Ranking the 2019 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 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 8th through 5th:

#8: UCLA BRUINS

Top-tier additions: Gabby Dang (WA – free/fly), Sophia Kosturos (CA – back/fly/free), Brooke Schaffer (CA – sprint free), Rachel Rhee (CA – free/breast), Daniella Hawkins (CA – distance free)
The rest: 
Stephanie Su (CA – distance free), Lauryn Johnson (NY – distance free/fly), Lindsay Stenstrom (CO – sprint free), Katelynn Shaheen (CA – diver), Hannah Butler (NY – diver_

In her first head coaching gig, former Ohio State associate head coach Jordan Wolfrum will have a lot of new talent to work with. This class has a wealth of freestyle talent through the whole distance spectrum, with a couple key stroke specialists to bring new medley relay options.

Gabby Dang, who was in our earlier top 20 rankings as an HM but was bumped out in the most recent ranks, is one of two incoming Bruins already very close to an NCAA invite time with her 52.58 in the 100 fly. She’s been 22.9/49.8 in freestyle, and she’s a dangerous medley option with bests of 24.0 in the 50 fly and 25.0 in the 50 back. She pairs nicely with Sophia Kosturos, the other near-NCAA invite swimmer, who comes in with a 52.92 in the 100 back. Kosturos is a bit of a better sprint freestyler at 22.9/49.2, while she’s also 53.5 in the 100 fly and her 50 back, at 24.77, makes her a perfect newcomer as the Bruins graduated medley backstroker Emma Schanz (24.8/53.2 last year) and lost Mara Newman (53.7/1:53.7, their best 200 backstroker) to a transfer to Wisconsin.

In addition to Dang and Kosturos, there’s Brooke Schaffer (22.7/49.1/1:48.6) just ahead in the sprint free and also bringing in a 53.3 100 fly, Rachel Rhee (22.9/50.3/1:47.4/4:49.4) who boasts a 1:01.8 in the 100 breast, and Lindsay Stenstrom (23.5/50.7) to buff up the sprint group. On the other end of the distance spectrum, there’s Daniella Hawkins at 4:44.7/16:35, Lauryn Johnson at 1:48.5/4:47.9/16:44 (plus 54.8/1:59.1 fly), and Stephanie Su at 4:49.0/16:35.

The freestyle strength in this class is so important for the program. Last season, they had just four women under 23 (but led by the fast-improving Claire Grover, a rising sophomore, at 21.98) and only three under 50 (with nobody better than 48-mid). Sandra Soe led the distance group at 4:40 in the 500 and 16:02 in the mile, but she just finished her eligibility, while no other Bruin was under 4:50/16:40 last year. Now there are four women under 23 in the 50 free, plus Hawkins, Johnson, and Su fleshing out the D-group.

The cherry on top here is two diving additions in World Junior Trials platform finalist Katelyn Shaheen, who won the CIF SS-D2 diving title as a sophomore, and Hannah Butler, the reigning NY HS champion.

Fast riser to watch: At the end of her 2018 high school season, Kosturos was 54.7 in the 100 back and her 200 back was stuck at 1:59.5 from December of 2016. She’s now at 52.9/1:58.3, and she’s shaved several tenths off of her sprint free/fly events this past season, too.

#7: KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Top-tier additions: #8 Caitlin Brooks (FL – back), Gillian Davey (IA – breast/IM), Kaitlynn Wheeler (IL – IM/free), Lauren Poole (MD – IM/back)
The rest: Beth McNeese (TX – distance free), Ashley Neas (GA – distance free), Emily Baeth (IA – free), Tori McCullough (MD – distance free), Trinity Ward (PA – sprint free/fly), Maddie Deucher (TX – back), Morgan Southall (OH – diver)

This is a very big class for the Wildcats, with the Backstroke U legacy being continued with their top recruit, Caitlin Brooks.

Brooks has NCAA scoring potential in the 200 back, with her 1:52.01 in that event already fast enough to have made the 200 back B final in 2019 and place 11th. She’s also 52.26 in the 100 back, which would’ve gotten invited to NCAAs last year, too. With Asia Seidt (made A finals in both backstrokes) and Ali Galyer (made A final in the 200 back) finishing their collegiate careers after this season, Brooks will still find a training partner in Sophie Sorenson (53.0/1:52.9 at SECs last year, swam both at NCAAs but didn’t score). Lauren Poole, another top-tier addition, is also 1:56.3 in the 200 back, which should develop with the Wildcats who have been renowned for their 200 backstrokers especially.

Poole is also a great IM’er, with bests of 1:59.3/4:13.2 to pair nicely with the other top-tier additions, Kaitlynn Wheeler (1:58.9/4:14.5) and Gillian Davey (4:13.2). It’s Davey who shines as the second-best Wildcat newcomer, though, with a 2:10.48 in the 200 breast, not far off of what typically gets an NCAA invite. In the 100, Davey’s been as fast a 1:01.9. Wheeler is also a great freestyler (23.2/50.6/1:47.4/4:48.7) to pair with Emily Baeth (1:48.2), who is from the same high school and club as Davey in Iowa, and Trinity Ward (49.9).

The class also features a few distance prospects, with Beth McNeese at 4:50.1 in the 500 (she dropped a 4:16 in long course this summer), Ashley Neas at 4:51 and Tori McCullough at 4:52/16:36. The bonus add is Morgan Southall, the reigning Ohio D1 diving champion.

Fast riser to watch: Do not let Davey’s yards times fool you out of seeing the potential she brings (her breaststroke PRs are from 2017 and her 400 IM time is from March of 2018). She went best times in both breaststrokes and both IMs in long course this summer, highlighted by a 1:10.1/2:26.8 combo in the breast and 2:20/4:53 in the IM. That 200 breast, especially, is impressive.

#6: CAL GOLDEN BEARS

Top-tier additions: #9 Ayla Spitz (CA – multi), HM Chloe Clark (CA – multi), Rachel Klinker (KY – free/fly/IM), Sarah Dimeco (WA – free/fly/IM), Danielle Carter (CA – back), Ashlyn Fiorilli (TX – fly/IM)
The rest: Anna Kalandadze (PA – distance free), Eloise Riley (Australia – sprint free), Emma Davidson (CA – sprint free), Cassie Graham (MD – diver)

Having Isabel Ivey join Cal mid-year last season bumps this class down, but this one is still very stacked.

#9 Ayla Spitz is the top 200 freestyler in the incoming NCAA class at 1:45.02, though that’s the only time of any of these incoming Bears that would’ve received an NCAA invite last year. Spitz is a jack of all trades: she has sprint free power (22.6/48.6) but can swim up to the 500 (4:45.9), she’s a capable backstroker (24.8/53.3/1:56.3), a strong flyer (53.5), and, unsurprisingly, a solid IM’er (1:58.6/4:15.3). The talent is there, and she is a sniper of a 200 freestyler, giving her big relay potential and the malleability to develop across a multitude of disciplines.

HM Chloe Clark is also a versatile get, with her 1:57.3 in the 200 IM the most eye-popping of her times. She has also been 22.6/49.2 in the sprint free, 25.2/53.2/1:56.7 in the 100 back, 1:02.6 in the 100 breast, and 4:13 in the 400 IM. The concern is that these are all from 2017 or earlier, except for the 50/100 back times which are from May of 2018; this past season she was 49.7 in the 100 free and 54.2 in the 100 back. Plus, Clark started classes at Cal in January with Ivey, and while she wasn’t racing with the team, she didn’t have the same senior spring as most of these incoming swimmers.

The rest of this class is very distance-oriented, an influx of distance talent for a program that has been very lacking in that department (Robin Neumann swam up to the 500 and logged a 4:39 last season, but Cal didn’t have a single swimmer race the mile once last year). Rachel Klinker and Sarah Dimeco (both HMs in the first rank) and Ashlyn Fiorilli are all excellent in distance free/200 fly/400 IM. Klinker has the most front-end speed (49.9/1:46.0/4:44.1 free, 1:56.9 fly, 4:16 IM), with Dimeco close behind but better in the longer races (1:46.9/4:44.2/16:09 free, 1:57.2 fly, 4:12 IM), and Fiorilli strongest in fly/IM (4:49/16:23 free, 1:57.2 fly, 4:15 IM).

Danielle Carter is a backstroker with lots of potential at 53.5/1:55.4, and Anna Kalandadze adds even more distance strength (1:48.3/4:46.2/16:23). On the other end of the spectrum are sprinters Emma Davidson (22.9/50.3) and Australian Eloise Riley (25.9/57.8 LCM), with Riley’s 50 free especially intriguing.

Fast riser to watch: Spitz is on a hot streak, going lifetime bests in the 50/100/200 free and 100 fly in 2019, and in the 100/200 back at the end of 2018 (so, all this past season). 2019 also saw her break 23 in the 50 free for the first time in her career.

#5: GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Top-tier additions: #2 Zoie Hartman (CA – breast/IM), Ashley McCauley (NC – breast/IM)
The rest:
Jillian Barczyk (LA – free), Mady Bragg (GA – free), Raquel Mason (FL – diver)

This class is on the smaller side, but the Bulldogs wrangled in the only swimmer in the entire class with three NCAA A-final worthy events: Zoie Hartman.

Hartman is the best 200 IMer and 200 breaststroker in the class, coming in at 1:54.62 in the 200 IM and 2:07.52 in the 200 breast. She’s also the second-fastest 100y breaststroker in the class with a 58.94, which makes her not only an immense overall gain for the program, but a sought-after elite breaststroker. UGA, for its national prominence as a traditional power, has not had a wealth of sprint breaststrokers of late; last year, UNLV transfer Sophia Carnevale was the program’s first sub-1:00 100 breaststroker since 2013-14, when Melanie Margalis was on the roster. The team record is a 59.05 from Kristy Kowal set in 1998, and Hartman is already faster than that.

Besides coming in as a potential triple NCAA All-American in her rookie debut, Hartman is also the second-fastest 400 IM’er in the class at 4:10.4, and her abilities in sprint free (22.9/49.1/1:47.1) are crucial for UGA, which only has a season left with top sprinter Veronica Burchill and only had two swimmers (Burchill and Gabi Fa’amausili) break 49.0 on their 400 free relay at SECs and NCAAs (they didn’t score at NCAAs). Georgia missed scoring in both medley relays at NCAAs, too, but Hartman should help them get back into the finals next year.

Ashley McCauley is a worthy breaststroke get, too. She’s more of a 200 breaststroker, with a best of 2:09.54 there; that would’ve qualified for NCAAs last year. She’s also 1:00.54 in the 100 and 2:00.4/4:14 in the IM, but the big takeaway here is that Georgia is building legitimate breaststroke depth.

Jillian Barczyk and Mady Bragg bring in freestyle speed, with Barczyk at 50.6/1:48.4/4:50.4 and Bragg at 50.7/1:49.3, while Raquel Mason is a diver who scored in the top 8 at the 2017 FHSAA 2A Champs.

Fast riser to watch: Barczyk had some nice swims this summer in long course, hitting bests of 26.3/56.5/2:02.3 in the 50/100/200 free.

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JP input is too short

So, what do we have left? Virginia, Texas, Indiana, NC State? Not far off the guys top 4!

Greg

I’d guess 4-1 order Indiana, NC State, Texas, and Virginia. Crazy how similar it is to the men.

Packoastie

I’m honestly surprised NC State made the top 4. I must be missing something, but I didn’t think they got much outside of Berkoff.

Greg

Katie Mack and the D2 sprinter transfer I guess gets them into the top 4, although the transfer will be a senior. It is a bit surprising. Having said that, Berkoff is a really high impact swimmer.

Snarky

NCST also secured handful of 22 high/23 low below the radar sprinters, Katie Mack, Kay Foley and a transfer who goes 22.3 and 49.0. That adds some very nice depth to a program that is getting better. VA clearly has the best 2019 recruiting class though.

volmenusa

VA can finish in top 3 within the next 15 years BUT will NOT WIN the BIG SHOE!!!!

collegeswimmer

The Bulldogs also technically have Eva Merrel coming back due to her red shirting, which could boost them a bunch.

For sure. We had a big debate about whether to account for her, but ultimately felt it wasn’t within ‘the spirit’ of these rankings to include her in both classes when she was on campus the whole time. But…that narrative will be more fully covered in our upcoming team-by-team season previews.

Superfan

And who knows if she will really compete?
Based on those swimmers, Georgia class looks a bit overrated.

I think you’re underestimating how good Hartman is. In my analysis, there are about three true blue-chip prospects in this class, and Hartman and Berkoff are two of them. That counts for way more than a big class of moderate prospects.

Superfan

Time will tell!

DeSorbo Effect

Hartman’s scoring contributions should help Georgia finish higher than 18th, not hard to predict that one!

Doubt Georgia can break into the top ten. They don’t have the top recruit in Douglass and a standout group of Nelson, Donohue, Cuomo, Kulp, Collins, Cronin, Bowen & Bell!

Hoos won’t loose a single NCAA point from our recently graduated class either 🙂

Superfan

Another point….who were your last two number one recruits and how many points did they score at ncaas last year? Both Harnish and Merrill were big gets for Georgia yet they haven’t made the impact you are saying Hartman will make. Despite getting the number one recruit the last two years, Georgia women were 18th at NCAAs!

collegeswimmer

A good point, however you have to give some applaud to UGA for landing the top 1/2 recruit in the past 3 years of recruiting class for the girls.

Superfan

I do. They won ncaas in 2016 then get the number 1/2 recruit the next few years (plus number one overall class one of those years) yet they are 18th place at ncaas.

Texas swim fan

I suspect this is because the SEC is such a difficult conference (A&M, Tenn, Georgia, Florida) that these teams taper/shave for the conference meet but then have nothing left for NCAAs

Caleb

I suspect it is (largely) because 2 of those 3 swimmers haven’t swum for them yet!

Heyitsme

She is per instagram

Derek Maas

The top 6 teams (Cal, Indiana, Virginia, Texas, NC state, and Georgia) are the exact same for men’s and women’s, albeit not in order. Wild

2 Cents

4 of those 6 all have the same coach in charge of recruiting, I assume, so that’s not a big shock, and the other 2 are Cal and Texas, both with histories (recent national titles) that speak and kind of recruit for themselves (not a knock against those coaches that recruit).

Superfan

When was the last time Texas women won a National title? These swimmers weren’t even born

DeSorbo Effect

Capitani’s a great recruiter. She’s not far behind Meehan when it comes to consistently winning over top recruits year after year. But fails to translate all that talent into an NCAA title for the Lady Horns. Or even break into the Top 3 (their diving masked the disappointing swimming the last NCAA’S). What about there In-season winning streaks, or those dual victories over Stanford & Cal in the past decade? Don’t count nada if you can’t back that up in March 🙂 Look at Todd DeSorbo. Now he’s someone who can back up his energetic inspiring hype with actual in program DEVELOPMENT & IMPROVEMENT! Not just in the recruiting. Watch out for the Hoos to put up a real challenge… Read more »

NCAASwam

Good points – would add that UT has the luxury of not resting much for their conference championships: just enough to meet NCAA cuts. Cavaliers undeniably a national title contender – serious Top 3 threat this season with such an amazing freshman class: can only get better with a killer 2020 class to come. However, did you forget about how close the Golden Bears came to an upset of the Cardinal @ 2019 NCAAs?

Joel Lin

A year ago I started posting that UVa will win a women’s NCAA title in less than 4 years. I now believe I was being pessimistic.

volmenusa

Wrong and wrong again and again…NO WAY UVA wins a national team title in the next 15 years. Bank on it – BAM and BAM!

Snarky

Virginia might be a favorite with Cal to win the 2020 NCAAS. With Stanford’s Ruck out on a red shirt I will be surprised if they win this year. However, if Smith doesn’t go pro and Ruck returns Stanford should win in 2021 going away even with Virginia and Cal’s recruiting classes. If NCST lands a few sprint fliers and more top end sprinters they could contend in a few years. Wouldn’t it be crazy if the NCST women won an NCAA championship before the men?

Greg

Virginia is a year away from being a serious title contender, but they could definitely be top 3. Cal should be favored this year, but 2021 will be interesting – maybe a close 3-way battle for the title. Can’t count NCST out either.

2 Cents

I think a lot depends on focus. By that I mean a team with a lot of Olympic hopefuls might have their focus set for trials a few months later. Even internationals who have already made the Olympics for their country. Maybe whoever has the most swimmers just below the Olympic level will end up winning since their focus would be NCAAs. I am sure there will be several top end elite swimmers (top 3-5 at NCAAs) who will not fully rest for NCAAs, thus opening the door for that next tier to slip in there and upset the order of things.

My two cents is that the Ruck redshirt is distracting from how good the rest of Stanford’s roster is. They are far and away the best team in returning points – even when you take out ~54 from Ruck, they lead Cal by over 100 and Virginia by almost 200 in rescored no-senior points. In my opinion, 2020 is too early for Virginia, but they’ll probably make a move to somewhere between 3 and 5.

Returning points here (https://swimswam.com/who-returns-the-most-points-looking-ahead-to-2020-d1-womens-champs/)

2 Cents

Dont get me wrong, Ruck is a great swimmer. Hell she is one of the best in the world, but that is in LCM. Her NCAAs was somewhat sub par for someone who is ranked so high in the world in a couple events, and with a year being taken off and her focus (I assume) on LCM in that time, I would expect her to come back in a year with no more SCY experience. Bottom line, Stanford will not run away with it in 2021. They were kind of supposed to do that last year and almost lost it.

2 Cents

Obviously I was referring to the men there at Texas.

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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