Ranking the 2019 Women’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #1-4

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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 2019 Re-Rank, which was done this past spring. Certainly, some of those ranks would change after this summer’s season. “HM” refers to our honorable mentions.
  • 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 classes ranked 4th through 1st:

#4: NC STATE WOLFPACK

Top-tier additions: #3 Katharine Berkoff (MT – back/free), Katie Mack (NC – back/free), Parker Timken (OH – sprint free), Kay Foley (IN – distance free), Maddy Flickinger (NC – back/free), Heather MacCausland (PA – sprint free/breast), Victoria Fonville (Oklahoma Baptist transfer – sprint free)
The rest:
Faith Hefner (NC – free), Elle Giesler (MI – free), Abby Kriegler (NC – distance free), Helene Synnott (WA – diver), Katelyn Cook (NC – diver)

It doesn’t hurt to have the best backstroker in the class incoming, and it’s a snag for the NC State program when many speculated that a late commitment announcement meant Katharine Berkoff might go for an Ivy League school or Stanford. Berkoff will join the Wolfpack, though, hopping on board just as NC State record-holder in both backstrokes, Elise Haan, is out of eligibility.

Berkoff is the only swimmer in the entire freshman class, besides Hartman, with two events within 2019 A-final range (unsurprisingly, both backstrokes). She’s the biggest name in recent memory (and perhaps, ever) to commit to the program (the only other top 20 or HM they’ve ever had was #14 Emma Muzzy last year), and at 50.7/1:50.3 in back, she’s just a few tenths off of the 100 back program record. Berkoff gives NC State an exceptional medley relay leg and is a fantastic individual scoring option — she’s also 1:57.0 in the 200 IM, one of the best freestylers in the class at 22.8/48.6/1:46.1/4:44.1, and she’s also 53.8 in the 100 fly.

The top talents in this group are almost exclusively backstrokers and freestylers. Katie Mack has been 22.6/49.0 in sprint free, but she’s also been 53.8/1:54.1 in back, with that 200 back just off of what it took to get invited to NCAAs last season. Mack is versatile: she’s been 1:47 in the 200 free and 1:59/4:15 IM. Parker Timken is another strong sprint free pickup at 22.5/49.6 with a great 50 free, and Maddy Flickinger (23.0/49.8 free, 54.2/1:56.9 back) and Faith Hefner (1:48.8 free, 1:57.8 back) follow that back/free trend, too.

The roster for 2019-20 was recently put online, listing former Oklahoma Baptist (D-II) sprinter Victoria Fonville. She’s a senior, so that devalues her significantly, but at 22.3/49.2 she’s a great sprint pickup who will give the Wolfpack another option for sprint relays. She’s also been 1:02.6 in the 100 breast and has split 23.5 fly on the medley relay.

This class has the coals to keep the sprint fire alive in Raleigh. NC State thundered to the 2019 ACC title last season, winning the 200 free relay and 200 medley relay in ACC record fashion and also claiming the win in the 400 medley relay. The 50 free haul in this group is 22.3/22.5/22.6/22.8/23.0 and the 100 free is at 48.6/49.0/49.2/49.6/49.8. There are a lot of great freestylers in the class nationally, but only one swimmer (mentioned in the UVA section) has broken 22 and 48 in high school, and this depth gives the Wolfpack staff so much to work with.

The other big adds here are Kay Foley, a mid-distance power at 1:47.6/4:48.8 in free, 2:16 in the 200 breast, and 4:18 in the IM, and Heather MacCausland. A sprint freestyler and breaststroker, MacCausland’s been 23.0/49.8 in free and 1:01.4/2:11.6 in breast. Plus, joining the Wolfpack are two divers: Helene Synnott (Washington 3A runner-up last year) and Katelyn Cook (North Carolina 3A third place last year).

Fast riser to watch: Timken has dropped half a second in the 50 free from 2018 to 2019, and did the same by a few tenths in the 100 free.

#3: TEXAS LONGHORNS

Top-tier additions: #10 Kelly Pash (IN – multi), #20 Mary Smutny (FL – free/fly), Miranda Heckman (CA – free), Bridget Semenuk (CT – sprint free), Kyla Leibel (Canada – sprint free/fly)
The rest: None

This is the most powerful class of freestylers in the country, especially in the 200/500 free range.

On the sprint side, there’s Bridget Semenuk (22.4/49.1), Kelly Pash (22.7/48.5), and Mary Smutny (49.4), plus Canadian import Kyla Leibel, at 25.4/55.3 in long course.

The real kicker here is the mid-distance range that this class has. With Cal’s Ayla Spitz leading the class at 1:45.02, Texas still has Pash (1:45.25), Smutny (1:45.36), Heckman (1:46.22), Semenuk (1:46.93), and Leibel (1:59.58 LCM) in the 200. In the 500, Heckman is strongest at 4:41, with Smutny (4:42) and Pash (4:44) not far behind.

In the NCAA, with relays being so important, this class brings in mighty potential in the areas which can be the most fruitful at NCAAs. The Longhorns just graduated relay piece Anelise Diener, and they only have one season left with 50/100/200 freestyler Claire Adams, so this incoming group is crucial to ensure no sprint gaps due to graduation losses. Essentially, there’s about the same amount of 50/100 sprint speed as NC State, but the Longhorns have immense 200/500 depth incoming that the Wolfpack does not, as well as versatile talents like Pash and Smutny who can do more than one thing.

Top recruit Pash is incredibly versatile: she is also 52.8/1:57.1 fly, one of the best 400 IM’ers in the class (4:10.9), 1:58.0 in the 200 IM, 2:14 in the 200 breast, and 1:55 in the 200 back. She can really do everything, and could feasibly develop into an NCAA scorer in the 100/200/500 free, 100/200 fly, 200/400 IM, or 200 back – right now, she’s closest in the 100 and 200 free, and she would’ve been invited in the 100 free last year with her best time.

Smutny is another swimmer with an elite second stroke: she’s 53.8/1:56.5 in the fly, with NCAA scoring potential especially in the 200 fly in addition to her lethal 200/500 free combo. Leibel has also shown potential in sprint fly, having been 26.9/1:00 in LCM.

This group doesn’t have any eye-popping sprint stroke talents (don’t be surprised to see Pash and/or Leibel make gains in sprint fly), but the wealth of freestylers is an undeniable asset, and Pash is a true Swiss army knife of a talent.

Fast riser to watch: Kelly Pash is on the move. While she’s shown the most strength in freestyle, she dropped impressive long course bests of 58.7/2:10.6 in fly and 2:14.0 in the 200 IM this summer. She also hit PRs in the 100 back (54.0) and 100 fly (52.8) in yards in early 2019.

#2: INDIANA HOOSIERS

Top-tier additions: #4 Emily Weiss (IN – breast/IM), #15 Cora Dupre (OH – sprint free/back), #17 Ashley Turak (MI – sprint free), Ryley Ober (FL – free), Carla Gildersleeve (IN – fly)
The rest: Katrina Sommer (CA – back/IM), Grace Pangburn (IN – sprint free), Alexis Doherty (GA – sprint free), Samantha Muma (NC – free/back), Carmen Hernandez (NC – diver), Zain Smith (MI – diver)

In light of outgoing American record-holder Lilly King and the sprint transfers out of the program, IU has assembled an impactful incoming group to combat their specific losses.

Out of just four sub-1:00 breaststrokers in the class, only Emily Weiss and UGA’s Zoie Hartman have been quicker than 59.0. And with Hartman at 58.9, Weiss’s 58.4 makes her the absolute, uh, class of the class. She would’ve placed fifth at the 2019 NCAA Champs in the 100 breast, and with King (the champion) and Delaney Duncan (the 2019 runner-up) graduated, Weiss will be right in the mix for an NCAA title as a freshman. While her 200 falls off a bit (2:10.2), she just broke through in long course with a 2:27.3 at the 2019 Summer Nationals. Even so, she’s right off of NCAA invite range, and with that long course speed she’s likely to be able to have it work out in yards.

Addressing the sprint exodus (current sophomores Ileah Doctor [Nevada], Morgan Scott [Alabama], and Julia Wolf [Alabama] all left IU this off-season) are newcomers Cora Dupre and Ashley Turak. Dupre is very strong across three distances: she’s 22.4 in the 50, 48.9 in the 100, and 1:45.2 in the 200. Turak, at 22.10 in the 50 free, is actually the second-fastest sprinter in the 50 free in the entire class nationwide. She’s also 48.7 in the 100 free, and the two of them are huge new breaths of life into the IU sprint group. Turak is faster than the three outgoing sprinters in the 50 and 100, and Dupre is faster at all three distances than Wolf and Scott (Doctor was 22.19 in HS in the 50).

Historically, the Hoosiers haven’t had anyone under 22.1/48.5, ever (as far as we could tell). So while their program departures are big losses, Dupre and Turak could end up setting school records as freshmen.

The free influx continues with Ryley Ober who projects more into mid-distance: she’s been 50.3/1:46.7/4:47.0, and that 200 free, along with Dupre, could help IU qualify for NCAAs in the 800 free relay after they missed the provisional cut last season. Alexis Doherty (23.0/50.7) and Grace Pangburn (23.3/51.0) are two more pure sprinters here.

One other key piece is in-state product Carla Gildersleeve. While she’s been 1:49.4 in the 200 free, her fly strength has the most potential here, as she’s been 53.8/1:58.2 with a 2:00.7 IM to work with as well. Divers Carmen Hernandez and Zain Smith bring a little more to the table, and Smith is the reigning Michigan D1 state champion.

Fast riser to watch: Dupre has been on a tear this last season. What is a tear, you ask? Since December of 2018, she’s gone SCY bests in the 50 free (22.46), 100 free (48.96), 200 free (1:45.27), 100 back (54.68), 200 back (1:54.82), 100 fly (54.08), and 200 IM (1:59.76). She’s also kicked off with bests this summer in long course in the 50 free (25.49), 100 free (56.12), 200 free (2:01.47), 400 free (4:30.82), 50 back (29.87), 200 back (2:13.20), 100 breast (1:14.24), 100 fly (1:01.78), 200 IM (2:16.81), and 400 IM (4:54.96). Okay! She’s far more than just a sprint freestyler, and she could turn into an even more valuable get than where she’s currently at.

#1: VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

Top-tier additions: #1 Kate Douglass (NY – multi), #6 Ella Nelson (TN – breast/IM), #14 Madelyn Donohoe (VA – distance free), #16 Lexi Cuomo (VA – free/fly/back), Ella Collins (TX – free/fly), Caroline Kulp (VA – distance)
The rest:
Jennifer Bell (NY – diver), Katie Cronin (FL – sprint free), Charlotte Bowen (CA – diver)

After pulling in the 11th-ranked class last year, Virginia’s time has come with our top-ranked class led by #1 recruit Kate Douglass.

This group has a nice spread of sprint to distance strength along with great stroke specialists and a couple of big diving pickups. Douglass is the big haul, and she’s lethal in so many events. Her NCAA A-final range event is the 50 free, where she’s the only swimmer in the class under 22.1 with a 21.67. She brings in the class’s quickest times in the 100 free (47.98) and 100 fly (51.74), too, and she’s the second-best 200 freestyler (1:45.16) and 200 IM’er (1:56.09) in the class. This is all before mentioning her breaststroke, which is at 1:00.2/2:10.5, and to top it all off, she’s been 53.0 in the 100 back. Douglass has been consistently at the top of age group historical rankings in the 50 free, her best event, but she’s just plain fast in everything.

This summer, Douglass made it clear that she’s not slowing down. She went lifetime bests in the 50 free (25.23), 100/200 breast (1:08.51/2:28.00), 100 FL (58.53), and the 200 IM (2:13.55). With Alexis Wenger developing into a 58.3 breaststroker during her freshman year, Douglass will probably slot in on either the fly or free legs of UVA’s medley relays, which both placed 8th at NCAAs. The ‘Hoos also scored in the 400 free relay A final and were ninth in the 800 free relay, but they missed scoring in the 200 free relay. Douglass will seriously elevate any relay she’s on, especially the free relays, and her sprint fly progression could make her a boon on the medleys.

Sprint flyer Lexi Cuomo might also be a medley relay option, and her flat start 50 fly time of 23.44 means she’s a likely 22-something fly leg right off the bat. She’s been 52.01 in the 100 fly, the third-best 100 flyer in the class, as well as 22.9/49.7 free, 25.0/53.3 back, and 1:59.9 IM.

Two more huge gets are Ella Nelson and Madelyn Donohoe. Nelson is right on par with Zoie Hartman at #2 in the class in the 200 breast with a time of 2:07.59 which would’ve scored in the NCAA A final last year. She’s the best 400 IMer in the class (4:10.10) with strong times in the shorter versions of those races (1:01.03 100 breast, 1:57.80 200 IM). Additionally, Nelson has been 1:47.4/4:48.8 in free. Donohoe is the best miler in the class at 16:01.60, and she brings in a 4:44.26 500 free and a 1:47.23 200 free as a true distance talent. Between Douglass (50 free/100 free/100 fly), Nelson (400 IM), and Donohoe (1650 free), UVA has five of the #1 times of the class.

The mid-distance group continues to grow with Ella Collins and Caroline Kulp. Collins is a range-y freestyler at 23.1/49.5/1:46.8/4:47, and she’s also been 54.4/1:58.8 fly. Kulp has a great 500 free (4:43.9) with depth down to the 200 (1:47.8) and up to the mile (16:24). She’s also 1:58.1 fly and 2:00/4:17 IM.

Rounding out the class is one more sprinter, Katie Cronin, at 23.0/50.4 in free, along with divers Jennifer Bell and Charlotte Bowen. Bell is actually from Pelham Memorial High School, like Douglass, and was last year’s NY HS runner-up in diving. Bowen placed fifth at the 2019 CIF-SS D1 Champs.

Fast riser to watch: Douglass has made inroads in different disciplines over the course of her young career, from making the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 200 breast as a 13-year-old (as did Nelson), to developing as a sprint freestyler and IM’er, to her latest surge in butterfly. Almost all of her bests are from the last year or so, and this summer further solidified the progression she’s on.

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SWIMDADFROMNC

#Wahoowa #DeSorboEffect This is going to be a very exciting time in Charlottesville, go Hoos!

Analyswim

In addition to the coaching staff, the academic institution and the team culture at UVA probably have a lot to do with the recruiting success.

2 Cents

Isn’t the “whole package” (school, coaches, team, etc) part of any school’s recruiting success, or lack of success? And coaching changes do happen, but school “prestige” does not really change as much… its about the same it was 10-20-40 years ago, correct?

DeSorbo Effect

Its no surprise the recruiting momentum took off when Todd was hired.

A fearless dynamic coaching style thats not afraid to let the world know you are the bestest!

That degree of fierce confidence never fails to attract the top talent. Like attracts like. No false humility there!

All hail the BEAST of the EAST!!!

volmenusa

Whaaa about the Coonskin girls from Tennessee? Distappointed they not on any list. Hoping they get 2 or 3 great divers so we stay in the top 10.

Wondering

Reality hits hard

Nswim

I’m surprised Tennessee isn’t on the list as well, thru seemed to get a lot of decent transfers too I think

alum15

Volunteers are about to start rising on these lists with Josh Huger taking the recruiting coordinator position! Mark it down!

Meeeeee

1-12 seems like a very odd number (vs. 1-10 or 1-20) so guessing they are just on the outside

Silent Observer

It’s not odd if you consider the fact that they wrote the articles in groups of 4…of which 12 is a multiple of.

10 is no more or less arbitrary than 12.

Joel Lin

At least UT is the Goliath of the SEC & a national powerhouse in football.

VFL

Also wondering where Tenn’s class stacks up. Hoping their recruiting picks up again soon! Any chance we can snag Gretchen Walsh?

volmenusa

So…. Yer sayin we have a chance?????? WOW dat would be awesome!!!

Greg

Great work on all these class rankings, Karl/Swimswam! Very well-researched and a pleasure to read.

Karl Ortegon

Thank you! I need to give credit to Jared Anderson, who did a lot of the foundational research to help us get a good outline of the rough top 15 so that we could deliberate from there.

Also would like to note that it’s pretty interesting the top 4 is lacking both Pac-12 and SEC representation. We know the ACC is rising, and there is new coaching blood in the B1G. I think in five years, we could have a very different landscape.

These rankings were fun to do so I’m happy that they are read & enjoyed!

collegeswimmer

Might shake things up causing the ACC and B1G becoming a more competitive conference meet.

2 Cents

Aren’t they already the most competitive or fastest from top to bottom? or at least 1-16 or 1-24?

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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