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.

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Sven Hackmann
5 years ago

Particularly great to see the West Coast represented amongst the top!

Steve Nolan
5 years ago

oh god, this has been going on since 2012?!

Why am I so old; make it stop.

5 years ago

This is a great look back. Thanks SwimSwam for doing this. Now we should look back all the recruiting class. No need to wait until they are seniors.

5 years ago

113 in two years must be like a record for two years right? I wonder who’s the top all time individual event scorer, I’d assume Tom Shields is pretty darn high up

Reply to  Uberfan
5 years ago

Also Ryan Lochte is probably at the top or second

Reply to  Uberfan
5 years ago

I dug this up a while ago…Lochte’s individual NCAA finishes:

1650 – 8th
400 IM – 3rd
200 IM – 4th

200 IM – 3rd
400 IM – 1st
200 Fly – 9th

200 IM – 1st
100 Back – 2nd *although his medley relay leadoff would’ve put him 1st
200 Back – 1st

200 IM – 1st
400 IM – 1st
200 Back – 1st
* MR leadoff = NCAA record

204 points total?

Pau Hana
Reply to  Uberfan
5 years ago

Pablo Morales won 11 titles and was runner-up once. Don’t think anyone has ever gone 12 for 12.

Reply to  Pau Hana
5 years ago

That’s insane. 100 fly 200 fly and what else? Tom Shields nearly doubled in the 100 back and fly every year

Reply to  Uberfan
5 years ago

200 IM for Pablo. I think he overlapped in college with ’84 silver medalist Ricardo Prado.

The 200 relays weren’t added until ’88 or ’89, so I’m not certain how many of those he swam.

Reply to  Pau Hana
5 years ago

I believe Couglin was also 11/12.

Reply to  CraigH
5 years ago

I think you’re correct. What a fabulous career!! If I recall correctly, Natalie took second to Kirsten Coventry in the 200 Back once.

Reply to  Colin
5 years ago according to her bio she was 12 for 12 but that’s “only” the second most

Reply to  Pau Hana
5 years ago

If we equalize the scoring systems, Pablo is the winner. Though I’m not honestly sure how long the current scoring system has been in place (I’ll look into it this weekend). John Naber won 10 individual titles, 5 guys have won 9 individual titles.

5 years ago

Missy “took one for the team” with the 100 and 500, no doubt. But her 200 free record is certainly one of the most impressive NCAA swims ever, in my opinion. She was the queen of mid-distance swimming, and the 200 has always been the sweet spot.

Reply to  James
5 years ago

If you are talking about 200 free LCM then Missy Franklin’s personal best is around #20 among best performances. Hardly a queen. If you mentioned 200 free SCY then this event is much closer to 100 LCM and therefore hardly can be considered middle distance. That’s why nobody got surprised that there were two sprinters on podium this year. But the middle distance royalty like Leah Smith wasn’t even close.

Maya Fan
5 years ago

I like this career stats perspective because consistency is easy to miss since it’s often not “spectacular.” This highlights that Leah Smith and Smoliga have been consistently outstanding at NCAA’s, especially the latter on relays. Another swimmer who was very consistent, but often narrowly losing to bigger names like Hosszu, Levernz, and Beisel was Maya DiRado. She never finished lower than 5th in her 12 individual events in 4 years at NCAAs, never scored less than 47 points in any one year, and totaled 199 individual points in her career. Hosszu was more spectacular, winning 5 individual titles and scoring 203 career points, but she did fail to make an A final once, and finished 8th on another occasion. I’m… Read more »

On Fleek
5 years ago

If internationals were eligible, Farida Osman should imho be included in the “OTHER IMPACTFUL SWIMMERS IN THE HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITING CLASS OF 2013” category.

Her 49 points in individual events alone this year (three top 5 A finals finishes including taking the 100 fly title) plus her key RELAY contribution for Cal were outstanding!

Just mentioning Osman here as she is often overlooked compared to her higher profile collegiate competitors and even her own teammates.

Reply to  On Fleek
5 years ago

good point. just hard to get real yard times from international swimmers in high school

5 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
5 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 …

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