bears are all very impressive, these swimmers have yet to really develop more than 1-2 high-impact events in yards. There is definitely a lot of quality in these additions nonetheless, and the name that could really blow up is Cassidy Bayer.

Bayer is an interesting case, as she’s shown up in long course but has been sidelined and plagued by knee injuries the last couple of seasons. Lest we forget that Bayer at 16 was the third place finisher at the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 200 fly, AKA a first-alternate Olympian, and she wasn’t far from snapping Mary T. Meagher’s 15-16 NAG in the 100 fly that year, too. In yards, she’s been 52.78/1:55.20, and it’s the 200 fly where she really excels. The 1:55.20 would’ve B finaled at NCAAs this past season, and her 2:08.0 long course PR from 2015 suggests that a successful comeback from her knee problems might yield something more in the 1:53/1:54 range. A 1:46.9 PR in the 200 yard free from Bayer early in 2018 has to settle some worries about her future.

Alex Sumner is in a similar boat with Bayer in that her 200 is what she hangs her hat on. Her 1:52.33 PR would’ve been invited to NCAAs and just off of scoring, but the backstroke improvements we’ve seen nationally, and more specifically the progression of depth in the events, de-value her a bit. Sumner is also a strong 400 IMer with a 4:15.08, and she might focus on an endurance-based schedule with a 200IM-400IM-200BK lineup.

The American newcomers for Cal could actually form a quite nice medley relay with Sumner leading off, Ema Rajic 2nd, Bayer 3rd, and Elise Garcia holding down the anchor. Rajic is a top breaststroker, coming in with a 1:00.6 which is very good news for Cal, which has been experiencing a breaststroke drought that has gone on a bit too long for a top 3 program. Garcia, a homegrown product, slots in with a 22.6 50 free, but she’s an exceptional flyer, too, with bests of 52.7/1:56.6.

The final piece is British all-arounder Alicia Wilson. She has an odd string of top events, boasting a 2:14 IM, 25.8 50 free, and 1:01.7 100 back in LCM, but those could all translate nicely. Considering Sumner (2:00/4:15), Rajic (2:00/4:14) and Bayer (1:58/4:12), this class is deceptively good at IM, and if Wilson figures in with good yards times, they can improve upon how they look on paper.

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Don’t Fake The Funk
4 years ago

Florida State “coaches” can recruit – but the verdict is still out on their actual coaching skills. You don’t win championships by having 90+ athletes on your roster. Better get it done – the ACC has some elite coaches nowadays.

Reply to  Don’t Fake The Funk
4 years ago

Oh, the verdict may be out for you, but for people who have actual experience the verdict is pretty clear. In my experience, good coaches have coherent progressions and cycles and are on deck during practices, and the results can be seen in more than one or two kids’ performances. The great thing about bringing in foreign swimmers with no history in SCY is, no one can tell whether you can actually develop a kid or not. Buys a lot of time and makes it hard to evaluate effectiveness of a program.

Reply to  NotImpressed
4 years ago

Looks to me like the team has only gotten better under the new staff. Not sure why you would have such strong opinions on a team that has only improved over the last 2 years. Having a strong recruiting class is a pretty clear indication the team will continue to move in the right direction and is being coached by a group of coaches that clearly know what they are doing. As an alumni, I’m proud of this team. Oh, and you speak about developing kids.. HAHA did you see what they did the first year with the new staff ? Hello! Both teams have improved and set a TON of school records! Keep on hating keyboard warriors! Go Noles!

2 Cents
Reply to  NotImpressed
4 years ago

Hold on… serious question…. Who are the coaches are not on deck during practice? I have never experienced any coaches who were not on deck, nor have I ever heard any rumors of those who are not present. I am honestly curious as your comment might imply that some coaches are not doing this?? Please share/explain.

Reply to  Don’t Fake The Funk
4 years ago

I really just want to know where they got all the money to recruit so many foreign athletes.

Reply to  Aquajosh
4 years ago

Coach just went to European Junior Champs and handed out business cards.

Reply to  Don’t Fake The Funk
4 years ago

Studd can’t coach 40 girls. How can you make them better? How is that good for a team? Who’s working with the guys?I have to agree – something is amiss with FSU and I’m sure there will be another change at the coaching helm in the next 2 years when Studd fails to show improvement.

4 years ago

Michigan underrated here.

Bear Growl
Reply to  Oops
4 years ago

Cal very very underrated – but that is what coaching/swimming is for – to show that rankings you don’t agree with don’t mean jack 😉

PK Doesn't like his new name
Reply to  Bear Growl
4 years ago

Between Wagner, the entire FSU class, and Bayer, all of these teams should just be ranked as “?” It’s basically just one big question mark for all of these teams, when you have people whose ceiling are finaling in 2+ events at NCAAs for 4 straight years and their floors are maybe never scoring a single individual point. These rankings could prove to be very wrong and I don’t think there is any way of knowing that information now.

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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