Ranking The 2021 Women’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #9-12

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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

Despite having zero U.S.-based incoming freshman swimmers, USC cracks the top-12 thanks in large part to the presence of Austrian dynamo Marlene Kahler, who projects to bring in some monster points in the distance freestyle events.

Kahler owns a short course-meter lifetime best of 16:03.68 in the 1500 freestyle, which converts down to 15:57.9 for the 1650, which would slot into sixth at last season’s NCAA Championships.

Kahler also has a SCM 800 time of 8:21.6, the equivalent of a 9:33 1000, and her LCM bests of 1:59.6 and 4:08.3 in the 200 and 400 translate over to 1:44.8/4:38.2 in yards. That 500 would’ve been fourth at the 2021 NCAAs, and the 200 is right in the mix of challenging for a spot in the top-eight, not to mention it will be a crucial addition for the 800 free relay.

The Trojans also nabbed a massive transfer in Calypso Sheridan, an NCAA All-American and Big Ten champion at Northwestern who is headed to USC for grad school.

Sheridan, a Brisbane, Australia native who swam at Northwestern under current USC coach Jeremy Kipp, didn’t compete last season amidst the pandemic, but was the 2020 Big Ten champ in the women’s 200 breast (2:06.85) and 400 IM (4:03.18), while taking second in the 200 IM (1:53.13). While her opportunity to compete for NCAA title that year were dashed with the cancellation of the meet, Sheridan did take fourth at the 2019 NCAAs in the 400 IM in her current PB of 4:01.35, a time that actually would’ve won last season.

So while it’s only for one season, Sheridan will bring in some big-time points for USC at NCAAs, potentially upwards of 50, not to mention she’ll be a key relay addition with 22.1/49.2 flat-start freestyle times, plus 23.8/51.3/1:52.8 backstrokes, a 1:00-flat 100 breast and 52.6/1:56.9 butterfly times.

Canadian Genevieve Sasseville joins the fold with a very strong 59.76 LCM time in the 100 butterfly, converting under the 2021 NCAA cutline in 52.57. Sasseville also projects to be a solid freestyler with upside (50.1/1:48.3 conversions).

Kiwi Alice Waldow has the potential to make an impact down the road as well, with conversions of 53.9 in the 100 fly and 54.8/1:59.3 in the backstrokes.

A second grad transfer, former Princeton Tiger Courtney Tseng, will also join the Trojans with the ability to be a Pac-12 ‘A’ finalist in the 500 free (4:45.70) and score top-five points in the 1650 (16:34.34) this season.

USC’s freshman class will also include a second Canadian, backstroker Jade Hannah, though she hasn’t been factored into the rankings given the fact that she was initially in the high school class of 2020.

#11: Wisconsin Badgers

After Wisconsin had a breakout performance from freshman Phoebe Bacon last season, culminating with an NCAA title in the 200 back, the Badgers reload with a 2021 signing class that includes two top-20 recruits and an impact transfer.

Nation’s Capital’s Paige McKenna leads the charge, the class’s best distance freestyler, with her best-ever 1650 freestyle (15:48) good enough to place third at the 2021 NCAAs. Her best time in the 500 (4:40.3) is also fast enough to crack the ‘A’ final at nationals, and she’s also a solid 200 freestyler (1:47.3) that can contribute to future 800 free relays.

However, McKenna failed to improve PBs in her best events last season, which could be a slight cause for concern, though even with a 20-second add, her fastest 1650 in 2020-21 would still score at NCAAs.

Joining her in the top 20 is NCAP teammate Mackenzie McConagha, who fell from 14th to Honorable Mention as a high school junior but bounced back with a big senior year to land at #16.

McConagha made improvements across the board in 2020-21 and projects to challenge to score at NCAAs in the 200 fly (1:56.10) and 100 back (52.66), and is also within striking distance in the 100 fly (52.88) and 200 back (1:55.07).

Adding some relay prowess to the mix is in-state product Sophie Fiske, a freestyler sprinter with bests of 22.7/48.9. Fiske is just two-tenths shy of the 2021 NCAA cutline in the 100 free and four-tenths off in the 50, and has proven she can deliver on relays (22.3/48.0 splits). The sprint free relays were a relative weak spot for the Badgers at last season’s Big Tens, so Fiske will help shore that area up.

Mallory Jump, who transferred over from Iowa after the Hawkeyes program was cut, will have up to three years of eligibility remaining and instantly becomes Wisconsin’s top butterlfy option, replacing the graduated Alex Reddington.

Jump was a 2021 NCAA qualifier with her personal best time of 52.30 in the 100 fly, less than two-tenths outside of a top-16 time last season (52.13), and she’s also a strong 200 IMer (1:58.9), 200 flyer (1:58.0) and 200 backstroker (1:57.0).

Further bolstering the class is medley swimmer Katie McClintock out of New Jersey, who is only about a second shy of NCAA invites in both the 200 and 400 IM (1:58.7/4:14.2).

Abby Carlson (50.5/1:47.5) adds some freestyle depth, and Ally Silvestri (1:02.4/2:15.8), Natalie Bercutt (1:03.1/2:16.5) and McClintock (1:02.0/2:12.5) form a rising breaststroke trio.

#10: Texas Longhorns

This year’s Longhorn class got a massive shot in the arm with the addition of Olympic medalist Erica Sullivan, who announced her commitment last year after having previously signing to go to USC beginning in 2018-19.

Sullivan, who has trained with the Sandpipers of Nevada prior to heading to Austin, is the second-fastest 1650 freestyler in history at 15:23.81, and coming off her Olympic silver medal in Tokyo in the 1500, she’s the clear favorite to win that event at NCAAs as many seasons as she competes.

She’ll also be among the favorites, if not the favorite, in the 500 free, with her best time (4:34.07) good enough to take second at last season’s NCAAs, and winner Paige Madden isn’t returning.

That gives Sullivan a potential 40 NCAA points as a freshman, not including any that could potentially come in the 200 free, where her best time (1:45.72) is just under what it took to make the top-16 last season (1:45.81).

Joining Sullivan as a top-tier distance addition is Florida native Olivia McMurray, who owns bests of 1:47.3/4:44.6/16:12 in the freestyles. McMurray’s mile time is NCAA scoring-worthy, and her 500 is not far off.

Ellie Andrews is right near the top of the class with her 1:00.8 100 breast best time, and she’s also got a solid 200 breast (2:13.2) and 200 IM (1:59.7). Jordan Morgan (1:01.2/2:14.6) and Channing Hanley (1:01.8/2:16.6) add more breaststroke depth.

Morgan Brophy (53.8) and Ava Collinge (53.7) bring elite abilities in the 100 fly, while Brophy is also a decent free sprinter (23.1) and IMer (2:01.8), and Collinge is a sub-2:00 flyer and 2:01.7 IMer.

Texas also adds sub-2:00 backstrokers in Sadie Runeman (55.6/1:58.3) and Arkansas transfer Abby Pfeifer (55.4/1:59.0).

The Longhorns also add U.S. Olympian Hailey Hernandez to their diving roster. Hernandez is coming off a ninth-place finish in Tokyo in the women’s 3-meter springboard.

#9: Auburn Tigers

Auburn brings in a talent-laden class led by Baylor Swim Club’s Ellie Waldrep, who rose to #8 this season in our class of 2021 re-rank after a monster season.

Waldrep, who stagnated in her progression as a high school junior, dropped 51.7/1:53.7 backstrokes last year, slicing three-quarters of a second off her previous PB in the 100 and three seconds in the 200 to make her a potential NCAA ‘A’ finalist in the 100 and a top-16 swimmer in the 200.

Waldrep also has a 53.6 100 fly, 1:58.7 200 IM and 23.0 50 free, and her 24.1 best time in the 50 back will give the Tigers a top-tier 200 medley relay lead-off over the course of her career (that time is already good enough to be mid-pack at NCAAs).

Joining Waldrep in the class are high-end freestyle sprinters Lexie MulvihillRebekah Hamilton and graduate transfer Mykenzie Leehy. After having no entrants in the 50 free at the 2021 NCAAs, with Anna-Julia Kutsch quitting mid-season, the Tigers project to have at least three this year.

Mulvihill boasts lifetime bests of 22.22 and 49.35, with her 50 exactly on the time required to score at NCAAs last season. Her 100 is only about six-tenths off, and both are faster than anyone on Auburn’s roster went last season. The Florida native showed great improvement last season in the 100 fly as well, clocking 53.16 to put her within a half-second of an NCAA invite.

Hamilton brings a similar skill set, as the local Alabama native has 22.5/48.9 free best times to make her a potential NCAA scorer and surefire relay contributor. With 53.8 best times in both the 100 fly and 100 back, Hamilton will be able to pick and choose which one she wants to zero in on in college.

Leehy, who comes over for one season from Houston, will really enhance the sprint free presence this season with bests of 22.4/48.5,  but her 200 free is her best event, with a 1:44.90 PB that’s only six-tenths outside of qualifying for an NCAA ‘A’ final based on last season’s results.

Along with Mulvihill, Waldrep and Hamilton, the Tigers have yet another 53-second flyer coming in the form of Avery Bargeron, who owns a 53.29 100 fly that will score in the top 16 at SECs, but her 200 fly is less than half-a-second off an NCAA invite (1:57.89).

The small but mighty class is enhanced by 1:49 freestyler Lucy O’Neill and 55.8/1:59 backstroker Jenna Smith.

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Hoosier Daddy
2 years ago


Reply to  Hoosier Daddy
2 years ago

Relax, Hoosier Daddy. A couple of those recruits are Canadians and they’re used to seeing flying hockey pucks. I promised I wouldn’t do these Kipp jokes and “feed the trolls”, but sometimes I can’t help myself! 😉

2 years ago

Who is the greatest coach in the NCAA currently?

Reply to  Wow
2 years ago

Guerra should be arriving shortly to answer your question

Reply to  Wow
2 years ago

Eddie. End of discussion (specify if you meant women).

2 years ago

USC should have been ranked higher given that Kahler is an Olympian, Hannah is a world Junior medalist, and Sheridan is a returning NCAA pointwinner. Sasseville (CAN) and Waldow (NZL) are quality swimmers but this points to the fact that USC recruiting is too dependent on international athletes at the neglect of American high school elites. Help is on the way for the Class of 2022 with Justina Kozan but Trojan recruiting needs to develop a consistent and sustainable “pipeline” of quality American high school and junior talent. Transfers (NCAA portal) are nice for an infusion of proven talent but USC staff can’t over-rely on it.

Reply to  SwimPhan
2 years ago

Can we talk about Sheridan and how she ended up at USC?

Reply to  Wetness
2 years ago

Calypso has a funky (hippie-dippie) name but she’s smart young woman. Getting into Northwestern and now as a 5th year (Grad) transfer she’s at USC working on a MS in Aerospace Engineering. The strong asset USC has it is Graduate Schools. Trent Pellini from Purdue working on a MBA in Finance and Tseng from Princeton working on an MBA in Social Entrepreneurship.

Reply to  SwimPhan
2 years ago

They will always be a 2nd tier school because of location and cost. They do offer free tuition to families making 80k or less a year. I suppose that if they can increase that number to 150k they could do better but how do they overcome the inner city locale?

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
2 years ago

I still don’t understand how Michigan’s class ends up at 16 and Auburn’s ends up at 9.

Reply to  PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
2 years ago

it is all subjective, there is no formula or something. do your own list and enjoy it.

2 years ago

Yuri putting in the work with that NCAP connection

Reply to  N80m80
2 years ago

That class will either explode or implode. I don’t see a middle ground. Wonder if he is making any headway w ‘23 class at NCAP.

Reply to  Mel
2 years ago

I’m curious to see what erin gemmell can do. Didn’t she swim 100-1500 free at trials?

Ohio swim observer
2 years ago

Final 8?

1 Stanford
2 Virginia
3 NC State
4/5 Tennessee/Georgia
6/7 Florida/Cal
8 Ohio State

Reply to  Ohio swim observer
2 years ago

Michigan will be in

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Try checking out #16.

Reply to  Nonrevhoofan
2 years ago

I mean by the end..

Do your research
Reply to  Ohio swim observer
2 years ago

No way Cal is 6/7 – try 3/4 – but next year they may not even be honorable mention

2 years ago

I still haven’t seen a class with the star power and impact of Michigan’s, with the 4th and 12th ranked recruits, already at NCAA scoring levels and each with huge relay impact. I would take their recruiting class over these four here, in a second. Especially if we are talking NCAA scoring, not regular season.

Last edited 2 years ago by Greg
PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
Reply to  Greg
2 years ago

If we’re talking about NCAA scoring, I would be somewhat surprised if Michigan’s girls outscore Sullivan or Kahler + Sheridan in individual events, at least for the next year or two. In terms of impact I think it’s pretty close between those girls and the Texas/USC classes, especially with the increased value of relay viability for the Michigan girls. The breaststroker has a ton of excess value when you’ve got MacNeil as another leg on a medley-that can move you way up the field. Auburn at 13, Wisconsin at 12, and then Texas/USC/Michigan in some order 8/9/10 feels more right to me than the current ranks. And I wouldn’t be surprised if OSU ends up in the same tier as… Read more »

2 years ago

“USC’s freshman class will also include a second Canadian, backstroker Jade Hannah, though she hasn’t been factored into the rankings given the fact that she was initially in the high school class of 2020.“

And then proceeds to include Erica Sullivan who has reclassified numerous years 🤔

Reply to  Apathetic
2 years ago

“We already included said person last year” 🥴🥴🥴 but an Olympic silver medalist will be re mentioned, since she de committed and resigned, and red shirted 😂😂😂

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

make it make sense Swim Swam!!

NC Fan
Reply to  Apathetic
2 years ago

Difference is that USC “got credit” for Hannah last year just like they did when Sullivan originally committed. For the purposes of these rankings Sullivan is essentially a transfer while counting Hannah again would just be giving USC credit for the same recruit two years in a row.

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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