From mid-season international additions, to domestic recruits coming early and even a late fifth-year returnee, some of the top NCAA programs in the country have received help this month with some new names joining the fold for the second semester.
Below we’ll take a look at the noteworthy additions and what kind of impact we can expect them to make during championship season.
Matt Sates, Georgia
The most high-profile mid-season addition is South African standout Matt Sates, who made his long-awaited arrival at the University of Georgia last week and is expected to make his Bulldog debut this Saturday against Emory.
Sates, a 2021 South African Olympian, had a phenomenal performance in October 2021 on the FINA World Cup circuit, grabbing hold of new World Junior Records in the SCM men’s 200 freestyle (1:40.65), 400 freestyle (3:37.92) and 200 IM (1:51.45).
Those swims make him an instant NCAA title challenger given their conversion to short course yards (see here), though it will be interesting to see what event lineup the 18-year-old eventually lands on with the 500 free and 200 IM conflicting on the Thursday of NCAAs.
Sates’ fourth-best event might be the 400 IM, but that also clashes with the 200 free on Friday. If he opted to swim one individual event per day, he’d probably land on the 100 free on Saturday, where he owns lifetime bests of 47.14/49.29 (SCM/LCM).
Whatever he ends up swimming, Sates will be a big-time scorer for the Bulldogs (likely 45+ NCAA points), and should also bolster them on the relays, specifically the 800 free where they’re already stacked with the likes of Jake Magahey and Luca Urlando.
Bryce Mefford, Cal
Mefford is the most well-known commodity among the second-semester additions, as the Cal Golden Bear officially rejoined the team’s roster last week as a graduate senior.
Mefford is coming off a breakout summer that saw him make the U.S. Olympic team in the men’s 200 backstroke, going on to finish fourth at the Tokyo Olympic Games in the event.
In the NCAA, Mefford scored 36 points at last season’s championships as a senior, placing third in the 200 back (1:38.31), eighth in the 100 back (45.52) and ninth in the 200 IM (1:41.86). He also contributed a 1:32.00 leg on the Bears’ 800 free relay that finished second.
All three of Mefford’s individual events are a bit more wide open this season after Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas, who swept the 100 back, 200 back and 200 IM last season, turned pro. Along with Cal sophomore Destin Lasco and fellow fifth-year Daniel Carr, Mefford projects to play a crucial role in those three events for the Bears as they vie to reclaim the men’s NCAA team title from Texas.
In his first meet of the season, Mefford clocked 47.44 in the 100 back and 1:44.04 in the 200 back in Cal’s dual against ASU, hitting an NCAA ‘B’ cut in the latter.
Denis Petrashov, Louisville
Petrashov is a huge in-season get for the Louisville Cardinals, as he has a wealth of experience including representing Kyrgyzstan at the last two Olympic Games.
Petrashov owns best times of 26.88/58.35/2:05.39 in the men’s 50/100/200 breaststroke in short course meters, and 27.92/1:00.23/2:10.07 in long course meters.
In his Louisville debut against Kentucky last weekend, the 21-year-old placed second in the 100 breast in a time of 52.87, and tied for fourth in the 200 breast in 1:59.80. He also split 24.12 on Louisville’s ‘B’ medley relay.
Joining forces with fellow Cardinal Evgenii Somov, Petrashov could give Louisville some extra scoring punch in the breaststroke events at NCAAs. His 100 breast PBs in meters both convert down into the 52-mid range, though given that he’s already been 52.8, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get under the 52.03 that scored at NCAAs last season. In the 200, his SCM time converts to 1:52.96, with it taking 1:53.32 to score at nationals last season.
Nicolas Garcia Saiz, Virginia Tech
Garcia Saiz joins the Hokies from Madrid after making the Olympic final last summer in the men’s 200 backstroke while representing Spain.
The 19-year-old established a best time of 1:56.35 in the 200 back in the semi-finals in Tokyo to make the final, which converts down to 1:42-mid in SCY, which feels conservative at best. His PB in the LC 100 back sits at 54.60, which translates over to 48.10.
With two VT meets now under his belt, Garcia Saiz has already been under that 100 back conversion, clocking 47.67 on Saturday against Penn State, while in the 200 back, he touched in 1:46.50.
Last season it took 45.53/1:41.08 to score in the backstroke events at NCAAs.
Alberto Mestre, Florida
Mestre, a former Stanford Cardinal, joins brother Alfonso and the rest of the Gators for the postseason with a ton of ability in the sprint freestyle events.
Mestre represented Venezuela at the Tokyo Olympic Games last summer, making the semi-finals in the men’s 50 freestyle where he finished 15th. He is the country’s national record holder in the LCM event with a time of 21.93.
In the short course pool, Mestre owns best times of 19.51/43.51/1:37.63 in the 50, 100 and 200 free. In his Florida debut, he clocked 20.21 in the 50 and 44.38 in the 100 free in the Gators’ victory over Auburn on Saturday.
He figures to be in the mix for a second swim in the 50 free at NCAAs (especially as someone who’s been sub-22 in LCM multiple times), and will also bolster Florida’s sprint free relays.
Kobe Ndebele, Texas (Redshirting Semester)
Ndebele, a South African native, committed to join the Longhorns in 2021 and was slated to join the team in the latter half of this season. However, he is redshirting the semester, a University of Texas spokesperson told SwimSwam, though he is on campus and in school.
In reality, Ndebele would be hard-pressed to make Texas’ NCAA roster this season, given the team’s unmatched depth, but he is a swimmer to watch for the Longhorns in future years. His current best times convert to 20.4/43.9/1:36.6 in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle, along with 48.6 in the 100 fly.
Rye Ulett, Louisville
Ulett’s arrival at Louisville was fast-tracked by a semester, as the top-10 recruit graduated high school early and joined the Cardinals, alongside sister Tristen Ulett, earlier this month.
Ulett made her Louisville debut on January 14 against Indiana, winning the women’s 100 back (53.29) and taking second in the 200 back (1:54.71) and 400 IM (4:15.70).
Last weekend against Kentucky, she improved her times in the 100 back (53.09) and 200 back (1:53.22), taking third and second, respectively, and also clocked 2:00.54 in the 200 IM. The 200 back time was also a new school record, lowering the 2016 mark of 1:53.61 set by Alina Kendzior.
Ulett owns best times of 52.87 in the 100 back, 1:51.84 in the 200 back and 1:58.73 in the 200 IM. Her 200 back time is right on the edge of qualifying for a spot in the championship final at NCAAs (last season it took 1:51.74 to make the ‘A’), and her 100 back time is within striking distance of cracking the top 16.
Nikonova made an immediate impact in her University of Florida debut over the weekend, winning the women’s 50 (22.58) and 200 freestyle (1:46.61) as the Gators cruised to victory over Auburn.
Nikonova, a Russian native, was a finalist in the women’s 100 free at the 2019 World Juniors, a bronze medalist in the 50 free at the 2019 European Juniors, and is coming off of picking up a 10th-place finish in the 200 free at the 2021 Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi.
Nikonova’s converted best times sit at 21.98/47.63/1:43.59 in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle, all likely to score inside the top eight at the NCAA Championships.
Another addition for the Gators is diver Elettra Neroni, an Italian native that, like Nikonova, has accrued plenty of international experience so far in her young career.
Neroni, 18, was a bronze medalist last month at the World Junior Diving Championships in the synchronized A/B 10m platform event, having also won silver with the same partner, Maia Bignielli, at the European Juniors earlier in the year.
In her UF debut against Auburn, Neroni placed second in the women’s 1-meter (280.50) and third in the women’s 3-meter (302.78) events. At the very least she should give the Gators a boost in diving points at SECs, and potentially NCAAs.
Caroline Pennington, USC
Pennington, who previously committed to swim at Virginia, joins USC for the Spring Semester with a ton of ability in the distance freestyle events.
In her Trojan debut, Pennington won the women’s 500 free (4:53.46) and 1000 free (9:56.73) against UC San Diego. Pennington, who was pegged as the 19th-ranked recruit in our HS Class of 2021 re-rank last Fall, has a best time capable of scoring in the top eight at NCAAs in the 1650 free (16:03.21) and is also a strong 500 freestyler with a PB of 4:43.46.
Brooke Schultz, South Carolina
Brooke was on Arkansas’ roster for the first semester, but didn’t compete, staying there to finish up her academics.
Schultz was the 2018 NCAA champion in the 3-meter dive and was named the SEC Diver of the Year in both 2018 and 2019. At last year’s SEC Championships, she scored 52 points, well above what South Carolina combined to score in the three diving events (18).
Her presence will give the Gamecocks a great chance to move up at SECs this season after taking 11th out of 12 teams last year.
In her South Carolina debut, Schultz won the 1-meter, 3-meter and contributed to the Gamecocks’ win in the team diving event, earning her SEC Diver of the Week honors.
Dominika Kossakowska & Ching Hwee Gan, Indiana
The Hoosiers add Dominika Kossakowska out of Poland and Ching Hwee Gan out of Singapore for the second semester.
Kossakowska, who was one of the Polish swimmers sent home from the Tokyo Olympic Games last summer due to an entry error, is a strong freestyler with best times of 54.0/1:56.2/4:13.8 in the SCM 100, 200 and 400 freestyle.
Through two meets with the Hoosiers, Kossakowska has recorded SCY times of 24.68, 51.06 and 1:47.32 in the women’s 50, 100 and 200 freestyle, along with times of 56.67 and 2:05.43 in the 100 and 200 fly.
Gan’s best events in LCM come in the 400 free (4:17.8), 800 free (8:44.6), 1500 free (16:39.7) and 400 IM (4:53.3). In her IU debut against Louisville, the Singapore native clocked 4:50.93 in the 500 free, 9:49.08 in the 1000 free, and 4:15.95 in the 400 IM.
Both swimmers will provide depth for the Hoosiers at Big Tens and could make a greater impact at some point down the line.
Nevada Adds Four
The University of Nevada women added four athletes to their swim & dive roster for the spring semester, all projected to be scorers at the 2022 Mountain West Championships.
Nagy, Wey and Piccinini will help Nevada out in the pool, while Heydra will bolster them on the boards. Read more on the four of them here.