Ranking The 2021 Women’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #1-4

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We continue our 2021 recruiting series with a team-by-team look at the best recruiting classes entering the NCAA next season. The classes below are projected freshmen for the 2021-2022 season.

A few important notes on our rankings:

  • The rankings listed are based on our Class of 2021 Re-Rank from just last month. “HM” refers to our honorable mentions.
  • Like most of our rankings, these placements are subjective. We base our team ranks on a number of factors: prospects’ incoming times are by far the main factor, but we also consider potential upside in the class, class size, relay impact and team needs filled. Greater weight is placed on known success in short course yards, so foreign swimmers are slightly devalued based on the difficulty in converting long course times to short course production.
  • Transfers are included.
  • For the full list of all verbally 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.
  • Several swimmers that would’ve been freshmen last season deferred enrollment for one year in order to focus on the postponed Olympic Games. There were also teams that didn’t compete last year, such as those from the Ivy League and Arizona State, so last season’s would-be first-years are now redshirt freshmen in 2021-22. Due to the fact that these swimmers were included in our 2020 recruiting class rankings, they have been left out of these rankings.
  • Some teams had not released a finalized 2021-22 team roster at the time these articles were published, meaning it’s possible we missed some names. Let us know in the comments below.

Previously ranked:

  • #16: Michigan Wolverines
  • #15: North Carolina Tar Heels
  • #14: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • #13: Indiana Hoosiers
  • #12: USC Trojans
  • #11: Wisconsin Badgers
  • #10: Texas Longhorns
  • #9: Auburn Tigers
  • #8: Florida Gators
  • #7: Ohio State Buckeyes
  • #6: Georgia Bulldogs
  • #5: Virginia Cavaliers

#4: California Golden Bears

Cal brings in a deep class that lacks one true standout but has several women brimming with potential.

#15 Mia Kragh highlights the domestic recruits as a 52.0/1:56.1 flyer, with her 100 time making her the class’s third-best in the event behind Torri Huske and Gretchen Walsh. Kragh, also a 22.8/49.8 freestyler, is coming off a brilliant performance at the Speedo Summer Championships in August, winning the 100 fly and taking second to the 200 fly, so she comes into college riding momentum.

Hungarian Fanni Fabian and Israeli Lea Polonsky offer the Bears two extremely elite international recruits, with Fabian more of a free/fly specialist and Polonsky an all-arounder that should have more of a breast/IM focus.

Fabian has the ability to be an individual NCAA scorer in the 500 free, 200 free and 200 fly if conversions carry over, with respective bests of 4:04.57 (SCM), 1:59.37 (LCM) and 2:09.94 (LCM) translating towards times of 4:39.5, 1:44.6 and 1:54.5. The 500 is ‘A’ final worthy, and both 200s are close. She could also race some IM (2:02/4:13 conversions).

Polonsky is extremely well versed in fly, breast and IM, and could also be a free relay asset if needed. She projects to be a scorer in the 200 IM (2:12.6 LC, 1:56.6 conversion) and under the cutline in the 400 IM (4:44.8, 4:10.8), 200 fly (2:12.8, 1:57.1), and knocking on the door in both breaststrokes (1:00.3/2:10.7 conversions). Polonsky will most likely push to continue her medley training and dabble in both breast and fly and race wherever the team needs, at least early on.

Other swimmers set to enter the fold that have an event under last season’s NCAA cutline are South Carolina native Annika McEnroe and Oregon’s Elizabeth Cook.

McEnroe owns a lifetime best of 4:12.9 in the 400 IM, and also has a solid 1:59.2 200 medley and a 2:10.4 200 breast, giving her three strong events to key in on at Cal. Cook is under the cutline in the 200 fly (1:56.1), putting her a half-second within NCAA scoring range, and she’s also 53.1 in the 100 fly (less than half a second off a cut) and is sub-50/sub-1:48 in the 100/200 free.

The Bears also add a ton of breaststroke depth from the U.S. ranks in Alicia HenryMelanie Julia and Shelby Suppiger.

Henry is one of the fastest 100 breaststrokers in the class at 1:00.2, and made strides last season to get her 200 down to 2:12.5. California natives Julia (1:00.8/2:13.8) and Suppiger (1:01.3/2:12.4) give the class three—four if Polonsky focuses on breaststroke—swimmers that will challenge for a top-eight spot at Pac-12s. Last season the Bears had rising senior Ema Rajic and the now-graduated Alicia Harrison leading the breaststroke charge, so getting some new faces in the mix was critical, and they did just that.

Cal has always been known as a great backstroke school, and Reed Broaders will join a training group that already includes the likes of Izzy Ivey and Isabelle Stadden, who were fourth and fifth, respectively, at last season’s NCAAs in the 100 back. Broaders owns a PB of 53.2 in that event, two-tenths off an NCAA cut, and she’s also elite in the 100 fly (53.4).

Jessica Davis (54.4/1:58.9) is another backstroke addition with a high ceiling.

Two swimmers that figure to be future players on the sprint free relays are Illinois native McKenna Stone and in-state product Ella Mazurek. Stone is nearing the NCAA cutline in the 50 free (22.61), 100 free (49.12) and 100 fly (53.04), and is also a 2:00 IMer and 1:01.7 breaststroker. Mazurek’s best event comes in the 100 free, where she’s been 49.35, and also has potential in the 50 (23.0) and 200 (1:47.9).

All four members of Cal’s NCAA-winning 200 free relay are returning this season (as well as the entire 400 free relay that placed third), meaning swimmers like Stone and Mazurek will get a chance to develop in an elite sprint group without the expectation that they need to step in and be counted on from the get-go.

Stephanie Akakabota (22.8 50 free) and UAE’s Daniela Cogswell (22.8/49.9 conversions) add freestyle depth.

#3: NC State Wolfpack

NC State’s freshman class isn’t as big as Tennessee or Cal, but it’s loaded with talent. The Wolfpack bring in two swimmers with instant NCAA ‘A’ final abilities and two more in range of the consols.

The Sheble twins, Grace and Caroline, are two cornerstone pieces of the class.

#3 Grace is an incredibly versatile pickup for the Pack, highlighted by her 4:05.9 PB in the 400 IM, a time that would’ve been sixth at the 2021 NCAAs. Sheble is also skilled in the 200 IM (1:56.9) and 200 fly (1:54.4), both capable of scoring at nationals, and she might even challenge for an ACC title right out of the gate in the 200 fly, with last year’s winning time (1:54.49) just off her PB.

Grace also brings high-end abilities in the 200/500 free (1:46.8/4:45.2), 100 fly (54.1) and 100 breast (1:00.7), so she’ll be someone the team can rely on to race wherever needed at a dual meet to get points on the board.

Caroline is coming off a strong senior year of high school that saw her become a dual threat, adding to her butterfly prowess by hitting a big best time in the 400 IM (4:10.47). That’s put well within reach of a top-16 at NCAAs, and will put up big points at ACCs. The Wolfpack’s only two swimmers in the ‘A’ final at the Conference Championships last season were rising graduate senior Kate Moore and rising senior Emma Muzzy, so the Sheble’s will bring some new blood to the mix at the perfect time.

Caroline remains a solid 54.4/1:55.5 on butterfly, and is also a 2:00.7 IMer and 1:49/4:49 freestyler. The 400 IM and 200 fly look to be her clear-cut event focuses, with the 200 IM potentially being her third.

Stanford was the only other school to land two swimmers ranked inside the top 11 of our recruiting re-rank this season, as NC State also adds #11 Annabel Crush.

Crush has been an elite backstroker for a few years now, with a best time in the 100 of 52.31 that’s .05 off NCAA scoring position and 1:55.42 200 that’s close to the cutline. But the biggest improvement she made last year came in the 200 free, dropping a 1:45.71 to rank tied for third in the class (for the season). That time is a tenth under what it took to make the 2021 NCAA ‘B’ final, and puts her in position to vie for an 800 free relay spot.

Crush is also very strong in the 200 IM (1:57.5) and 500 free (4:46.5), so she could really take on either as a Day 2 event in the NCAA postseason, and she’ll also be a future sprint free relay contributor with flat-start bests of 22.7/48.9.

One major transfer for the Wolfpack that was only announced in early September is the addition of Australian Abbey Webb, who swam at Auburn in 2019-20 but sat out last season.

Webb is a very strong freestyler, with SCY best times of 22.84, 48.52 and 1:44.96 in the 50, 100 and 200 free, all from the 2020 SEC Championships. Her more recent LCM times converted to SCY are even faster: 21.97, 47.60 and 1:43.89 (25.19/54.44/1:58.52 LCM), all NCAA ‘A’ final worthy.

Webb, who will have three years of eligibility remaining, also has converted times of 51.97 in the 100 fly and 54.21 in the 100 back, making her an invaluable asset to a team that will be trying to keep pace with reigning NCAA champion Virginia.

Sirena Rowe, a 21.47 leg on NC State’s third-place-finishing 200 free relay at last season’s NCAAs, has graduated, and Julia Poole was slotted into the 400 free relay at that meet despite it not being one of her primary events. Webb gives the team a bonafide sprinter to fill those holes.

Looking at the 800 free relay, the team returns the four swimmers from the squad that finished second at ACCs last season, but they tanked and finished 17th out of 17 schools at NCAAs. If it isn’t viable for Katharine Berkoff to swim that relay at NCAAs, which she didn’t last year, there’s at least one opening there for either Webb, Crush and potentially Grace Sheble.

Kaylee Hamblin comes in as a strong breaststroker, joining rising seniors Sophie Hansson and Andrea Podmanikova, meaning there will be an opening there in the near future. Hamblin is within range of an NCAA invite already in the 100 breast (1:00.35) and is just over a second off in the 200 (2:11.74).

Canadian Kenna Smallegange has upside in the distance free events (1:49.3/4:47/16:34 conversions) and Lindsey Immel (23.2/50.0) adds sprint free depth.

#2: Tennessee Volunteers

Wow. Tennessee’s class brings in a staggering 16 swimmers and one diver, including three transfers and a plethora of high-end freshmen, both American and international.

The sheer size and depth of the Lady Vols’ class is remarkable, led by our ninth-ranked domestic recruit, Josephine Fuller, and German standout Julia Mrozinski.

Fuller is coming off a massive season that saw her vault into the top spot in the class in the 200 back (with Reilly Tiltmann graduating early), clocking 1:52.73 to win the NCSA Junior Title in March after finishing the previous season with a PB of 1:56.

Not only is Fuller fast enough to make the NCAA ‘A’ final in that race, but she’s also under the 2021 cutline in the 100 back (52.9) and engineered some big time drops to get down to 1:01.7/2:12.2 on breaststroke. The Nova of Virginia Aquatics swimmer is also competitive with a sub-23 in the 50 free, 54.1 in the 100 fly and 1:59.3 in the 200 IM.

Mrozinski is a massive add for Tennessee. The German native is already 21, so she’s got a few years on most of the freshmen in the class, and has the experience to go along with it. She’s competed at the 2019 World Championships, a pair of LC European Championships, and was the gold medalist in the 200 fly at the 2015 European Games.

Mrozinski figures to fit prominently into a freestyle role in college. Her LCM best times (25.67/55.19/1:58.28) convert down to 22.4/48.2/1:43.6 in yards, with that 200 time projecting her for an NCAA ‘A’ final and the 100 in a top-16 spot.

Expectations should be tempered when we look at her lifetime bests outside of those three freestyle events, as her bests in the 400 free, 200 fly and 200/400 IM are all elite, but haven’t been set since 2016 (and she hasn’t raced them much at all). Her 400 IM conversion (4:42.3 LC to 4:08.6 SCY) in particular is intriguing, and her 200 fly (1:54.7 conversion) and 400 free (4:43.3 500 conversion) are also top-tier, but her focus has clearly been on the 50, 100 and 200 free recently, where she’ll be a huge factor both individually and on relays.

Other swimmers that will by vying for spots on the Vols’ free relays—coming off a pair of thirds (200, 400) and a fifth (800) at the 2021 SECs—include Auburn transfer Anna-Julia Kutsch, Texas A&M transfer Emma Carlton and Canadian recruit Brooklyn Douthwright.

Kutsch is a proven relay performer, having split 21.15 on Auburn’s SEC-winning 200 free relay in 2020. Kutsch, who owns flat-start bests of 22.09/49.30 in the 50 and 100 free, stopped training with the Tigers midway through her sophomore season due to health-related reasons, and ultimately announced her intention to transfer in February. She will have up to three years of eligibility remaining and will provide a huge boost to a Tennessee 200 free relay that only had one swimmer, current graduate senior Tjasa Pintar, split sub-22 at SECs last season (rising junior Natalie Ungaretti, along with the graduated Bailey Grinter, split 21.9s at NCAAs, where the team took 12th).

Carlton heads to the Vols after moving on from Texas A&M after two and a half seasons, and will have up to two years of eligibility remaining. She could be a contributor on the 400 free relay, with a best time of 49.35 in the 100 free, but her primary strength lies on backstroke, where she owns PBs of 52.7/1:57.4—the 100 being under the 2021 NCAA cutline. She’ll join Fuller and a few others in shoring up a relatively thin backstroke corps at Tennessee.

Douthwright owns similar LCM times to Mrozinski, with her best times converting down to 22.4/48.2/1:44.4 in yards. The 100 and 200 put her in contention for a second swim at NCAAs, and all three are relay assets, not to mention she’s also a strong 1:02/2:10 LCM backstroker, converting down to 55.4/1:55.3.

Summer Smith, an Honorable Mention in our 2021 re-rank, emerged as a dual distance free/IM threat last season, dropping a 4:12.18 400 IM to get under the NCAA cutline and a 1:55.07 to fall just .02 shy of it, both significant best times. She maintains a 16:21 best in the 1650, an event she hasn’t raced since 2019, so it remains to be seen if she’ll put more of her focus there or on the 200 back, with both events slated for the last day of NCAAs. Her 100 back (54.4) and 200 fly (1:57.8) are also strong.

Kate McCarville has a very similar skillset to Smith, rocking bests of 1:58.8/4:12.2 in the IMs and 1:56.6 in the 200 fly, not to mention some solid freestyle ability. In all three events of her primary events she’s under the cutline and with improvement will be a consistent NCAA scorer.

Ireland’s Ellen Walshe joins Smith and McCarville as a medley threat and England’s Lauren Wetherell will team up with Smith in the distance realm.

Walshe is a 2:12.0 LCM 200 IMer, converting down to a time of 1:56.05, which squeaks under what it took to make the NCAA ‘A’ final last season. Walshe is also a 59.32 in the 100 fly (52.18 conversion), putting her in contention to be an NCAA scorer, and she’s also a solid backstroker and breaststroker if called upon.

Wetherell’s distance times convert to 4:44/9:54/16:27, putting her in contention to be an NCAA qualifier, though simply making the required time may not be enough to earn a roster spot given the depth of this class.

Bolstering the domestic recruits of the class are butterflyers Sara Stotler (53.3/1:57.9, 1:59.7 IM) and Cory Shanks (53.7, 22.6/49.2/1:48.2 FR), with Shanks clearly a contender for a free relay spot somewhere down the line as well.

A second Canadian, Asia Minnes, has the talent to be a contributor with lifetime bests of 1:00.6 in the 100 breast, 1:58.6 in the 200 IM and 53.8 in the 100 back, though it’s worth pointing out that all three are from the 2018-19 season.

Amber Myers is yet another solid prospect on backstroker with bests of 54.8/1:58.7, plus a 23.2 50 free, Summer Eaker is another incoming freestyler and Sammy Huff is 1:02.3 breaststroker.

#1: Stanford Cardinal

After a relatively down year, Stanford delivers a mammoth recruiting class as the Cardinal women aim to charge back to the top of the NCAA mountain.

It’s scary when you consider that Stanford claims the #1 spot while not even factoring in 2020 commits Regan Smith, Samantha Pearson and Lillie Nordmann, who all deferred enrollment for one season, not to mention the return of redshirt junior Taylor Ruck.

The Cardinal class is headlined by our top-ranked recruit this season, U.S. Olympic medalist Torri Huske, who is an absolute stud and can race an incredible number of events at a high level.

If you watched the Tokyo Olympics (or even just the U.S. Trials), you know Huske’s bread and butter is the 100 fly, where she lowered the LCM American Record on multiple occasions and missed an individual Olympic medal by .01.

In SCY, Huske holds the 17-18 National Age Group Record in 49.70, and will be a contender for an NCAA title this season, though she’ll need to drop some to catch the fastest woman in history (and reigning Olympic champion) Maggie MacNeil of Michigan (48.89).

Huske is also the fastest swimmer in the class in the 50 free (21.39), 200 free (1:43.23), 200 fly (1:53.71) and 200 IM (1:53.73), and she probably has a lot more in the tank in the 100 free (47.60).

Without rambling on any more about Huske, she gives the Cardinal three NCAA ‘A’ finals individually, wherever she opts to race (50 free, 100 fly, 100 free seems likely), and she’ll be reliable on every relay she’s put on.

#5 Samantha Tadder gives the Cardinal a very strong IMer with 1:57.4/4:07.1 bests, with that 400 IM time making her the second-fastest in the class and inside NCAA ‘A’ final territory. Her 200 IM is close to the top-16, but she may instead turn her focus to the 500 free on Day 2 of NCAAs, with her PB of 4:42.6 a half-second clear of what it took to make the ‘B’ final last season. Tadder could realistically tackle the 1650 free (16:10.5), 200 fly (1:57.8) or 200 breast (2:10.1) on the last day of Pac-12s/NCAAs, and she’s also a 1:00.5 100 breaststroker. Truly versatile and someone that can learn from and work with Brooke Forde this year.

One of the most improved swimmers that cranked the top 20 of our re-rank this season was Colorado native Anna Shaw, who will be a high-end sprint free asset for the Cardinal with bests of 22.22/48.14 to go along with a 1:47.2 200 free. Stanford’s diminished roster last season struggled in the sprint free relays, finishing t-eighth and 12th in the 200 and 400, respectively, at NCAAs, and Shaw will challenge for a spot on them this year. She’s also a strong 100 backstroker (53.26), 100 butterflyer (54.01) and 200 IMer (2:00.56).

Another swimmer that will be in contention for one of those coveted relay positions is Amy Tang, who fell from #4 in 2020 to Honorable Mention last season after not racing between January and November of last year. Nonetheless, Tang is an elite talent in freestyle (22.0/48.1/1:46.6), backstroke (52.1), butterfly (52.9) and IM (2:00.6), and if she can simpy match her best times this season she’ll bring a ton of value.

Meghan Lynch (1:59.0/4:12.0) brings more medley talent to the table and should work as a training partner of Tadder, and she’s also a solid breaststroker (1:02.2/2:12.2) and freestyler (1:47.8/4:46.7).

Iowa’s Aurora Roghair adds more freestyle depth to the class, with a strong 1:46.72 in the 200 and 4:45.78 in the 500 free, both locks for some big Pac-12 points and within earshot of the NCAA cutline.

Diver Maria Papworth Burell out of Great Britain has some international experience on the FINA Diving World Cup and should be able to drive home some extra points for the Cardinal at Pac-12s and NCAAs.

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2 years ago

Brooke Travis also transferred into NC State from Virginia Tech

2 years ago

UVA Women and Tenn will hook up at Invitational that same weekend Nov17-19 in Knoxville

2 years ago

#3 Wolfpack will get an early faceoff with Tenn in October. Then for the Nov 17 Invitational they can have an awesome time head to head with the significant number of fresh faces at Stanford when the Card come into Greensboro looking to post some decent times in advance of the postseason clash at NCAAs

2 years ago

Like if the 4 top-20 international rank Stanford commits drop time in those events, dislike if they add

Circle swim
2 years ago

Some of these placements have me thinking I’m in the Upside Down. Stanford is clearly number one, but after that there is a lot of room for interpretation. Should be an exciting year.

Chillin the Most
2 years ago

Congratulations to all ranks!!! It will be exciting to watch these wonderful athletes. Please remember, we have all had a tough 18 months… let’s get back to supportive and be NICE to one another ✌️

Little Mermaid
2 years ago

Hey Swimswam make sure in March 2022, we dig this article up and you do your comparison!

2 years ago

In terms of rankings, it really depends on what you value during the swim season – the dual meets/conference championship vs. the NCAA meet. If it’s the dual meets/conference championships, then depth is absolutely the way to go and will score you lots of points. However, if it is the NCAA tournament, then quality is much preferred. Walsh will make an impact from Day 1 and will score a ton of points individually and from relays. Personally as a fan, it’s all about the NCAA meet, so I’ll take quality over quantity every day of the week.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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