Re-Rank: Top 20 Girls NCAA Swimming Recruits, Class of 2020

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:

2020 Addendum: as we’ve been noting with all our recruit rankings this year, meet cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic are throwing a major wrench into times and time drops this season. We’re trying to note when we find swimmers who typically rested for a spring meet (NCSAs, YNats, etc.), or who had their high school seasons canceled (most notably California). But as a whole, we’re relying somewhat less on “improvement curves” this year, and perhaps a little more on long course drops from last summer. These rankings are only a snapshot in time, though, so we won’t do a lot of projecting of who would have dropped time, rather relying on times already swum, whether in short course or long course.


  • Elite class with five or more blue-chip stars at the top
  • Incredible backstroke group
  • Strong & deep in breaststroke, with lots of fast risers
  • Only weakness, if any, is freestyle, particularly distance
  • A weird lack of improvements among almost everyone in the class

This has been one unreal class to follow up the recruiting pipeline. When we ranked this group as sophomores, we noted that they could challenge the class of 2015 (Katie Ledecky, Abbey Weitzeil, Kathleen Baker, Katie McLaughlin, Amy Bilquist, Ella Eastin, Lilly King) as the best group we’ve ever ranked and quite possibly the best recruiting class of all-time. That continues to hold true.

The top five are historically-good recruits, and you could probably argue that the top-flight, blue-chip recruits extend down even to #7 or #8. Every swimmer in the top 8 has a time that would have made the NCAA A final in 2019. Every single swimmer in the top 20 has a 2020 NCAA invite time. Based on graduating NCAA talent and the strength of this incoming class, we could potentially see freshmen win up to six individual events at NCAAs next spring, assuming they happen.

The backstroke group is the clear-cut leader. There’s world-record-holder Regan Smith at the top, but even the depth is extraordinary. There are four swimmers under 51.2 and 1:51.4 in the backstrokes within this group, with plenty of 52s and 1:53/1:54s for depth.

Breaststroke has risen up to become another strength of the class, with two swimmers under 59 in the 100 – that’s very rare for high school prospects. And breaststroke is maybe the deepest field, with at least nine swimmers between 1:00.7 and 1:01.1 and at least seven between 2:11.6 and 2:12.7.

If there’s a weak point, it’s distance free, where no one is under 16 minutes in the mile. The best 500 freestyler in the class is Smith, who probably won’t be a distance swimmer at the college level. With that in mind, we’ve only got one distance freestyler in our top 20.

Sprint free looks relatively weak compared to the extreme back and breast fields, but it’s really not a bad class. Versatile stroke types still dominate the top of the class in the 50/100 free, but we’ve got a handful of 22-low/48-mid types among the pure sprinters.

The weird part about this class, though, is how little changed between last year’s ranks and these. We’d probably estimate that more than 80% of the swimmers we researched for these ranks had zero short course time drops since last May. We chalk that up to two factors: (1) the elite talents at the top of the class seemed to put most of their focus on long course over the past year, chasing international teams and potential Olympic berths. (2) A lot of the remaining swimmers were probably gearing up for one of three canceled meets – NCSAs, YMCA Nationals or U.S. Olympic Trials.

With that in mind, trajectories and improvement curves probably mean a lot less to this class than in our usual ranks, because there’s just no way to compare swimmers who had vastly different focuses over the past year.

Top Times in the Class of 2020
50 Free Kaitlyn Dobler 22.01
100 Free Regan Smith 48.07
200 Free Regan Smith 1:43.27
500 Free Regan Smith 4:37.10
1000 Free** Chase Travis 9:31.84
1650 Free Chase Travis 16:05.44
100 Back Regan Smith 49.66
200 Back Regan Smith 1:47.16
100 Breast Alex Walsh 58.19
200 Breast Alex Walsh 2:05.87
100 Fly Olivia Bray 50.19
200 Fly Regan Smith 1:51.24
200 IM Alex Walsh 1:53.69
400 IM Emma Weyant 4:07.63

**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.


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.


1. Regan Smith (Previous Rank: #1) – Riptide – Lakeville North High School – Lakeville, MN **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 100 back – 49.66, 200 back – 1:47.16, 200 fly – 1:51.24, 100 fly – 50.45, 200 free – 1:43.27, 500 free – 4:37.10, 200 IM – 1:56.58, 400 IM – 4:14.03, 100 free – 48.07, 50 free – 22.51

What more can you say about Smith? She’s an elite talent and quite possibly the best NCAA prospect we’ve ever seen. She’s the American record-holder in the 200-yard back and the #2 swimmer of all-time in the 100-yard back. Those times actually came last spring as a sophomore. Smith appeared to put her focus on long course in the year since then, and boy did that work out well, to the tune of two world records at World Championships last summer. Really the only downside to Smith as a recruit is the high likelihood (historically speaking) that she swims less than four years in the NCAA. She’s very much in the ballpark with Katie Ledecky or Missy Franklin as a prospect, and both swam just two years of college before turning pro. The Olympic delay is going to force Smith into a tough decision: to head to Stanford as planned next year, to defer her enrollment like fellow Stanford star Ledecky did, or to turn pro for the Tokyo Olympics and beyond. Doesn’t seem to be much need for video analysis here to justify a #1 ranking, so just enjoy this 200-meter back from Worlds, and notice how high Smith is able to turn up her arm tempo (and maintain it!) without losing any of the smoothness of her stroke.

2. Alex Walsh (Previous Rank: #2) – Nashville Aquatic Club – Harpeth Hall High School – Nashville, TN **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 100 breast – 58.19, 200 breast – 2:05.87, 200 IM – 1:53.69, 400 IM – 4:07.98, 100 back – 50.88, 200 back – 1:51.42, 100 fly – 51.31, 50 free – 22.08, 100 free – 48.90, 200 free – 1:45.05

There are very few classes where this portfolio of times would rank #2. Walsh is an elite prospect in all four strokes who probably projects best as a high-end IM type. Walsh’s 400 IM was 4:33 as of our original sophomore ranks, and went to 4:07.9 by the next year. She really didn’t drop much as a junior, but that probably owes to an increased focus on long course. She, like Smith, is a realistic Olympic hopeful as a high schooler. Last summer, she dropped her long course 200-meter IM from 2:11 to 2:09 and her 400-meter IM from 4:51 to 4:42, so there shouldn’t really be concerns about her lack of improvement in short course. Walsh also has one of the best 50 free times in the class and should be a multi-relay threat. Here you can see each of her four strokes in her most recent personal-best time. (Lane 5, white cap). Backstroke and breaststroke are what really pop, though Walsh could probably use to improve her start some if she’s going to swim the 50 free often.

3. Phoebe Bacon (Previous Rank: #5) – Nation’s Capital Swim Club – Stone Ridge School – Herndon, VA **Verbally committed to Wisconsin**
Best Times: 100 back – 50.70, 200 back – 1:50.71, 100 fly – 51.75, 200 IM – 1:55.39, 100 breast – 1:00.39, 200 breast – 2:12.61, 200 fly – 1:59.96, 400 IM – 4:09.82, 100 free – 49.28, 50 free – 22.45

Bacon has been the fastest riser in this bunch, going from #6 in our original rankings to #5 last year to #3 this year. She’s also really the only one in the top five who has improved her short course times since last year’s ranks. Bacon hit personal-bests in the 100 back, 100 breast, 100 fly and 50 free in December – that event combination does absolute wonders for her value as a relay option. Smith makes all the backstrokers in this class look way less impressive than they should be – Bacon’s 100 back would be the best time we’ve ever ranked if Smith didn’t exist. She’s got NCAA A final times in both backstrokes, and has moved her 100 fly and 200 IM into NCAA scoring range. Bacon is equally impressive in long course, going 58.6 and 2:08.8 (!) in backstroke at U.S. Open in December and winning Pan Ams gold last summer.. Here’s a pretty recent backstroke swim with an up-close look at her technique (Lane 5, yellow “SR” cap). Bacon is all power – she’s got a tiny bit more bounce to her stroke than Smith does, but that’s a decent tradeoff for how high she can crank her arm turnover. Bacon is going to be a major weapon on the front of 200 medley relays with that kind of speed, power, and aggressiveness.

4. Olivia Bray (Previous Rank: #3) – Virginia Gators – Lord Botetourt School – Daleville, VA **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 fly – 50.19, 200 fly – 1:53.72, 100 back – 52.02, 200 back – 1:54.26, 200 IM – 1:58.29, 200 free – 1:46.37, 100 free – 49.20, 50 free – 22.73

Bray is an elite butterfly prospect. In fact, she’s the fastest 100 flyer we’ve ever ranked for both junior and senior classes. If there weren’t world-level prospects at the top of this class, Bray would be a worthy #1-type recruit – in fact, she’s better than a few of our previous #1s. Bray has three very natural NCAA events: 100 fly/100 back on day 3 and 200 fly on day 4. But she’s also got good potential in the 200 IM to better spread out her events. Bray didn’t compete much at all as a senior. She swam U.S. Open in long course, followed by one short course meet a week later, with just one career-best between those two meets. On the other hand, Bray hit a lot of bests last March (and may have had a repeat showing wiped out by the pandemic) and is also good enough in long course (58.3/2:09.6 fly) to conceivably have been saving her best stuff for Olympic Trials this year. Here’s a very old race video (Most of Bray’s bests have come at meets without race video readily available) where Bray shows off her outstanding underwaters. (Lane 5, black cap). Bray has an awesome start-to-15-meter combo, which goes a long way in short course.

5. Isabelle Stadden (Previous Rank: #4) – Aquajets Swim Team – Blaine High School – Blaine, MN **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:50.37, 100 back – 51.23, 200 IM – 1:56.55, 400 IM – 4:15.77, 100 fly – 54.39, 100 free – 49.48, 50 free – 22.71

Stadden is more of a 200-based backstroker, about a half-second faster than Bacon in the 200 but a half-second slower in the 100. Her best senior-year drop was in the 200 IM, which has always been a very good tertiary event – Stadden went from 1:59.5 to 1:56.5 and is on the cusp of NCAA scoring level there. She’s got international experience, joining Walsh and Bacon on the U.S. Pan American Games team last summer and winning individual silver and relay gold. The backstroke drops have tailed off a little for Stadden – she cut about a half-second in the long course 100 and a tenth in the long course 200 last year, and her short course times didn’t change. She’s also only cut about a tenth of a second in her 100-yard back since our original sophomore rankings. But Stadden, too, was an Olympic hopeful who probably had her eyes fully on long course for her senior year. Here’s Stadden’s 200-meter back best from December (lane 5, black/pink cap) – she shows remarkable patience and really closes well, surging by Bacon late. You’d like to see Stadden develop a little more front-end speed (especially with the lack of 100 back drops recently), but that can sometimes come with college-level strength gains.

6. Lillie Nordmann (Previous Rank: #6) – Magnolia Aquatic Club – The Woodlands High School – The Woodlands, TX **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:53.62, 200 free – 1:43.62, 100 fly – 52.00, 100 back – 53.58, 200 IM – 1:58.03, 100 free – 49.05, 50 free – 22.89

Nordmann’s biggest senior-year improvement came in the 200 free, where she cut almost two seconds at Texas’s high school state meet. That’s a very valuable event at the college level, showing a lot of endurance but also relay value, even if Nordmann focuses mainly on fly in college. We might actually project Nordmann as more of a Katie Drabot type, who can cross over free and fly seamlessly while keying in on the 200-yard distance. Last summer, Nordmann did cut from 59/2:10 to 57.9/2:07.4 in long course butterfly, which is extremely exciting. Here’s her big breakthrough freestyle (lane 3 near the top, black cap). She’s got a little bit of a straight-arm recovery that gives her stroke a small bounce, almost a gallop. That’s a little unorthodox for women, but is maybe a new wave of the stroke, popularized by Katie Ledecky. (Check out this awesome race from history and note the difference between the Ledecky/Leah Smith style that Nordmann uses and the Manuel/Siobhan Haughey stroke you see more often in women’s freestyle).

7. Kaitlyn Dobler (Previous Rank: #10) – The Dolphins Portland Swimming – Aloha High School – Aloha, OR **Verbally committed to USC**
Best Times: 100 breast – 58.35, 50 free – 22.01, 200 breast – 2:09.50, 100 free – 48.69, 100 fly – 53.86

Maybe the most impactful time drop in this class was Dobler’s cut from 59.1 to 58.3 in the 100 breast. That takes her from a really good recruit to one of the best 100 breaststroke prospects we’ve ever ranked, and close behind Walsh for the top sprint time in the class. Dobler also leads the class in the 50 free, passing up Walsh this year with a near-21 right before meets started getting canceled. Dobler is going to have tremendous relay value. It seems teams are always short a breaststroker: of the scoring 400 medley relays at 2019 NCAAs, 8 of 15 teams had breaststroke splits over 59, and two of those were over a minute. Not to mention that Dobler could actually be a rare four-relay threat as a breaststroker, based on her outstanding 50 and very good 100 in freestyle. Here’s her national high school record-setting breaststroke from February. It’s not the best angle for the actual swim, but wow do you see the athleticism and power of Dobler’s start. She’s got a couple strokes off of each wall where her head doesn’t get all the way back underwater and that’s a good area for improvement, especially in the 200.

8. Abby Arens (Previous Rank: #8) – Marlins of Raleigh – Saint Mary’s College Prep School – Raleigh, NC **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 200 breast – 2:08.06, 100 breast – 59.76, 200 IM – 1:56.48, 400 IM – 4:11.49, 100 fly – 53.21, 200 free – 1:47.83, 50 free – 22.96

Arens has a great 200 breast – it would have made the last NCAA A final – and a 100 that would look really good in any class that didn’t have Walsh and Dobler breaking our points of reference. What probably boosts Arens’ value the most in this re-rank is a drop from 1:58 to 1:56.4 in the 200 IM – that gives her a very natural three-event NCAA combo with borderline scoring times in all three. Arens also had a monster long course 200 breast last summer, going from 2:29 to 2:25.8. That ranked in the top 8 nationally for swimmers of any age, and there’s a good argument that it probably suggests Arens has time to drop even from her outstanding 2:08.0 in short course. Here’s that race, with Arens in lane 3 in the black cap. There are a couple of awesome above and below angles that give good insight to Arens’ stroke. She’s got a relatively small but efficient arm pull, and coming up really high out of the water both allows her to do an awesome job keeping her elbows high and adds a good wave/undulation to her stroke. She’s definitely an efficiency breaststroker who is going to limit her stroke count – more Sydney Pickrem than Lilly King. The good sprint freestyles are a nice bonus, and make Arens a potential 7-event contributor at NCAAs at some point – that’s a very high ceiling for a breaststroker.

9. Emma Sticklen (Previous Rank: #7) – Katy Aquatic Team for Youth– Taylor High School – Katy, TX **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 fly – 51.88, 200 fly – 1:54.55, 100 back – 53.01, 200 free – 1:47.86, 100 free – 49.68, 50 free – 22.54

Sticklen and Nordmann have battled in Texas’s high school system for a few years now, and both are excellent NCAA prospects. Sticklen is the sprintier of the two, with an NCAA-scoring 100 fly and a very solid 100 back to go along with it. Sticklen went a little bit backwards in most of her events this year despite having her high school season uninterrupted by the pandemic, but as we’ve noted a lot, it’s hard to nail down which meets a swimmer was really gearing up for. Here’s Sticklen’s swim from Texas high school state in February (lane 4, 4th from the top). She finishes about a half-second off her best, but the race really hinges on one super long wall at the 75-turn. Her underwater kicking speed is incredible, and you can just see the raw talent. It’s the polish and details that keep her behind Nordmann in this race (wall timing, over-swimming the first 50 a bit), but you have to believe college coaches see Sticklen as a high-ceiling prospect who can clean up a lot of those details with time.

10. Anna Keating (Previous Rank: #9) – Machine Aquatics – James Madison School – Vienna, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 100 breast – 59.04, 200 breast – 2:09.26

Keating kind of splits the difference between our other two breaststrokers in the top 10. She’s got a little better 100 than Arens and a slightly better 200 than Dobler. Keating didn’t drop at all as a senior, but tended to swim her bests at NCSAs, which were canceled this spring. That’s a shame, because Keating dropped 1.5 seconds in her 100 last year and might’ve been in line for something really special this spring. Here’s Keating in lane 5 (white cap). She’s got two details that she does at such a high level. Her head is always moving forward, even during her recovery as the head is going back under the water – there’s no chin dropping whatsoever. And Keating stays unbelievably low in the water on her turns and just crushes this field that way. Her last 25 shows some visible fatigue, but improving that could push Keating into the low 58s in a hurry. She doesn’t bring a lot of versatility to the lineup yet, but the ceiling for Keating is Lilly King, and we mean that. King was very comparable (59.6/2:09.2) as a senior in high school.

11. Emma Weyant (Previous Rank: 11) – Sarasota YMCA Sharks – Riverview High School  – Sarasota, FL **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 400 IM – 4:07.63, 500 free – 4:40.85, 200 IM – 1:58.07, 1650 free – 16:30.02, 1000 free – 9:39.41, 200 free – 1:47.34

Weyant is so hard to rank. Every year, we get a few long course standouts – usually in longer events with diminished NCAA value – whose name value is way higher than how their times actually project to NCAA scoring standards. That type of swimmer does not usually have the best track record for actual NCAA production. Here’s why we’re going a little against our better judgement with Weyant: she already has an NCAA scoring time in the 400 IM. But she also put up a long course 400 IM last summer (4:35.47) that’s so unbelievably better than her short course best that we can’t help but project a time drop. (4:35.4 ranked #1 among all Americans of any age last season, and our Swimulator converter roughly converts it to a 4:03 in short course). Weyant also projects to score pretty early on in the 500 free. Relay value isn’t high, but a 1:47 in the 200 is an outside developmental relay kind of time. Here’s that unbelievable 400 IM from Weyant (lane 3, yellow cap). Weyant is so efficient, and just wears down this really, really good international field. She does most of her work on the back half of each 100, which shows how well she keeps her strokes together as fatigue sets in.

12. Tristen Ulett (Previous Rank: #18) – Dynamo Swim Club – Georgia Connections Academy – Brookhaven, GA **Verbally committed to Louisville**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.01, 200 fly – 1:55.74, 200 IM – 1:56.54, 100 back – 52.76, 200 back – 1:54.28, 200 free – 1:46.18, 100 free – 49.13

Now we’re starting to see the depth in fly/back types in this class. Even beyond the clear first tier, you’ve got great versatile talents like Ulett, who comes within hundredths of NCAA scoring times in the 100 fly and 200 IM. The IM is the fast-rising event for Ulett, coming down from 1:58 last year to 1:56.5 as a senior. Ulett improved a bunch of her times over the course of two different meets this winter, showing a great overall trajectory. This class is so deep, but Ulett is a top-10-type talent in most classes. Here’s her big 200 IM drop (lane 4, black cap). Her wall timing is hit-or-miss in this particular race, but Ulett really uses her legs well, with a powerful fly kick and a dominant flutter kick in the final 50. The way her freestyle leg looked, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ulett become a really, really good 200 freestyler at the college level.

13. Abby Harter (Previous Rank: #12) – Nation’s Capital Club – Briar Woods High School – Ashburn, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.31, 200 fly – 1:54.71, 400 IM – 4:12.64 200 IM – 1:59.31, 100 breast – 1:01.22, 200 breast – 2:13.67

Harter should project as a really good IMer, with her outstanding times in the short-axis strokes. Butterfly and breaststroke aren’t a great NCAA combo, but Harter could be a very good fly/IM type in the NCAA. Her senior year drops were mostly confined to long course. In butterfly, she went from 1:00/2:13 to 59.6/2:11.8. Harter also had very good junior-year drops, so her improvement curve was on a really good track before all of the COVID cancellations. (Her 2019 bests mostly came at NCSAs). Here’s a great 400 IM where Harter (lane 6, white cap, towards the top) jumps out on the field with her really efficient, quick-breath butterfly, though you see how backstroke is probably the thing holding back her 400 IM for the time being.

14. Gabi Albiero (Previous Rank: #16) – Cardinal Aquatics – Christian Academy – Louisville, KY **Verbally committed to Louisville**
Best Times: 100 fly – 51.97, 200 fly – 1:55.82, 50 free – 22.36, 100 free – 49.32, 200 free – 1:48.13

Albiero was kind of an upside-type prospect in our early ranks, with good 100 fly speed and a developing 200. She went from 2:01 to 1:57 in the 200 fly as a sophomore, then hit somewhat of a wall as a junior before bursting through again with a 1:55.8 at Winter Juniors last December. Albiero also made huge strides in her 50 free, moving towards the top of the class there and projecting firmly as a sprint fly/free type. Here’s her liftime-best 100 fly, though it’s more than a year old. (Lane 2, black cap). Albiero is powerful and pretty polished with her wall timing and pacing, closing this race really well compared to the field.

15. Janelle Rudolph (Previous Rank: 19) – King Aquatic Club  Bellevue High School – Bellevue, WA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.29, 100 free – 48.27, 200 free – 1:46.33, 200 IM – 1:56.65, 100 back – 52.44, 100 fly – 53.26, 100 breast – 1:01.75, 200 back – 1:54.02

Rudolph is tremendously versatile, with outstanding 100s of all four strokes, plus a great 200 IM and 50 free. Her sprint free times probably pop off the page best – they’re going to have a lot of relay impact, and both sit within tenths of NCAA scoring level individually. Rudolph is also a great backstroker at both distances, and her 100 fly cut from 56.1 to 53.2 this year. Last year, she hit lifetime-bests in the 50/100/200 free, 100/200 back, and 200 IM at a spring sectional meet that was canceled this year, so Rudolph very well may have ranked higher had we had a normal year of swimming. Here’s a 100 free that isn’t even her career-best (lane 5, white cap) – Rudolph attacks her turns extremely well and has good arm speed, without necessarily having a difference-making flutter kick yet.

16. Chase Travis (Previous Rank: #14) – Nation’s Capital Swim Club – Newark, DE **Verbally committed to Virginia Tech**
Best Times: 1650 free – 16:05.44, 1000 free – 9:31.84, 500 free – 4:41.71, 200 free – 1:49.38

Travis is the premiere distance swimmer in this class, but she gets boxed out a little bit just based on the relay options for pretty much everyone above her. Travis’s best is just two seconds off NCAA scoring level in the mile and only about three seconds off in the 500. Travis didn’t have a lot of time drops as a senior, but shaved a few hundredths off her 500 free and improved her long course times in the 1000 and 1500 last summer as part of the U.S. World Junior Championships team. Here’s an older race video, with Travis in lane 1 (the second lane from the bottom) in the white suit and cap. There’s a little bounce in her stroke that gets more pronounced as the swim goes on, but she doesn’t lose arm speed across the very long swim.

17. Kathryn Ackerman (Previous Rank: #13) – Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics – Grand Haven High School – Grand Haven, MI **Verbally committed to Michigan**
Best Times: 400 IM – 4:07.79, 200 IM – 1:57.25, 200 back – 1:54.37, 200 free – 1:47.17

Purely on short course times alone, Ackerman is a better IM prospect than Weyant, with a slightly slower 400 but a much-faster 200. Ackerman isn’t a bad long course swimmer by any means, either, going 4:46.0 in the 400 IM. It’s been well over a year since Ackerman saw any IM time drops, though, which is a concern that goes beyond just missing this spring’s meets. Ackerman does swim some pretty crowded meet lineups (at Winter Juniors, she went 50/100/200 free, 200/400 IM and 200 back, plus relays), so a switch to college and more specialization might be just what she needs. Here’s Ackerman in lane 2 in the blue cap hitting that 4:07 IM in 2018. Her legs really drop off on backstroke, but she closes well on free, and butterfly looks very smooth for most of that first leg.

18.  Samantha Pearson (Previous Rank: HM) – SOCAL Aquatics Association – Foothill High School / Irvine, CA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.51, 200 free – 1:45.85, 100 free – 48.92, 50 free – 22.50, 200 IM – 1:57.51, 200 back – 1:54.83, 400 IM – 4:16.35

Pearson was a rangy sprinter in our last ranks, but a drop from 54 to 52.5 in butterfly might make that her primary event. Pearson has had good drops this year, including most of those personal-bests at Sectionals in late February. She’s actually had pretty consistent drops across all three years of our ranks, and that kind of steady improvement is a reassuring sign for continued progress. Pearson should be a relay weapon between fly and free. With her best times mostly coming at Sectionals, there are not a lot of great recent race videos. This older Junior Nationals race shows Pearson’s career-best 100-meter free, though, from lane 5 with the silver cap. Pearson has a great flutter kick and really does her work on the surface of the water, so she’ll have to improve those underwaters to really take off in the NCAA.

19. Katherine “KitKat” Zenick (Previous Rank: N/A) – North Texas Nadadores – Carroll Senior High – Southlake, TX **Verbally committed to Ohio State**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.53, 50 free – 22.30, 100 free – 48.81, 200 free – 1:49.45

Zenick is very similar to Pearson, with a little more trend towards the sprints and a little less versatilty beyond free and fly. She’s had very good drops, including a full second in the 100 fly and half a second in the 50 free since last year. Here’s her giant 100 fly drop, in lane 4 in the green suit and white cap. Zenick has a really natural butterfly, efficient with a quick breath and a really good snap on both her up-kick and down-kicks. Zenick is also 1:00.5 in long course fly, which is a nice time to be this deep in the rankings.

20. Maxine Parker (Previous Rank: #15) – Cats Aquatic Team – New Canaan, CT  **Verbally committed to Georgia**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.20, 100 free – 48.99, 200 free – 1:46.21

Parker is very much a pure freestyler at this point, but her mix of speed from 50 to 200 makes her a great prospect across any of the five relays. She didn’t drop much as a senior (her only drop in those three listed events was a cut of 0.2 in the 50), but her long course 50 crushed from 25.2 to 24.7 en route to World Juniors silver. Here’s the semifinals of that race (lane 3, black cap), which show Parker’s strength and how well she keeps her fingertips down and elbow high from the top of the stroke to the bottom, moving a lot of water with her arm catch.



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.

Paige Hetrick (Previous Rank: #14) – Bradford Family YMCA–  Bradford, PA **Verbally committed to Louisville**
Best Times: 100 back – 52.83, 200 back – 1:53.09, 200 free – 1:45.73, 100 free – 49.13, 50 free – 22.80, 500 free – 4:47.68

Another very good backstroker who just doesn’t quite make the list. Freestyle is a nice crossover stroke that could provide some additional relay options. 56.4 long course freestyle is solid, too.

Emma Atkinson (Previous Rank: #20) – Germantown Academy Aquatic Club – Germantown Academy – Brookhaven, PA **Verbally committed to Virginia Tech**
Best Times: 100 back – 52.80, 200 back – 1:53.77, 200 free – 1:45.77, 100 free – 49.73

Atkinson is very similar to Hetrick – a great backstroke prospect in this deep backstroke class. And she’s a fast riser with almost a second dropped in her 200 free as a senior.

Isabel Gormley (Previous Rank: HM) – Asphalt Green Aquatics – New York, NY – **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 400 IM – 4:08.80, 500 free – 4:45.58, 200 free – 1:48.04, 200 IM – 1:59.05, 200 fly – 1:58.38

Gormley is a great 400 IMer who had a smash summer, going from 4:45.0 to 4:39.1 in the long course 400 IM and winning silver at World Juniors.

Megan Deuel (Previous Rank: N/A) – Pack Swim Team of Pittsford – Pittsford High School – Pittsford, NY **Verbally committed to Notre Dame**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.95, 200 fly – 1:55.70, 100 back – 53.82

A fast-rising butterflier who is already in NCAA invite range in the 200 fly after dropping 2.2 seconds as a senior.

Nicole Oliva (Previous Rank: N/A) – Peak Swimming – St. Francis High School – Santa Clara, CA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:46.32, 500 free – 4:42.51, 1000 free – 10:01.25, 1650 free – 16:28.13, 100 back – 53.71

Oliva has pretty interesting range – a 200 freestyler who can swim all the way up to the mile with some of the better prospects in the class.

Ella Ristic (Previous Rank: N/A) – Irvine Novaquatics – Santa Margarita Catholic High School – Laguna Niguel, CA **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:45.66, 500 free – 4:46.68, 100 free – 49.24

Ristic is in the same ballpark as Oliva, but trends downward to the sprints a little more. Both are great long course swimmers, too, and both missed their high school seasons in California.

Chloe Stepanek (Previous Rank: N/A) – Long Island Aquatic Club – Northport High School – Northport, NY **Verbally committed to Texas A&M**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:45.51, 100 free – 48.76, 50 free – 22.87, 500 free – 4:48.62

Completing the spectrum here, Stepanek is the sprintiest of the final three prospects, but shows tremendous range from 50 to 500.



New this year: this isn’t an exhaustive list, but we can rattle off a few of the athletes we studied who wound up just outside the top 20 in each event discipline. For the purposes of space, we won’t include every top event for these athletes, but just a few of their standouts. Each of these athletes is still an extremely high-level recruit:


Feeling nostalgic? Here’s a look back at our recruiting class rankings over the past 7 recruiting classes, plus our retrospective of the first class we ranked after 4 years in the NCAA:

Recruiting Class
High School Class of 2022 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores
High School Class of 2021 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores Ranks as Juniors
High School Class of 2020 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores Ranks as Juniors Re-Rank As Seniors
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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3 years ago

Where does Mona McSharry stack up on this list? Incoming from Ireland to Tennessee. Times convert to:

50 free 22.1
100 free 48.9
100 breast 58.6

This class is special!

Reply to  VFL
3 years ago

She would make top 10 IMO. 58.6 is no joke.

3 years ago

No one has asked the $64,000 question. Will the Bacon sizzle in the women’s 100m backstroke at the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials and leave Baker and Smoliga in the dust?

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
3 years ago

Bacon’s underwaters are like Cody Millers pullout….shes gonna get called one day is shes not careful.

Reply to  Ervin
3 years ago

What’s wrong with them?

Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

Still no reply? Cody Miller specializes in the breaststroke. I am not sure how this applies to the backstroke?

Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

I’m guessing that she tends to push them to or past the 15m mark

3 years ago

Looking back at the 2016 Rio Olympics, two swimmers (DiRado, Ledecky) from the U.S. Olympic delegation swam three individual events while no one swam four individual events. Thus, I predict Regan Smith will only swim three individual events (100 BK, 200 BK, 200 FL) at the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials. Regan Smith’s 100 FL does not currently stack up to Sjostrom, MacNeil, Ikee. Besides, how much is too much?

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
3 years ago

1/2 free for the relays?

Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

As long as she is on team, she can swim prelims in Tokyo. Remember who the head women’s coach will be

Reply to  Ghost
3 years ago

That’s Pan Pacs

Reply to  Nswim
3 years ago

Nope anyone on roster can swim prelims of relay. Coaches discretion

Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

Check the schedule of events.

The women’s 200m butterfly final is during the same session as the women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay final. Furthermore, Regan Smith’s personal best in the women’s 200m freestyle is 1:58.44 (14 Jun 2019 at the 2019 Counsilman Classic). Sub 1:56.00 is the new standard after the United States choked to Australia in the women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay at the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships and the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

GA Boy
3 years ago

1 question: aren’t all of these athletes now signed and no longer verbally committed?

Also go Tristen! Way to rep Georgia!

Reply to  GA Boy
3 years ago

My fellow Georgian – Did you notice my comment below?

3 years ago

Would Regan make the top 20 for the dudes? Esp. With the long course times lol

Reply to  Swimmerj
3 years ago

I haven’t fleshed it out, but no I don’t think so.

Speedy PG
Reply to  Jared Anderson
3 years ago

It would definitely be closer long course though.

Reply to  Swimmerj
3 years ago

The only one I think that might’ve done that would be Ledecky

CT swim
3 years ago

Maxine Parker no longer lives in CT

3 years ago

Just curious – shouldn’t most of these athletes be listed as “signed” rather than “verbally committed?” I know that the Virginia NLIs were announced via Twitter. All 5 have signed.

3 years ago

I think Gracie Felner flipped from Cal to Bama

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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