It’s time for part 2 of our top-10 rankings, as we name the top 10 recruits in the class of 2014 on the women’s side, plus 10 honorable mentions.
Things aren’t as clear-cut in this year’s women’s class as they were last year, where Missy Franklin was our #1. The women’s class isn’t perhaps quite as strong as the class of 2013 either, but it’s still got a lot of talent, especially in terms of backstrokers and sprinting. Lead by Simone Manuel, who is one of the best young sprinters the United States has ever seen, coaches who need to fill out relays will have plenty of talent to look toward.
That’s balanced out by a few fantastic distance swimmers including Gillian Ryan from North Baltimore, who will be scoring huge points at NCAA’s almost immediately.
Just as we emphasized with the boys’ list, we weighed yards times a little heavier than meters times, considered relay potential heavily, and took into account scarcity in the class. We also didn’t consider how many friends a certain swimmer has in their rankings, so save the comments about “haters” and “giving love”.
Keep in mind that women’s swimmers will generally have a much, much bigger impact as freshman than male swimmers, so those early contributions are taken into account.
1. Simone Manuel, First Colony Swim Team, Sugar Land, Texas
Top 5 yards times: 47.73 100 free, 1:44.2 200 free, 22.04 50 free, 1:59.10 200 IM, 54.9 100 back
Manuel doesn’t swim high school, so much like our boy’s #1, her long course times have to maybe be given a little more weight than most swimmers. Not that it matters. She’s an absolute stud in any course. She holds all four sprint National Age Group Records for 15-16’s. She’s on the U.S. World Championship team (in both the 50 individually and the 100 as part of a relay). She’s got more versatility than anybody knows (sub-two minutes in the 200 IM). America desperately needs her to be a sprint freestyler and nothing else, though, so fans of the national level can root for her to go somewhere where they’ll let her be just that: a freestyler.
2. Janet Hu, NCAP, Vienna, Virginia
Top 5 yards times: 52.0 100 back, 1:53.4 200 back, 22.1 50 free, 52.0 100 fly, 1:55.7 200 fly
Janet Hu is the do-anything girl in this class. She shocked a lot of people when she popped-off National Age Group Record swims in the 50 free and 100 fly in December at Winter Nationals, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise. She’d been breaking records since she was an 11-12. Swimming out of the Tyson’s Corner NCAP site, Hu is a short-course star. She’s a 52.0 backstroker, a 52.0 butterfly, a 22.1 50 freestyler, a 48.6 100 freestyler, and three years ago was already going a 1:06 in the 100 breaststroke (though she’s largely given that event up). She could be just about anything in the right hands; places like Cal, North Carolina, Virginia, and Texas A&M have had success with swimmers of similar skill sets recently.
3. Kylie Stewart, Dynamo Swim Club, Atlanta, Georgia
Top 5 yards times: 1:50.6 200 back, 52.1 100 back, 1:45.2 200 free, 1:58.0 200 IM, 4:09.1 400 IM
It’s not been exactly a challenge on the women’s side of the pool to find capable, 53-second 100 backstrokers coming out of high school over the last few years. That’s still an impressive time for a high schooler, but they’ve been fairly common. Finding a 52-low/1:50-mid backstroker, however, is still something special. If a top program is trying to hold off Cal for National Championships over the next few years, Stewart could be a huge boon – in addition to the points she’ll actually score, she’s one of the few capable of knocking the Franklin/Bootsma/Pelton trio down a few spots at NCAA’s. She’s also a 48.9 100 yard freestyler.
4. Gillian Ryan, NBAC, Baltimore, Maryland
Top 5 yards times: 9:26 1000 free, 15:49 1650 free, 4:36.9 500 free, 1:45.2 200 free, 49.8 100 free
Distance swimmers don’t always have as much value to college coaches as sprinters do, but Ryan is too talented to ignore. Already a National distance champion, Ryan comes from the famed North Baltimore club. She’s a tailor-made Georgia recruit (from NBAC, freestyler), though we wouldn’t want to pigeon-hole her there. As an NBAC swimmer, she hasn’t done a ton of yards swimming (expect her to change that next year – with no Worlds qualifying, and after seeing a lot of NBAC swimmers pick up yards swimmers as they enter recruiting). That which she has done, though, has been incredible. She’s a 1:45.20 in the 200 free, an 4:36.99 in the 500 free, and a 15:49.7 in the 1650 free. That mile time would’ve been 3rd at NCAA’s last year. You can chalk her up for over 40 individual points as a freshman, a big boost on an 800 free relay, plus some potential for a 400 free relay (she’s been working on speed for her distance races). She was 3rd at the World Championship Trials in the individual 800, and 4th in the individual 1500.
5. Lindsey Engel, JCC Waves, Irvine, California
Top 5 yards times: 53.2 100 back, 22.2 50 free, 48.9 100 free, 53.3 100 fly, 1:58.02 200 fly
Engel made national headlines this past school year when she broke an ancient Dara Torres record. That wasn’t even her best performance in the 50 free, though, and she’s almost as good in the 100 backstroke. Engel has had a lot of success in yards so far, though hasn’t quite made the leap to contending for finals at the national level. She’s got a strong sprint progression – 23.9 at 13, 23.3 at 14, 23.0 at 15, and 22.2 at 16. She’s on the young end of the class too (summer birthday).
6. Jasmine Mau, Kamehameha Swim Club, Honolulu, Hawaii
Top 5 yards times: 52.7 100 fly, 1:56.6 200 fly, 54.4 100 back, 22.7 50 free, 49.0 100 free
Mau is the #2 butterflier in the class besides Danielle Nack, but comes in with a lot more versatility, which is why her overall rankings is higher. She’s shattered the Sectional, and Hawaiian Open, Records in the event. Mau is not very tall, but if there’s an event where we’ve been able to see more diminutive women excel, it’s the sprint butterflies (Yolane Kukla and Libby Trickett in Australia, and Noemie Thomas in Canada are good examples). The state of Hawaii has been producing a lot of really good butterfliers lately.
7. Meaghan Raab, Hershey Aquatic Club, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Top 5 yards times: 1:45.1 200 free, 1:57.8 200 IM, 49.0 100 free, 53.7 100 fly, 4:14.5 400 IM
Raab is really good in the 100 free and the 200 IM, and was the Junior Winters National Champion in the 200 free in December. She hasn’t shown a ton of drop since entering high school (her best time is still from the Pennsylvania State meet her sophomore year). Note that Raab lived in Knoxville, Tennessee for about a year when she was in junior high and trained with the Pilot Aquatic Club at the University of Tennessee.
8. Ally Howe, PASA, Palo Alto, California
Top 5 yards times: 52.3 100 back, 1:53.5 200 back, 53.1 100 fly, 1:57.7 200 fly, 1:58.2 200 IM
Howe reminds me a lot of Kendyl Stewart, who finished up a dynamite freshman season at USC this past year. Both are tall, though not overly-so in terms of elite swimming (right around 5’9″-5’10”); both are great backstrokers with some butterfly support. I see Howe developing into a very similar 100 back/100 fly/200 back swimmer wherever she ends up.
9. Danielle Nack, Mantas Swim Club, Mankato, Minnesota
Top 5 yards times: 52.4 100 fly, 22.8 50 free, 1:59.2 200 fly, 50.1 100 free, 1:48.3 200 free
Nack doesn’t have quite the versatility as a lot of swimmers on this list, but she is the best butterflier in the class, and along with Jasmie Mau is one of only two in the class who have been under 53 seconds. She looks like the type that will become more of a sprint freestyler rather than a distance butterflier (like Auburn’s Olivia Scott), but she’ll have some development work to do to add another event. Still, hard to ignore that 52.4, especially when she was 53.9 as a sophomore, 55.9 as a freshman, 58.4 the year before, and 1:04.2 the year before that. She’s coming on very strongly.
10. Bethany Galat, South Bend Swim Club, South Bend, Indiana
Top 5 yards times: 1:00.2 100 breast, 1:59.0 200 IM, 2:14.0 200 breast, 1:48.6 200 free, 55.4 100 fly
For the 2nd straight year, there’s a lack of depth on the women’s side in the breaststroke class. Nobody has suffered at the NCAA level (those races are as good as they’ve ever been), but most of the development has come from the college coaches, so coaches are looking for potential. Galat and California Heidi Poppe (1:00.3) are the class of the class; Galat has a little more going on in her secondary events outside of the 100 breaststroke, so she got the edge for our top 10. Next year’s class looks really good in this event.
Take special note of Gabby Sims, who had a fantastic junior season in Illinois. She’s got a twin sister Maddy, and their older brother Burke swam at Stanford. She is very tall, and could be a star. Also notice Brooke Lorentzen, a national-level open water swimmer who trains at Mission Viejo with the likes of Ashley Twichell and Chloe Sutton.
Honorable mentions, in no particular order: Courtney Weaver (MI), Cierra Runge (MD), Brooke Zieger (RI), Megan Kingsley (SC), Carolyn McCann (WA), Hannah Moore (NC), Clara Smiddy (FL), Brooke Lorentzen (CA), Mary Schneider (IL), Gabby Sims (IL)