Revisiting NCAA Recruit Rankings: Women’s High School Class of 2013

Each summer, college swimming fans look forward to recruiting – the lifeblood of any NCAA swim program. Since 2012, we’ve been ranking down the top NCAA prospects in the nation from each recruiting class. But sports are inherently unpredictable, and even the most sure-fire prospect can go awry or completely change their role over four years.

2017 offers us our first chance to look backwards at the first class we ever ranked and see how they stacked up over four years of college swimming.

First, a few notes:

  • Most of the data we’re tracking here deals with NCAA scoring. Obviously, some swimmers are great assets for their teams in dual meets and conference competition without ever being national factors. While we don’t discount the impact of those types of swimmers, the difference in competition between various teams’ dual meet schedules and conference meets makes NCAA scoring the best “apples to apples” comparisons between swimmers.
  • Relays are another point of contention, as a swimmer in a strong program has more opportunity for NCAA relays, though they also have more competition for those relay spots. We’ve mostly left relay results out of the data below, except where specifically indicated. That, too, gives us a more fair comparison between athletes.
  • We did our best to scour NCAA results over the past four years, but it’s certainly possible we made a mistake in compiling our data. If you spot an error, please respectfully let us know in the comment section so we can update our work!

Since our annual recruit rankings only take into account domestic recruits, the following analysis won’t include international swimmers. We’ve found that determining when international students will come to the U.S. or officially start their NCAA eligibility is too unpredictable. Fitting swimmers into specific recruiting classes is often a patchwork effort, so we’ve only included domestic swimmers in this data.

Revisiting Our Top 10

Check out this post for our analysis of the top 10 recruits in the high school class of 2013. Bear in mind that this was posted in July of 2012, when recruiting season opened on these swimmers prior to their senior year of high school. It’s quite a throwback, with the headline photo featuring a braces-wearing Missy Franklin in a Colorado Stars cap.

Here’s a look at our top 10 recruits, plus how many individual points they scored at NCAAs in each of their four years:

Rank Name College Team Total NCAA Points 2014 NCAA Points 2015 NCAA Points 2016 NCAA Points 2017 NCAA Points
1 Missy Franklin Cal 113 53 60 N/A N/A
2 Lia Neal Stanford 143 33 33 46 31
3 Emily Cameron Georgia 41 0 10 22 9
4 Kristen Vredeveld Cal 2 0 0 0 2
5 Olivia Smoliga Georgia 171 38 33 49 51
HM Chelsea Chenault USC 48 8 29 11 0
HM Celina Li Cal 51 27 13 11 0
HM Rachel Zilinskas Georgia 34 7 24 3 0
HM Leah Smith Virginia 178 25 52 53 48
HM Kaitlyn Jones Virginia 32 7 0 9 16

A few big takeaways:

  • Missy Franklin was always the big fish of this class. In her two years of collegiate swimming, she scored more points (at least from our research) than all but three other swimmers in the class. She was also a relay weapon and was a massive game-changer during her two seasons, and probably could have scored more individually had Cal not asked her to swim the 100 and 500 frees as a freshman.
  • It’s hard to overstate what Lia Neal meant to Stanford. She racked up 30+ points individually every year, but was also a 4-relay swimmer pretty much her entire career. And listening to her coaches and teammates talk at NCAAs a few weeks ago, her leadership appears highly regarded. Much like Franklin, Neal also seemed to be key in setting up a recruiting explosion in the following years for both programs. Neal also led all swimmers in this class with 9 NCAA titles, all of them from relays.
  • Cal pulled two more from the top 10. Kristen Vredeveld had a slow start but eventually became a key relay player who even won a national title on a 200 free relay. Celina Li kind of went the opposite direction, coming in extremely NCAA-ready but dropping off in points over each of her four years.
  • Georgia nabbed three of the top 10, the start of today’s still-present trend of Stanford, Georgia and Cal mostly stockpiling our top 10/20 recruits. #5 Olivia Smoliga wound up the most productive of the bunch, scoring 171 points and winning 3 NCAA titles. Rachel Zilinskas was often tasked with the rough 1650 free/200 back double, but still rolled up 34 national points. Meanwhile Emily Cameron was a staple in the IMs over her career.
  • USC’s Chelsea Chenault dropped a little after not competing at NCAAs her senior year, but was a major relay piece for the Trojans beyond her individual contributions.
  • Virginia took two of our honorable mentions and got plenty of bang for their buck. Leah Smith turned out to be the biggest individual scorer of anyone in this class while winning 4 NCAA titles. And had Katie Ledecky turned pro out of high school, Smith would have added several more titles in her senior year. It’s hard to fault a swimmer for happening to run up against a machine like Ledecky. Meanwhile Kaitlyn Jones was a pretty steady force, finishing with her best outing in her senior year.

NCAA Titles (Relay & Individual) Among Top Class of 2013 Recruits:

Swimmer NCAA titles (Ind or Rel)
Missy Franklin 7
Lia Neal 9
Emily Cameron 0
Kristen Vredeveld 1
Olivia Smoliga 3
Chelsea Chenault 1
Celina Li 0
Rachel Zilinskas 0
Leah Smith 4
Kaitlyn Jones 0

Other Impactful Swimmers in the High School Recruiting Class of 2013

Of course, not every contributor comes from our top 10 list. Some swimmers develop extremely well in college. Some swimmers slip under our radar, or don’t really show their ability until their senior year of high school, after our rankings come out.

We dug through NCAA results to find the best American swimmers from this class to not appear on our top 10 list. Again, it’s not always easy to account for redshirt years, gap years or mistakes in an athlete’s listed class each season. So if we forgot anyone, respectfully let us know in the comments!

Note: We tracked these athletes based on individual All-America honors, or finishes inside the NCAA’s top 8 in any given individual event in any given year:

Individual NCAA A Final (Or Top 8) Appearances, High School Class of 2013

Name Team Total: 2014 2015 2016 2017
Madisyn Cox Texas 6 2 1 3
Lindsey Clary Ohio State 4 3 1
Sarah Gibson Texas A&M 4 2 2
Danielle Valley Florida/Wisconsin 3 1 2
Hellen Moffitt UNC 3 1 2
Andee Cottrell Louisville 3 1 2
Danielle Galyer Kentucky 3 1 1 1
Gia Dalesandro Indiana 2 1 1
Kayla Brumbaum NC State 2 2
Katharine Ross Missouri 2 1 1
Emily Escobedo UMBC 2 1 1
Anika Apostalon SDSU/USC 2 1 1
Chelsea Britt FSU/Georgia 2 2
Emma Sougstad Iowa 1 1
Tasija Karosas Texas 1 1
Ashley Neidigh Auburn 1 1

Texas’s Madisyn Cox was the big star here, making 6 A final appearances and scoring all of 105 points individually. Like Will Licon on the men’s side, Cox is a product of some massive improvements through college. Here’s where she was at in July of 2012 when we ranked this class:

Madisyn Cox As Of July 2012

  • 400 IM: 4:26.03
  • 200 IM: 2:00.39
  • 200 breast: 2:14.89

That means she cut nine seconds in her 200 breast, eight in her 200 IM and more than 25 in her 400 IM over the next five years.

Texas A&M’s Sarah Gibson really came along, especially after switching from distance freestyle to butterfly during her junior year. Ohio State’s Lindsey Clary was another distance-to-mid-distance swimmer who flourished in this class, along with Florida-to-Wisconsin transfer Danielle ValleyThe best-rising strokers of the class were Hellen Moffitt (fly/back for UNC), Andee Cottrell (breaststroke for Louisville) and Danielle Galyer (backstroke for Kentucky). Galyer even won the 2016 NCAA title in the 200 back, the only American high school swimmer not in our top 10 recruits to win an individual NCAA title in this class.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeff K
4 years ago

Who were recruits 6-10? The headline says Top 10, but if I’m reading this correctly it’s Top 5 and some specifically selected Honorable Mentions. It would be interesting to see how the 6-10 positions fared. 1-5 did reasonably well with one exception.

Reply to  Jeff K
4 years ago

Jeff K – the “honorable mentions” were effectively 6-10 at the time.

4 years ago

“Texas A&M’s Sarah Gibson really came along” Indeed. And not just her drops in the fly. Her best times in the freestyle events in high school were:


Those dropped to:


4 years ago

Hellen Moffitt has really seen a lot of success compared to her high school days…

Best hs times: 55.0 100 fly/55.3 100 back/1:59.0 200 back

Best college times: 50.3 fly/50.9 100 back/1:51.6 200 back

Those are some crazy drops. Clearly they’re doing something right at UNC!

Reply to  Swimfan
4 years ago

No…. she is just a work horse. Considering how many times they have turned over coaches, it clearly has zero to do with the program.

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 …

Read More »