Re-Rank: Top 20 Girls NCAA Swimming Recruits, Class of 2019

NCAA recruiting churns on, and so do our yearly recruit rankings. We’ve already ranked out the top recruits in the current high school sophomore and junior classes, but now it’s time to revisit our recruiting ranks of the graduating seniors.

As recruiting classes get closer to actual NCAA competition, we start to weigh certain factors more heavily: NCAA scoring times become more important, and we tend to value one or two standout events a bit more heavily (compared to a wide range of just decent events) than we would for a high school sophomore who has more time to develop across the board. Having already ranked this class about a year ago, we also get a clearer picture of momentum and trajectory: which recruits are continuing to drop time through their senior seasons, and which have stagnated.

You can look back on our original ranks for this class below, but do remember that those ranks are merely a snapshot in time – we didn’t have a working crystal ball then, nor do we now:

THIS CLASS

  • Losing former #1 swimmer leaves this class a little weaker
  • Great breaststroke class with a lot of top-end depth
  • Still a pretty sprinty class – lots of good 50 types, less standouts in 100/200 frees
  • Not a huge amount of individual improvements among top swimmers
  • Deep 200 fly/back/breast groups

Up top, we’ll note that last year’s #1 swimmer in this class, Izzy Ivey, graduated early and headed to Cal for the 2019 NCAA meet. Instead of comparing her times from Pac-12s and NCAAs (with a semester of college-level training under her belt) to the rest of the field’s times from high school and club meets, we’re opting to remove Ivey from these ranks. We’re looking to profile which college swimmers have the best new incoming freshmen, and which programs will have the highest-ranked recruits in their training groups for the next four years.

With Ivey out of the picture, this class definitely takes a hit. Especially when you compare them to a pretty solid class of 2018 and a potentially-historic class of 2020. Still, there’s talent to be found here – it’s just much more pooled in a couple key spots.

Breaststroke is the main one. This is a great breaststroke class, which is a welcome sight after last year’s breaststroke recruiting group was fairly thin. (Next year’s breaststroke group is also extremely deep, so look for the NCAA to take a big step forward there in the next few years). Zoie Hartman is the best two-distance breaststroker of the bunch, but Emily Weiss is faster in the 100 and Ella Nelson comparable in the 200. And that’s not even counting Kate Douglasswho is a great breaststroker in her own right.

We noted last year the abundance of 22-second sprinters in this class compared with the relative dearth of 48-second 100 types. That remains true this year – college programs will get a good influx of speed, but in many cases will need to develop some endurance to mold these rookies into multi-event sprinters. The 200 free, in particular, is a bit of a logjam. No one is faster than 1:45, but five swimmers sit between 1:45.0 and 1:45.3.

It’s a hard class to rank from a momentum standpoint, because a lot of the top swimmers from last year didn’t improve much, if at all, over their senior years. We’ve got a handful of huge droppers, but not nearly as many as we usually see, and we have a lot of swimmers who will have to reverse course a little bit to find the time drops. Then again, sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what a swimmer needs in a plateau.

Ironically, despite a lot of true sprint freestylers, the strokers in this class might be collectively better at the 200s than 100s. We have a lot of good 200 fly/back types in the mix, and of course the breaststrokers are outstanding across the board. That does extend to the 200 IM, where we’ve got a number of really high-level talents clustered between 1:54 and 1:56.9, though many of them may not have the IM among their top 3 races at the college level.

Top Times in the Class of 2019
50 Free Kate Douglass 21.67
100 Free Kate Douglass 47.98
200 Free Ayla Spitz 1:45.02
500 Free Kaitlynn Sims 4:39.52
1000 Free** Madelyn Donohoe 9:37.78
1650 Free Kaitlynn Sims 15:57.34
100 Back Katharine Berkoff 50.72
200 Back Katharine Berkoff 1:50.13
100 Breast Emily Weiss 58.40
200 Breast Zoie Hartman 2:07.52
100 Fly Kate Douglass 51.74
200 Fly Zephy Koh 1:54.68
200 IM Zoie Hartman 1:54.62
400 IM Ella Nelson 4:10.10

**The 1000 free isn’t an event at the Division I NCAA Championships, but is swum instead of the 1650 in many Division I dual meets and is part of the NCAA program in Division II.

THE METHODOLOGY

Our goal in these rankings is to reflect what college coaches look for in recruits, based on many years of conversations and coverage.

We focus only on American-based athletes, simply because there is so much uncertainty with international recruits – if they’ll come to the states, when they’ll come to the states and with what graduating class they should be ranked. Projecting international recruits often becomes more a discussion of when they’ll first join a college program and not which program they’ll join.

A few other factors that weigh heavily in our rankings:

  • Relay Value – Relay points count double in college swimming, and any program needs a strong stable of quality sprinters to fill out all 5 relays with studs. Obviously, a special distance swimmer can easily rank ahead of a very good 100 freestyler, but college swimming generally values a sprint freestyler over a distance swimmer, all other factors being equal.
  • Improvements – Actual times are a the trump card, but any big improvements in quality can make a difference as well. For example, a swimmer who only took up year-round swimming as a junior in high school going the same time as a swimmer whose been swimming year-round since they were 8 will probably get the edge in our rankings. Think Breeja Larson.
  • Short Course over Long Course – we recognize that some programs, many programs, put their focus with their high school aged swimmers on long course, especially depending on when the high school championships may fall. That said, college swimming is short course, so a swimmer who is great in short course but struggles in long course will have the advantage over the reverse.
  • NCAA scoring ability – NCAAs are the big show for college teams, so we’ve weighted NCAA scoring potential very highly. Swimmers who already have NCAA scoring times wind up mostly filling out the top our of rankings. Since college athletic directors – and by extension coaches – also place high value on conference championships, scoring ability at conference meets is also a factor in our rankings.
  • Relative depth in the NCAA and recruiting class – a wealth of elite depth nationwide in one stroke discipline makes a big difference in what times are considered more valuable in that event. Events rise at different rates in the NCAA, but when one event gets extremely deep and fast at the college level, it makes high school prospects in those events a little less valuable, relatively, with lots of other veteran options. In the same way, a recruiting class stacked with swimmers in butterfly, for example, would make each butterflyer a little less sought-after in the market, with lots of other recruiting options able to provide similar production.

Of course, there’s no way to predict the future, and the most concrete data we have to go on are cold, hard times. These rankings in no way mean that all of these 20 swimmers will be NCAA standouts, and they certainly don’t mean that no swimmer left off this list will make big contributions at the NCAA level.

With that out of the way, let’s get to our rankings.

Disclaimer: there are a lot of high school seniors in the country, and no really good, complete, 100% accurate listing of them all. If you don’t see your favorite swimmer on the list, feel free to politely point them out in the comments. There’s a chance that we disagree with your assessment of their spot in the top 20, and so long as it’s done civilly, there’s no problem with differences of opinions. There’s also a chance that we’ve simply missed a no-brainer (we’ve taken every precaution to avoid that), and if that happens, we want to make sure we correct it.

TOP 20 SWIMMERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2019

1. Kate Douglass (Previous Rank: #2) – Chelsea Piers Aquatic Club – Pelham Memorial High School – Pelham, NY **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 50 free – 21.67, 100 free – 47.98, 100 fly – 51.74, 200 free – 1:45.16, 200 IM – 1:56.09, 100 breast – 1:00.26, 200 breast – 2:10.59, 100 back – 53.05, 200 back – 1:57.62, 400 IM – 4:16.94

Douglass is a tailor-made NCAA recruit who is transitioning from more of a breaststroker/freestyler to an all-around sprint star. Her 50 and 100 frees are among the fastest we’ve ever ranked among high school recruits, and her 100 fly has surged to become her best tertiary event, dropping from 53.9 to 51.7 since last year’s ranks. Douglass is going to be an absolute terror in Virginia’s sprint-and-relay focused program. She uses her legs very well, both underwater and at the surface – this race video shows her really smooth underwater speed and the huge whitewater surge behind her on freestyle. Her multi-stroke versatility and underwater ability should draw comparisons to male NCAA standouts like Ryan Hoffer, or even Caeleb Dressel if she continues to improve.

2. Zoie Hartman (Previous Rank: #6) – Crow Canyon Country Club Sharks – Monte Vista High School – Danville, CA **Verbally committed to Georgia**
Best Times: 100 breast – 58.94, 200 breast – 2:07.52, 200 IM – 1:54.62, 400 IM – 4:10.44, 50 free – 22.93, 100 free – 49.15, 200 free – 1:47.13

Hartman is one of the fastest risers in the class, and the only swimmer in this recruiting class to already hold NCAA A final times in three events. She’s had awesome improvements since our last rankings, cutting about a second in both breaststrokes and a whopping three seconds in her 200 IM. Add a seven second drop in her 400 IM and Hartman seems to be just now unlocking her potential in those events. With an arrival at the Athens IM factory, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hartman develop more as a 200/400 IM type who crosses over into 200 breast, but she’s also an instant improvement to Georgia’s medley relays with her sprint breaststroke. She rides very high in the water, which is a good sign for an efficient breaststroke, and that shows through in her great long course speed (1:08/2:28) as well.

3. Katharine Berkoff (Previous Rank: #3) – Missoula Aquatic Club – Hellgate High School – Missoula, MT **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 100 back – 50.72, 200 back – 1:50.13, 200 free – 1:46.14, 100 free – 48.76, 50 free – 22.82, 100 fly – 53.81, 200 IM – 1:57.04

Another fast riser among the top talents, Berkoff leads a legendary two-year run on backstroke recruits. (Regan Smith, Alex Walsh, Isabelle Stadden and Phoebe Bacon await in the class of 2020). Berkoff was already light years ahead of the rest of this class in backstroke a year ago, and since then she’s dropped from 51.9/1:51.4 to 50.7/1:50.1. What really stands out in this race video is her unreal arm tempo and the way she attacks her turns. Both of those bode very well for speed on the front end of medley relays in addition to her individual scoring events. The daughter of U.S. Olympian David Berkoff, Katharine Berkoff is also excellent through the relay-distance freestyles, and is going to be a key piece for an NC State program that really gears up for tone-setting relay swims.

4. Emily Weiss (Previous Rank: #4) – Cardinal Community Swim Club – Yorktown High School – Muncie, IN **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 100 breast – 58.40, 200 breast – 2:10.20, 200 IM – 1:58.50

Weiss is the fastest high school breaststroker in history, having set the overall national high school record as a junior. The worry with Weiss is that she went backwards about half a second as a senior, and the rest of the breaststrokers in her recruiting class have started to catch up. Weiss did improve her endurance marginally – she cut half a second in the 200 breast as a senior. Indiana knows exactly what it’s like, though, to recruit a breaststroker with elite speed and train up their endurance: Lilly King was 59.6/2:09.2 at this point in her senior year of high school, and ultimatley went 56.8/2:03.5 a year later as a college freshman. This is a pretty cool compilation of race videos that shows the improvement in Weiss’s closing length over four years of high school – though there’s plenty of work to be done, Weiss has made marked improvements there.

5. Coleen Gillilan (Previous Rank: #5) – Fort Collins Area Swim Team – Fossil Ridge High School – Fort Collins, CO **Verbally committed to Notre Dame**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.00, 200 fly – 1:56.25, 100 breast – 59.59, 200 breast – 2:09.77, 200 IM – 1:56.70, 400 IM – 4:14.04, 200 free – 1:46.98, 100 free – 49.64, 50 free – 22.56

Gillilan is still somewhat of a blank slate when it comes to her NCAA event lineup. She’s our highest-ranked senior without an NCAA scoring time… but that’s because she’s got NCAA invite times in five different events. She might project best as a flyer, as her best time is .01 off what it took to score at NCAAs last year. Like Weiss, Gillilan just hasn’t made many improvements over her senior year. In fact, she went pretty significantly backwards in everything. On the other hand, she had a couple good drops in long course last summer: most notably from 59.9 to 59.0 in the 100 fly. Gillilan is an awesome pickup for Notre Dame, and should contribute on a bunch of relays early on. The intrigue will be in what events she ultimately specializes.

6. Ella Nelson (Previous Rank: #8) – Nashville Aquatic Club – Harpeth Hall High School – Nashville, TN **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 breast – 2:07.59, 200 IM – 1:57.80, 400 IM – 4:10.10, 100 breast – 1:01.03, 200 free – 1:47.47

Another great breaststroke prospect inside our top 6. Nelson doesn’t have a ton of pure speed, and that’s going to limit her relay value early. But she’s got one of those smooth, efficient breaststrokes that just chews up yardage – you don’t realize how fast she’s closing on a field until she’s about to go by them. She eats up a lot of pool on some very good IMers in this race from Winter Juniors. Like Hartman, Nelson might actually project better as a two-distance IMer who can also swim breaststroke. She’s had pretty good IM drops as a senior, and though her 100 breast has stagnated, her 200 has dropped more than two seconds. 2:07.5 would have been 8th at NCAAs last year, and the field thins out considerably with three of the top four graduating.

7. Kaitlynn Sims (Previous Rank: #18) – Magnolia Aquatic Club – Montgomery High School – Montgomery, TX **Verbally committed to Michigan**
Best Times: 1650 free – 15:57.34, 1000 free – 9:37.90, 500 free – 4:39.52, 200 free – 1:47.10, 400 IM – 4:11.13

Barely making our top 20 a year ago, Sims has taken over as the premier distance swimmer in this class. She’s dropped 13 seconds off her mile to jump into NCAA scoring range, and her 500 free also cut 3 seconds to break 4:40. Sims is just off of scoring territory there, and she even has the range to come down to a pretty good 200 free. It’s the 400 IM that might be her best NCAA day 3 event, though: she dropped from 4:16 to 4:11 as a senior, combined with a long course drop from 4:53 to 4:48. She carries a ton of water with her catch and has nice aggressiveness, while she’s got room to improve further by getting her legs involved more consistently. Sims is a nice fit in Michigan, which has built a pretty loaded distance free group over the past few years.

8. Caitlin Brooks (Previous Rank: #9) – Gator Swim Club – F.W. Buchholz High School – Gainesville, FL **Verbally committed to Kentucky**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:52.01, 100 back – 52.26, 100 fly – 53.49

Brooks is much more of a specialist, focused in on backstroke. That 200 would have already scored at NCAAs, and her 100 is within a few tenths. The NCAA is about to become very crowded in the backstrokes, but Brooks clearly has the talent to contend even in that storm. She’s got great endurance underwater, and in her 1:52.0 swim, she’s got awesome aggressiveness and keeps her tempo very strong from start to finish. In many ways, Kentucky has become Backstroke U, and Brooks is an excellent addition to that program. The downside is that Brooks hasn’t had a great senior year. She slid back to 1:53.8 as a season-best in her 200 and shaved only hundredths off her 100 time. Brooks doesn’t bring much free relay prowess to the table, but does have a 100 fly that’s coming around pretty quickly as a nice, natural third event.

9. Ayla Spitz (Previous Rank: #20) – Irvine Novaquatics – Newport Harbor High School – Newport Beach, CA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:45.02, 100 free – 48.63, 50 free – 22.60, 100 back – 53.35, 200 back – 1:56.31, 100 fly – 53.54, 200 IM – 1:58.68

Spitz is the best 200 freestyler in this class at the moment, but she’s got enough versatility that the 200 free may not even end up a part of her college lineup. She probably projects as a 50/100/200 freestyler and a key relay piece, but Spitz also has nice fly/back speed and a pretty good 200 IM. She rises 10 full spots in our ranks from last year because she’s had solid time drops across the board, including a 1.4-second drop in that 200 free and a 1.2 second drop in the 100 fly. This isn’t even Spitz’s best 200 free, but you get a good sense of the strong kick she keeps behind her, plus some killer instinct to eke out a tight touchout. She’ll be a nice fit on a Cal roster that has put together some great 800 free relays recently.

10. Kelly Pash (Previous Rank: #10) – Carmel Swim Club – Carmel High School – Carmel, IN **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 free – 48.55, 200 free – 1:45.25, 50 free – 22.76, 500 free – 4:44.78, 100 fly – 52.89, 200 fly – 1:57.15, 200 IM – 1:58.02, 400 IM – 4:10.97

Pash has a ton of range, both vertically (from the 50 up to the 500 free) and horizontally (between free, fly and IM). Outside of Douglass, she’s got the best 100 free in the class, and she’s tenths away from unseating Spitz as the best 200 freestyler. It’s unfortunate that the 200 free and 100 fly can’t really coexist in a college postseason lineup, because the fly might be her third-best event at this point. But if she focuses up towards the 200/500 frees, her 200 fly might really come around in a big way, too. The concern for Pash is that most of these best times are from way back in 2017. As a senior, she went 48.7 and 1:46.2 in freestyle, though she did have her big 100 fly breakthrough. She does have some great skills though – watch the way she beats top 2021 prospect Gretchen Walsh on a very aggressive final turn/length in this 100 free.

11. Zephy Koh (Previous Rank: N/A) – Brea Aquatics – San Marino High School – Pasadena, CA **Verbally committed to Princeton**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:54.68, 100 fly – 53.23, 100 back – 53.81

Unranked a year ago, Koh has come on strong in her senior year, taking over as the top 200 flyer in the entire class and arguably the best two-distance flyer of the bunch. She was 1:56.9 a year ago; now she’s 1:54.68, a time that would’ve been 12th at NCAAs this past spring. She’s also taken a second off her 100 fly to go 53.23. Koh seems to have a fearlessness that you need to be a good 200 flyer – in this race, she attacks her turns from start to finish and keeps her hips up very well. Koh doesn’t have great sprint free speed, but like Brooks, can get three good NCAA events out of a fly/back pairing. She should be a big contributor and an outstanding ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ get for Princeton.

12. Alexandra Crisera (Previous Rank: #7) – Beach Cities Swimming – Mira Costa High School – Manhattan Beach, CA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.43, 100 free – 48.87, 200 free – 1:47.09, 100 back – 52.84, 200 back – 1:54.44, 200 IM – 2:00.41

Crisera is another versatile talent – her backstrokes are both within tenths of NCAA invite status, adding another dimension to what were highly-ranked free times when we put together this list last year. Crisera is another swimmer who has gone backwards some in her signature events as a senior: she was 22.47/49.5/1:48.0 at best this year, though she did improve her 100 back and was 1:54.8 in her 200 back. It’s possible Crisera put a big emphasis on long course, though, as she bettered all three of her backstroke bests in meters, including some big-time swims of 1:00.8 and 2:12.5 at Junior Nationals last summer. You can see her really impressive endurance in that 200 back here, complete with a great start and a very patient swim.

13. Hannah Bach (Previous Rank: N/A) – Cleveland Swim Institute – Brecksville Broadview Heights High School – Brecksville, OH **Verbally committed to Ohio State**
Best Times: 100 breast – 59.29, 200 breast – 2:14.80

Bach is a really tough one to pin down in these rankings, because her ceiling appears so high, but she doesn’t yet have the track record to earn a higher rank. Bach was 1:00.7 in the 100 breast as a junior, and one year later surged all the way to 59.2 – a time that would have been 12th at NCAAs. About a month later, she dropped her 200 breast from 2:19.8 to 2:14.8 – and at that meet, her 100 was just 1:00.1, suggesting her 200 may have been even faster had she been able to swim it without trying to extend a taper. This isn’t her best swim, but definitely captures the raw speed she has early, even if she gets beat underwater on most walls. There’s not really a third event in the mix yet, but Bach has the potential to be a huge relay weapon as a sprint breaststroker, especially if Ohio State can bring her underwaters up to speed.

14. Madelyn Donohoe (Previous Rank: #11) – The Fish – Bishop O’Connell School – Annandale, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 1650 free – 16:01.60, 1000 free – 9:37.78, 500 free – 4:44.27, 200 free – 1:47.23

Donohoe is an outstanding distance freestyler who still has the best 1000 in the recruiting class. Her mile is already in NCAA scoring territory, and knocking on the door of a sub-16-minute swim. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Donohoe has also gone backwards in her senior year – her mile was only 16:31 and her 1000 9:43. She kept her 500 pretty stable and actually cut a half-second in her 200 free, though, so she might be taking her focus a little more to the mid-distances than the over-distance work. This is an old race video, but it does show Donohoe with a very aggressive opening of her mile, and she has the endurance to hang on well. Donohoe is also a great long course swimmer, with times of 4:13, 8:38 and 16:26 in freestyle.

15. Cora Dupre (Previous Rank: N/A) – Mason Manta Rays – Mariemont High School – Cincinnati, OH **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.46, 100 free – 48.96, 200 free – 1:45.27, 200 back – 1:54.82, 200 IM – 1:59.76

Another swimmer in the thick of the 200 free hunt with a 1:45-low, Dupre is a good three-distance freestyler who also has pretty nice 200s of back and IM. She could develop as a 200-specialist at Indiana. That’s where her biggest drops have come since going unranked last spring. Dupre went from 1:47.7 to 1:45.2 in the 200 free, from 2:00 to 1:54 in the 200 back and from 2:03 to 1:59 in the 200 IM. She’s got the sprint chops to be a good relay leg across all three relay distances. Her lifetime-best 200 free, in particular, is a great tactical race: she gets out front early, then goes smooth and efficient until the second 100, when she really drops the hammer.

16. Lexi Cuomo (Previous Rank: #19) – Mason Makos Swim Team – Centreville High School – Clifton, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.01, 100 back – 53.48, 50 free – 22.94, 100 free – 49.71

Cuomo has one really standout event along with more developmental potential in her other races. A 52.0 100 fly is excellent; it took 51.99 to score at NCAAs last year. She’s dropped almost a second in that event over her senior year. Her freestyles pretty much stayed the same, though, and neither are good enough yet to make a lot of waves at the college level. Cuomo has cut her 100 back from 54.2 to 53.4, though. She’s also got the best trait you can have as an NCAA prospect: great underwaters. She consistently beats star 2021 recruit Torri Huske underwater in this 100 fly swim, even if she can’t quite hang with her on the surface. No doubt Virginia coach Todd Desorbo has big plans for the sprinty Cuomo on a rising team with a lot of great relay pieces.

17. Ashley Turak (Previous Rank: N/A) – Drop Aquatics – Harrison High School – Farmington Hills, MI **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.10, 100 free – 48.72, 100 fly – 54.96

Another fast-twitch talent later in our ranks. Turak has one of the class’s best 50s (second behind Douglass) and supplements it with a good 100 free that is just two tenths away from an NCAA invite. She’s a clutch relay performer, too – watch her lock down the anchor leg at her high school state championships here, splitting a 47.63. (You may want to watch it on mute for some language). Turak doesn’t really have a tertiary event, but that’s not a huge deal when a standout 50/100 freestyler can end up with a full NCAA event slate anyways. Turak is another fast dropper: she cut about a second in her 100 free as a senior.

18. Lindsay Looney (Previous Rank: N/A) – Metroplex Aquatics – Denison High School – Denison, TX **Verbally committed to Arizona State**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:56.20, 100 fly – 53.28, 400 IM – 4:11.27, 200 IM – 1:59.33, 200 free – 1:48.43

Looney starts a run on great 200 flyers who made for some tough calls at the tail end of our top 20. She’s an outstanding long course swimmer – in fact, 2:09.2 in the long course 200 fly might be her best swim of all – which makes her a great fit at meters-focused Arizona State. We figured her short course times would start to come down to that level later in high school, and it played out exactly that way: Looney went from 54.4/1:57.8 last year to 53.2/1:56.2 this year. She’s also got a good 400 IM that dropped five seconds since her junior year. Looney has great body balance in her butterfly: in this race, her hips never start to drag, even late in a 200 fly, and she uses that body position to make a big surge late.

19. Ellie VanNote (Previous Rank: N/A) – SwimMAC Carolina – Marvin Ridge High School – Waxhaw, NC **Verbally committed to UNC**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:56.10, 100 fly – 53.44, 200 free – 1:48.63

VanNote is another great 200 flyer who is already in NCAA invite range, and a little more than half a second out of scoring. She’s on a great trajectory, dropping from 1:59.2 at this time last year to 1:58.98 at Winter Juniors to 1:56.1 in February. VanNote is pretty comparable to Looney in butterfly, but doesn’t have as much versatility. She’s a very technically sound swimmer though: in this video (not even her lifetime-best), you see that her side-breathing stroke doesn’t cause any crookedness or balance issues, and she’s got very nice turn technique, even if they could use a little more aggressiveness. UNC locked her verbal commitment down before these huge time drops started, and she’ll be a core piece of the puzzle for new head coach Mark Gangloff.

20. Mary Smutny (Previous Rank: #16) – AquaKids Sharks Swim Team – Homeschooled – Cutler Bay, FL **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:45.36, 500 free – 4:42.45, 200 fly – 1:56.58, 100 fly – 53.81, 100 free – 49.48

Smutny is yet another great 200 flyer, and she adds what is nearly the class’s best 200 free to the picture as well. She’s got the ability to be a mid-distance machine, and a 500 free/200 free/200 fly combo fits well in the NCAA lineup. Smutny didn’t drop much time over her senior year (a drop of four tenths in the 500 free was her only drop in a primary event), but stayed very close to her bests in free (49.7/1:45.7) and the 200 fly (1:56.6). As you’d expect based on her event portfolio, Smutny has outstanding back-half speed – this race from 2017 Winter Juniors is a brilliant tactical showing, and the arm and leg tempo she has at the end are enviable.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Paring the list down to 20 always feels like pulling teeth. This isn’t an exhaustive list of others we considered, but the top few left off the list who made the decisions on 18-20 very difficult.

Caroline Bentz (Previous Rank: N/A) – Nation’s Capital Swim Club – King George High School – Dahlgren, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia Tech**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:54.03, 100 back – 53.46, 100 free – 49.78, 200 free – 1:49.08

Bentz is a very good 200 backstroker who is .02 off the NCAA invite time from this past year. She’s had incredible backstroke drops from 1:57.4 and 54.6, suggesting she’s got a lot more improvement coming under Sergio Lopez’s VT program.

Talia Bates (Previous Rank: #13) – Gator Swim Club – F.W. Buchholz High School – Gainesville, FL **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.82, 50 free – 22.42, 100 free – 49.56, 200 free – 1:47.11, 100 back – 53.62

Bates is a great fit for Florida, which had a slew of mid-distance types last year, but struggled in the 50s and 100s. She’s a versatile sprinter who should contribute on a lot of relays. Bates had only marginal drops as a senior, though (.05 in the 100 fly, .02 in the 50 free, 0.3 in the 100 back), so she’ll need a jump-start to her college career to get to NCAA scoring range.

Chloe Clark (Previous Rank: #12) – Sierra Marlins Swim Team – Granite Bay High School – Granite Bay, CA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 100 back – 53.21, 200 back – 1:56.79, 200 IM – 1:57.32, 400 IM – 4:13.94, 50 free – 22.65, 100 free – 49.27, 200 free – 1:49.78

A very versatile talent, Clark probably projects best as a backstroker (maybe because of Cal’s long track record with backstrokers), but could also be a great IMer. She’s got good enough sprint free times to be a valuable recruit, too, even though Cal is usually loaded – we don’t rank these recruits on where they’re going, but how fast they are, so Clark still registers relay value compared to other recruits in the class.

Caroline Cooper (Previous Rank: #14) – Highlander Aquatic Club – Winter Park High School – Orlando, FL **Verbally committed to North Carolina**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:56.03, 100 fly – 53.99

Cooper is the odd woman out among the great 200 flyers at the end of this class, despite having the best 200 fly time of the Cuomo/Looney/VanNote/Smutny bunch. That’s mostly because she’s not quite as good in the 100 – and therefore has less relay impact – and doesn’t have any great tertiary event. Still, she’s going to be high-impact early-on with what she does well, which is butterfly. Another very good incoming talent for UNC’s new coaching staff.

 

BONUS LOOKBACK:

Feeling nostalgic? Here’s a look back at our previous recruiting class rankings, plus our retrospective classes once they’ve wrapped up four NCAA seasons:

Girls
Recruiting Class
High School Class of 2021 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores
High School Class of 2020 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores Ranks as Juniors
High School Class of 2019 Ranks as Juniors Re-Rank As Seniors
High School Class of 2018 Ranks as Juniors Re-Rank As Seniors
High School Class of 2017 Ranks as Juniors
High School Class of 2016 Ranks as Juniors
High School Class of 2015 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective
High School Class of 2014 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective
High School Class of 2013 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective

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Thomas

Had she not gone to Cal early, would Ivey be ahead of Douglass?

Greg

It’s close but I would put Douglass a hair ahead, with her better relay value giving her the slight edge.

Ervin

Did you see the Ivey at NCAA’s? Dropped big time in every event

Togger

As the article says, bit of an unfair metric as Ivey had been training with an elite college programme for several months at that point and racing some of the best swimmers on the planet.

If she had’t graduated early she might well have had the same drops at her High School taper meet, but it’s not a fair comparison to all these girls who were still training with their High School teams and, for many, racing at meets without much competition for them.

Greg

Sure, Ivey is great, no disputing that. Douglass’ top 3 event times would have gotten her 1 A and 2 B finals at NCAA’s, almost 2 A’s and 1 B, the same as Ivey (just a couple tenths off in the 100 free from an A final time). However, Douglass did those times without the benefit of any real competition AND without the benefit of training with a top notch college program. Then factor in her higher relay value.

Obviously, this is all speculative, hypothetical, and unanswerable, but I think if Virginia could choose one or the other today, even if Ivey had four full years of eligibility (and not 3), they’d stick with Douglass.

I always chuckle at the assumptions that “competition” will make swimmers go faster than clean water. That seems to be punctured by the number of records we see broken in time trials. Are there some athletes who are spurred on by competition to new heights and great achievements? Surely. But, I think for the vast majority, this isn’t some magic pill that will guarantee a time drop.

Greg

I fall a little bit more on the “competition helps” side of things, especially when you’re competing for a school with national title aspirations. This underlying motivation underpins some of what makes NCAA swimming as great as it is: even in individual events you’re competing for your school and your teammates.
And while clean water is usually better, getting a good draft from someone next to you (especially in freestyle events) is the best.

iLikePsych

Perhaps, but maybe Ivey could have been intimidated by the higher level of competition. Or maybe the pressure of swimming for Cal could have added more nerves than motivation. We can’t just assume that the competitive collegiate environment is going to be beneficial when each of them are going to have their own individual reactions to it.

Spectatorn

ILIKEPSYCH has a good point. Change of environment, coach, training scheme, training partners, and joining a team in the middle of the year – all has its impact on the swimmer. Just glad that Ivey is thriving!

It is unfortunately (or fortunately), Ivey and Douglass’s development path has diverge forever. Douglass is an excellent swimmer and will be fun to watch her develop when she gets to college swimming.

Taa

Well I thinks it the practice environment which will lead to the faster times not the fact that there is a fast swimmer in the lane next to you during your race.

Togger

Only one Stanford commit and no. 9 before you get to the first swimmer going to the Bay Area*. The times they are a changin’

Surprised so few going to Stanford in this class, with Olympics next year you’re guaranteed a full year of working with Ledecky, Manuel, Eastin etc. day in day out.

*I know Ivey would have made that different.

Dan

Pretty sure Ledecky went pro.

Swimgeek

…Pretty sure Ledecky is training at Stanford just like last year

Togger

Yes, but she still trains at Stanford and, in an Olympic year, getting the best training possible will be her absolute focus, so she’ll be there the vast majority of the time. In contrast to the post-Olympic years, when pros do more of the commercial work, swim clinics etc. which take them away from their main training base.

Same goes for Manuel and Eastin.

Taa

It’s a weak class by their standards. They just need to keep Ruck and land Reagan Smith and all is well. I don’t see any 2020 Olympians on this list so I don’t see that as a reason. The school itself is a bigger draw

Togger

You don’t need to be a 2020 Olympian yourself to see a benefit to training with people of that caliber.

feelgood

Weak class? A 21.6 freestyler, a 1:50. backstroker, a 58 breastroker? To stay in the game you need to reload…EVERY YEAR. You miss a class or two regardless of how “strong” it is, it can set you way back. Look no further than UGA.

Taa

I meant Stanford specifically. I think it’s just Crisera and two other girls that are not considered top tier recruits. They can survive one down year if their freshman progress, that was a big and talented class. Maybe they can bring in a diver or two also

Snarky

It’s recruiting styles. A lot of the programs that landed big time recruits this year did the work—made visits, told the swimmers how much they were needed, etc. Stanford (and admittedly per the mouth of the coach) doesn’t pursue athletes because they are, after all, Stanford. I think a number of athletes these days want to know that they are wanted and will be integral to the program. The lure of a college name and program history is less important than it once was. Recruiting effort by university shows in this class.

CraigH

After like 5 top classes in a row, before this one, I have a hard time believing that Meehan doesn’t know how to woo recruits.

They only graduated two NCAA swimmers this past year. Something tells me they just didn’t have a lot of money to go around.

Taa

Maybe some of the kids parents made too much money for the needs based scholarships that Stanford hands out.. Koh and Spitz come from pretty wealthy areas but I’m just speculating. The current system is rigged in Stanford’s favor so I am not feeling sorry for Meehan

Taa

Four going to Virginia..and three starting their college careers at Indiana

I_said_It

… He said “starting their careers”… classic!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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