It’s that time of year again where we at SwimSwam rank out the top 20 high school swimming prospects in the upcoming NCAA recruiting class.
But this time, there’s a twist. With verbal commitments pouring in earlier and earlier, our annual recruit rankings series is expanding. Today’s post is the traditional: we rank the top 20 juniors in the nation, the ones who will technically open recruiting season on July 1 (though at this rate, 90% of them might be verbally committed by then). But stay tuned to our college recruiting channel for two new additions to our recruit rankings. We’ll also rank out the top swimmers in the current sophomore class – AKA the ones who won’t technically open recruiting season for acanother 14 months, but some of whom have actually already started giving out verbal commitments. And, because we know how much it means to fans (and because we miss that bleary-eyed feeling after hours of poring through times, progressions, our own age group coverage, meet results, records and any information we can dig up on heights, wingspans, non-swimming athletic performance and coaching comments), we’ll also be going back through and re-ranking our high school Class of 2018 – the current seniors who will join the NCAA next year, and whom we ranked in this very post a year ago.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at this class as a whole, then review our ranking methodology (please read it before you get upset about how low the top miler is ranked!) and get into our rankings.
- Not an immediate-impact class…
- …but extremely fast-rising
- Deep class of backstrokers, especially in the 200
- Great breaststroke class
- More swimmers geared for 200s stroke
- Thin butterfly class
- Year of the Jack
Similar to the girls side, this is going to be a more developmental class than previous years. There’s not a Reece Whitley/Drew Kibler/Ryan Hoffer at the top. In fact, this is the first men’s class we’ve ever ranked without a single NCAA scoring time in the field in any event. That’s partially a product of how insanely fast the NCAA has gotten (and how much it’s favoring stronger, older, more developed athletes), but also means that this class, more than those before it, will be defined by how college coaches are able to improve these recruits at the college level.
That said, I’m not sure there’s been a class with more “fast risers” in it than this one. As we researched this group, it was shocking how many of the top names are coming off absurdly huge time drops in their key events. Without any scoring times (and only a handful of NCAA invite times) in the mix, we were forced to rely more heavily on improvement curves in projecting this class. And while none of these guys is a surefire NCAA standout yet, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a couple historically good swimmers develop out of this group based on their trajectories.
On to specifics: the only events where this class’s top swimmer is faster than the Class of 2018 are both backstrokes and both butterflys (courtesy entirely of Brendan Burns) and the 400 IM, where Jake Foster is about four tenths faster than last year’s national leader. This is a pretty thick class of backstrokers, particularly in the 200. In fact, it feels an awful lot like our Class of 2017, which was dominated by 200 types that weren’t household names but developed into impact players as freshmen. (Think Bryce Mefford, Sam Pomajevich, Trenton Julian, Nicolas Albiero and Daniel Carr, all of whom were in our top 20 that year).
If there’s one place this class is strong, it’s breaststroke. There’s not one Reece Whitley-tier star in the field, but a disproportionate number of 53-54/1:55-1:56 type guys. On the flip side, butterfly is top-heavy but thin. Burns (46/1:42) is a standout, but there isn’t a ton behind him, and most of the other good flyers are one-distance guys who specialize in other races (Jack Dolan, Ethan Harder, Noah Bowers).
And in a less swimming-centric note, 2019 will be the Year of the Jacks. We’ve got 3 Jacks and a Jake in our top 10. Does it have anything to do with the fact that most of these guys were born within a few years of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Jack in Titanic? Who knows. I’m just a swimming guy; that’s outside of my wheelhouse.
|Top Times In the Class of 2019|
|50 Free||Jack Dolan||19.62|
|100 Free||Jack Walker||43.52|
|200 Free||Jack Walker||1:33.73|
|500 Free||Ross Dant||4:18.89|
|1000 Free**||Ross Dant||8:57.37|
|1650 Free||Ross Dant||14:50.97|
|100 Back||Brendan Burns||46.24|
|200 Back||Brendan Burns||1:42.17|
|100 Breast||Caspar Corbeau||53.42|
|200 Breast||Jake Foster||1:55.40|
|100 Fly||Brendan Burns||46.61|
|200 Fly||Brendan Burns||1:42.94|
|200 IM||Jake Foster||1:44.15|
|400 IM||Jake Foster||3:45.46|
**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.
Key Point: 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.
TOP 10 SWIMMERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2019
1. Jake Foster – Mason Manta Rays – St. Xavier High School – Montgomery, OH **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:44.15, 400 IM – 3:45.46, 200 breast – 1:55.40, 100 breast – 53.46, 100 free – 44.72, 200 free – 1:37.85, 500 free – 4:21.83
It’s hard for a college coach to pass up the versatility of the class’s best 400 IMer, and Foster is the best IMer in the class by a wide margin. He’s also coming off a great Winter Juniors where he dropped his 400 IM from 3:49 to 3:45 and his 200 IM from 1:47 to 1:44. Foster is also the best breaststroker in a good breaststroke class, and his freestyle is good enough to be a possible relay factor there as well. Also under consideration: getting Jake Foster played a strong role in the commitment of his younger brother Carson, who should be a top-5 recruit in the Class of 2020.
2. Brendan Burns – Upper Mainline YMCA – Conestoga High School – Berwyn, PA **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:42.94, 100 fly – 46.61, 200 back – 1:42.17, 100 back – 46.24, 200 IM – 1:47.20, 200 free – 1:36.01, 100 free – 44.16, 50 free – 20.09
Burns is definitely the most versatile relay threat in the class at the moment. He’s got the best time in the class in both butterflys and both backstrokes, and is among the best in the 50 and 100 frees. What makes Burns most valuable, though, is how scary-fast he’s improving. He seems to be just figuring out the 200s – his 200 back hovered around 1:53 until last winter, when he broke through with a 1:44, and he cut another two seconds earlier this month. His 200 fly was a 1:48 heading into the year 2017, and he cut it down almost six seconds between YNats and Winter Juniors. He’s had a similar breakthrough in his 200 free (1:39.7 to 1:36.0 over two years) that should make him a five-relay prospect if his trajectory continues.
3. Jack Dolan – Rockwood Swim Club- Eureka High School – Wildwood, MO **Verbally committed to Arizona State**
Best Times: 50 free – 19.62, 100 free – 43.61, 200 free – 1:34.78, 100 fly – 46.81, 100 back – 47.10, 200 back – 1:43.42
The 6-foot-5-inch Dolan is far and away the best 50 freestyler in the class, and has elite range up to the 200. In the age of Ryan Hoffer and Caeleb Dressel, a 19.6 gets a little devalued, but bear in mind that Dolan is a better prospect right now than Dressel was after his junior year. (Dressel was 19.8/43.2/1:35.5, for reference). Dolan’s 100 has stagnated a bit since 2016, but his 200 has come down nicely and his 50 continues to shave off consistent time drops. He’s also a very good long course swimmer (23.2/50.3/1:50.7 last summer).
Walker is an outstanding freestyle specialist with range reminiscent of a Maxime Rooney. He’s got the class’s best 200 and 100 frees with solid swims on either side of those. His 200 is one of only two lifetime-bests in this class that would have earned a 2018 NCAA invite. Walker is positioned perfectly over the relay-distance freestyles that are so vital in the NCAA meet lineup, and he’s got the speed already to be a contributor on even some of the nation’s best 400 and 800 free relays. The only downside with Walker is that most of his best times come from 2016 Winter Juniors, and he went backwards pretty notably (1:34.9/44.5) at the 2017 edition.
5. Ross Dant – Hickory Foundation YMCA – Newton-Conover High School – Hickory, NC **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 1650 free – 14:50.97, 1000 free – 8:57.37, 500 free – 4:18.89, 200 free – 1:39.39, 200 back – 1:44.54, 400 IM – 3:53.10
Dant is by far the best distance swimmer in the class, and his mile is the only other NCAA invite time in this recruiting class at present. The plus for him is scarcity – we couldn’t find any other milers in the class within 18 seconds of Dant’s best time, and no 500s within a second. The downside is that there’s a pretty hard ceiling on NCAA impact for a guy who doesn’t really have a relay event in his wheelhouse. On the other hand, while Dant’s scoring ceiling might be lower, he’s also a safer bet to reach that ceiling. He’s had solid and consistent drops in his mile (15:04 in 2016, 14:57 last April, 14:53 in December of 2017, 14:50 earlier this month) and cut 4.4 seconds off his 500 from 2016 to 2017.
6. Caspar Corbeau – Tualatin Hills Swim Club – Sunset High School – Portland, OR **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 breast – 1:55.97, 100 breast – 53.42, 50 free – 20.14, 100 free – 43.78, 200 free – 1:38.10
Though he has dual citizenship and actually represents the Netherlands internationally, Corbeau still makes our list because he lives, trains and attends high school in Oregon. He’s one of those insanely fast risers we talked about, dropping from 1:59.9 to 1:55.9 in his 200 breast and 55.6 to 53.4 in his 100 breast over the past year or so. Corbeau has been even better in long course very recently (1:01.8/2:14 earlier this month), suggesting he’s got even more short course time drops in him. The other thing that makes Corbeau impressive for a breaststroker is that his freestyle times are among the best in the class. He could very easily become an Ian Finnerty/Nic Fink type who dominates breaststroke while contributing on free relays.
Wright looks like another diamond-in-the-rough. He doesn’t have the full complement of events yet to challenge the top six in the class, but it won’t be long before he does. He had never broken 1:40 in the 200 free until March of 2017, and by March of 2018, he’d gone 1:34.7. Same goes for his 100 free, which cut from 46.4 to 44.6 in early 2017 and has now rocketed to 43.5. Wright has also been 20.2 leading off a 200 free relay, but maybe more impressive is his anchor split of 19.6 from Winter Juniors. From race video, it looks like Wright has a ton of natural power and a brilliant closing burst, but he’s got plenty more time to drop with improvements to his walls.
8. Sean Conway – Nation’s Capital Swim Club – Loudoun Valley High School – Round Hill, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:49.60, 200 IM – 1:46.95, 200 back – 1:43.54, 100 free – 44.81, 200 free – 1:37.92
Conway is the second-best two-distance IMer in the class with a lot of versatility. He’s been steadily dropping his IM times since 2016, going from 1:50 down to 1:46 and 4:00 down to 3:49 with multiple moderate drops as opposed to one big one, which feels sustainable and promising for the future. It’s been his freestyle that’s improving fastest (46.5 to 44.8 since October), which bodes well for his relay value. He’s also got a 6-foot-6 frame that should give him high upside.
Tarvestad is one of only two sub-20 freestylers in this class, doing so this February after entering 2017 with a lifetime-best of 21.00. His 200 hasn’t improved as much as one might hope, but he’s clearly got the speed to be a two-event sprinter with range to four relays, even if his 200 free of 100 fly don’t come around.
Yet another fast-rising breaststroker. Pouch went from 2:02.5 to 1:56.47 over the course of 2017 in his 200 breast, while his 100 dropped from 57.7 to 54.8. If this class weren’t so thick with great breaststrokers, he might rank even higher. He doesn’t have a whole lot of event range (a 1:51 IM is probably his next-best race), but Pouch has been very fast in long course recently (1:03/2:14 in Mesa) and looks like a very good pure breaststroking prospect. Nevada’s high school state meet is still upcoming, too, which give him another chance to lower that 100 time.
11. Ethan Harder – Billings Aquatic Club – Billings Senior High School – Billings, MT **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:43.04, 100 back – 47.59, 200 fly – 1:46.80, 200 IM – 1:47.75, 400 IM – 3:51.09
Harder could develop any number of ways. He’s the second-best backstroker in the class, but also a very good IMer and a solid 200 flyer. Not a ton of relay value at this point, but his stroke range should make him a pretty sought-after recruit, especially for a program that can coach up his speed.
12. Noah Bowers – Virginia Gators – Patrick Henry High School – Roanoke, VA **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:46.77, 200 back – 1:44.46, 200 fly – 1:44.94, 100 fly – 47.91, 100 back – 47.94, 400 IM – 3:56.06, 100 free – 44.68
Another jack-of-all-trades, Bowers is a very good prospect in fly, back and IM. There are a lot of 1:43-1:44 backstrokers in this class, so his value is diminished a little there, but 47.9s in both fly and back rate pretty highly in this class. His 200 IM is probably his most intriguing event: he dropped from 1:50.4 to 1:46.7 at the end of 2017.
13. Jason Louser – Long Island Aquatic Club – Shoreham Wading River High School – Shoreham, NY **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:47.70, 200 IM – 1:48.20, 100 breast – 55.07, 200 breast – 1:59.32
In a class full of fast risers, Louser might be the fastest. His top times might look a little thin, but this rank is based a lot on potential after Louser dropped nearly ten full seconds at Winter Juniors in his 400 IM, going from 3:57 to 3:47. His 200 has also dropped from 1:51 to 1:48 in the past year with good drops in both breaststrokes. Louser is at least 6-foot-5 but still pretty thin, which should give him a lot of room to add strength to his frame. His times aren’t elite yet (though his 400 IM is one of the best in the class), but his ceiling looks extremely high.
14. Noah Henderson – Star Aquatics – Western Alamance High School – Gibsonville, NC **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 100 fly – 47.25, 200 fly – 1:46.89, 50 free – 20.21, 100 free – 44.98, 100 back – 48.58
Henderson is one of the top flyers in the class, and slanted more towards the sprints which ups his relay value. He’s had a great 2018, with lifetime-bests in all five listed events so far this year. That includes a drop of 1.5 seconds in his 100 fly since March of 2017.
15. Jonah Cooper – Pleasanton Seahawks- Foothill High School – Pleasanton, CA **Verbally committed to Ohio State**
Best Times: 100 back – 46.96, 200 back – 1:45.50, 100 free – 44.38, 200 free – 1:37.11, 50 free – 20.50, 100 fly – 48.66
In a deep class of 200 backstrokers, Cooper is one of the better 100-yard swimmers. He’s got nice range into the relay-distance freestyle events as well. Cooper is a great physical prospect with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a nearly 6-foot-4 frame. With California’s high school postseason upcoming, Cooper could improve quite a few of these times before his junior year ends.
A great 50 free is always going to get you places in the NCAA, and Schutte has one of the class’s best. He doesn’t have tremendous range or versatility, but he has speed – the most valuable commodity in the relay-heavy NCAA. Schutte’s 100 continues to improve, and he’s got great long course speed (23.0) as well. He’s split as fast as 19.29 on a rolling-start in the 50 free, which slides in to almost any relay in the NCAA immediately.
17. Shane Blinkman – St. Croix Swim Club – Hudson High School – Hudson, WI **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:46.03, 100 breast – 54.96, 200 breast – 2:00.92, 100 back – 48.81, 200 back – 1:47.08, 400 IM – 3:58.24
Blinkman has the class’s second-best 200 IM, which should make him a great recruiting value, though he doesn’t yet have a good 400 to back it up. His very solid breaststroke speed gets a little devalued in a deep class, and he also gets bumped down just slightly because his marquee 200 IM has plateaued since 2016.
18. Michael Petrides – Kamehameha Swim Club – Mid Pacific Institute – Honolulu, HI **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:36.25, 100 free – 44.36, 500 free – 4:20.07, 1000 free – 9:13.13, 200 IM – 1:48.73, 400 IM – 3:55.42
Petrides is a rangy freestyler from Hawaii who could theoretically develop anywhere from the 100 to the mile. His 500 seems to be dropping fastest, from 4:26 in 2016 to 4:23 last year to 4:20.0 already this year.
Best Times: 50 free – 20.00, 100 free – 44.10
Stensby is very much a drop-dead sprinter focused in on the 50 and 100. But what he does, he does as well as almost anybody in the class. He’s also a solid long course sprinter and is the first swimmer to sweep the 50 and 100 at the Illinois high school state meet since Ryan Held in 2014.
Yet another high-level breaststroker with an insane trajectory. Myhre was 2:07 in the 200 until this March, when he went 2:02, 2:00, 2:02, 2:01 and 1:59 over the course of two weeks. He’s also got one of the best 100s in the class.
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.
- Will Barao (Bluefish Swim Club / Hingham, MA) – A very good mile and 1000 (15:08/9:02), but has a ways to go in the 500 (4:24). Another casualty of the NCAA format’s undervaluing of distance swimmers. **Verbally committed to Notre Dame**
- Kimani Gregory (Race X Aquatics / Penn Hills Senior High / Pittsburgh, PA) – one of the class’s best 100 frees (43.7), but hasn’t yet developed great range around it (1:40.6 in the 200, 20.4 in the 50). Also a good butterflyer (48.0). **Verbally committed to NC State**
- Hunter Tapp (Lakeside Swim Team / Trinity High School / Louisville, KY) – another great 100 freestyler without as much range around it (43.9/20.4/1:38.8). Hasn’t repeated that 43.9 yet, but will probably rise if he cracks 44 again. **Verbally committed to NC State**
- Gavin Olson (Foothills Swim Team / Columbine High School / Littleton, CO) – a very good 200 backstroker (1:43.40/48.0) training at elevation, Olson just gets crowded out in a really deep class in his stroke. **Verbally committed to Minnesota**
- Peter Larson (Edina Swim Club / Edina High School / Bloomington, MN) – very good at a lot of things, but not quite good enough at one of them to crack our top 20. Larson also gets crowded out in his best event (1:43.5 200 back), but has 48.6 speed in the 100 back, plus 20.4/44.8/1:36.2/4:24 range in freestyle and a 3:56 IM. **Verbally committed to Texas**
Feeling nostalgic? Here’s a look back at our recruiting class rankings over the past 5 recruiting classes, plus our retrospective of the first class we ranked after 4 years in the NCAA: