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 another 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.
- Super-sprinters abound
- Outstanding breaststrokers
- Relatively weak class in the other strokes
- Distance shortage
For the second year in a row, we’ve got a class really built around sprinters, and this class is more geared to the 50 than any before it. 22-second sprinters are becoming the norm, and while we count at least 14 swimmers under 23, we’ve only found four under 49 in the 100. Compare that to last year’s class, where we had seven different 48s ranked within our top 20.
While that’s a bummer for any team looking to quickly replenish its sprinting corps, there is plenty of raw speed to be found and molded into an all-around freestyle pieces. Kate Douglass is the fastest 50 freestyler we’ve ranked since the historic Class of 2015 (Ledecky/Weitzeil/Baker/McLaughlin/Bilquist/Eastin/King) and sits at the exact same time that Class of 2014 star Simone Manuel was when we ranked her #1 back in the summer of ’13.
The flip side of that is that this isn’t a great class of distance swimmers. It’s the first time in our history of ranking recruits that we haven’t had a miler under 16 minutes, and the class’s fastest miler this year is only a tick faster than a miler we ranked in our honorable mentions (between 20th and 30th in the class) last year.
All in all, this class still has its share of stars at the top, but it’s going to be a weaker class than we’ve been accustomed to. Where it’s strong is breaststroke: we’ve got three breaststrokers coming in with NCAA scoring times already, including the fastest 100 breaststroker we’ve ever ranked (Emily Weiss). And that strength trickles down into depth too – there are 1:00-1:01s and 2:10-2:12s aplenty.
In the other strokes, teams will be a bit more strapped to find immediate-impact swimmers. Katharine Berkoff is the best high school backstroker we’ve had since Claire Adams, but the dropoff behind her 51.9/1:51.4 speed is steep. There aren’t a ton of pure flyers, especially with the class’s best 100 flyer being better suited to breaststroke and IM. That’s a big contrast to last year, when the class was loaded with fly specialists and 200 fly types.
While Isabel Ivey‘s class-leading 200 IM is one of the best times we’ve seen in years, the rest of the class doesn’t have a lot of huge IM prowess, especially not in the 400. It’ll be up to college coaches to spot potential and coach up IMers, which may take some time.
|Top Times In The Class of 2019|
|50 Free||Kate Douglass||22.04|
|100 Free||Isabel Ivey||47.88|
|200 Free||Isabel Ivey||1:43.64|
|500 Free||Miranda Heckman||4:41.53|
|1000 Free**||Madelyn Donohoe||9:37.78|
|1650 Free||Madelyn Donohoe||16:01.60|
|100 Back||Katharine Berkoff||51.93|
|200 Back||Katharine Berkoff||1:51.40|
|100 Breast||Emily Weiss||58.40|
|200 Breast||Zoie Hartman||2:08.60|
|100 Fly||Coleen Gillilan||52.00|
|200 Fly||Caroline Cooper||1:56.03|
|200 IM||Isabel Ivey||1:55.77|
|400 IM||Ella Nelson||4:10.86|
**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.
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. Isabel Ivey – Gator Swim Club – F.W. Buchholz High School – Gainesville, Florida **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:43.64, 100 free – 47.88, 50 free – 22.43, 200 IM – 1:55.77, 100 back – 52.27, 100 fly – 52.61, 200 fly – 1:56.48, 100 breast – 1:00.99, 400 IM – 4:12.08
Ivey is the definition of do-everything star – she is among the best in her class at all four strokes. Her 200 free time from Winter Juniors would have made the NCAA A final, and she’s already in scoring territory in the 100 free and 200 IM. Whatever events Ivey ultimately specializes in, she should be a 4-5 relay factor in the NCAA post-season and has the stroke versatility to save a medley relay in several different ways.
2. Kate Douglass – Chelsea Piers Aquatic Club – Pelham Memorial High School – Pelham, NY **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.04, 100 free – 48.54, 100 breast – 1:00.26, 200 breast – 2:10.59, 200 IM – 1:58.12, 100 fly – 53.97, 400 IM – 4:16.94, 100 back – 55.72, 200 free – 1:48.10
Douglass is the best 50 freestyler we’ve ranked since Abbey Weitzeil. She’s already in line to have immense NCAA impact, both individually and on relays. She’s also hyper-versatile, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see her develop in free, breast or fly. The only downside here is that Douglass hasn’t had a great junior year, plateauing so far in her best events. On the other hand, her fly has improved this year and she had a great long course season in 2017, so she might be on the cusp of another long course breakout.
3. Katharine Berkoff – Missoula Aquatic Club – Hellgate High School – Missoula, MT **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 100 back – 51.93, 200 back – 1:51.40, 200 free – 1:46.81, 200 IM – 1:59.71, 100 free – 49.18, 50 free – 22.99, 100 fly – 54.97
We noted that this is a relatively weak backstroke class, but Berkoff is clearly the exception. She’s a faster two-distance backstroker than Beata Nelson (51.6/1:55.6) or Kathleen Baker (51.5/1:54.3) were as high schoolers, and her value skyrockets because there is maybe only one other comparable backstroker in the entire class. Berkoff is the daughter of two-time Olympic gold medalist David Berkoff, but she’s going to be getting offers based on a lot more than her last name. Berkoff is also on a rapid improvement curve, dropping from 53.8 to 51.9 in the 100 back and 1:55.7 to 1:51.4 in the 200 back between December 2016 and now.
Weiss is one of the best age group breaststrokers in American history in both yards and meters, and gained notoriety by breaking a Indiana high school state record held by Olympic champ Lilly King. 58.4 is some serious breaststroke speed – it would have been 5th at NCAAs last month. Weiss should also develop into a big factor in the 200 breast, and her IM dropped 2.3 seconds over the past year.
5. Coleen Gillilan – Fort Collins Area Swim Team – Fossil Ridge High School – Fort Collins, CO **Verbally committed to Notre Dame**
Best Times: 100 breast – 59.59, 200 breast – 2:09.77, 200 IM – 1:56.70, 200 fly – 1:56.25, 100 fly – 52.00, 200 free – 1:46.98, 100 free – 49.64, 50 free – 22.56
Another of the three elite-tier breaststrokers in this class, Gillilan is the most versatile, with a big-time 200 IM and the class’s best 100 fly. A Colorado product, Gillilan should have even more time to drop, with a lot of her top times coming at altitude in the mountains. Gillilan is already in NCAA scoring range in the 100 breast, and is just tenths off in the 100 fly, 200 breast, 200 IM and 200 fly, giving her a wealth of specialization options at the college level. That stellar 200 free also makes her a potential free relay contributor.
6. Zoie Hartman – Crow Canyon Country Club Sharks – Monte Vista High School – Danville, CA **Verbally committed to Georgia**
Best Times: 200 breast – 2:08.60, 100 breast – 59.84, 200 IM – 1:57.71, 400 IM – 4:17.00, 50 free – 22.94, 100 free – 49.15
Yet another breaststroker – this class is thick with them. Hartman is the best two-distance breaststroker of the three, with the fastest 200 in the class and a very competitive 100. Hartman slashed her 200 time from 2:11.8 to 2:08.6 last winter, and she’s had impressive drops in the 100, too. As her IM comes around, Hartman could rise even further in the class. Her sprint prowess and medley relay value are probably the biggest factors, and a 22.9 50 free suggests she’s got the fast-twitch muscle to hold her own.
7. Alexandra Crisera – Beach Cities Swimming – Mira Costa High School – Manhattan Beach, CA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 100 free – 48.87, 50 free – 22.43, 200 free – 1:47.09, 100 back – 53.50, 200 back – 1:54.44, 200 IM – 2:00.91
Crisera doesn’t yet have an NCAA scoring time, but she’s got big talent in a wide range of events. Her 50 through 200 free make her a key relay pickup; in fact, her 50 and 100 free rival some of the best in the class. Crisera has also improved her 200 back a lot over her junior year, and her event to watch might be the 200 IM, where she improved from 2:04.0 to 2:00.9 over the year 2017.
8. Ella Nelson – Nashville Aquatic Club – Harpeth Hall High School – Nashville, TN **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:58.31, 400 IM – 4:10.84, 200 breast – 2:09.81, 100 breast – 1:01.03
Part of an incredible crew coming through the age group ranks in Nashville, Nelson is one of this class’s best pure IMers. She’s got the best 400 in the class to pair with a very good 200. Nelson’s breaststroke times don’t look as impressive as they should after the run of elite breaststroke specialists in the top 10, but she’ll probably focus mainly on the 200 in college competition. Nelson also gets a huge long course bump. 2:27.0 in the 200 breast is no joke, and she swam that time after entering the season with a 2:30.
Brooks is the last great backstroker on the board. She’s not far behind Berkoff in backstroke times, but doesn’t quite have the versatility Berkoff or Ivey do. What she does bring to the table is immense upside. Her lifetime-bests in both short course backstrokes come from March of 2018 and her bests in long course from April. She’s dropped from 1:56.1 to 1:52.0 in the 200 back and 53.3 to 52.2 in the 100 back over the last year alone.
10. Kelly Pash – Carmel Swim Club – Carmel High School – Carmel, IN **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:45.25, 100 free – 48.55, 50 free – 22.76, 500 free – 4:44.80, 200 IM – 1:58.02, 400 IM – 4:10.97, 200 fly – 1:57.15, 100 fly – 54.36, 200 back – 1:55.29, 100 back – 54.22
Every class seems to have at least one of these rangy free types who can contend from the 50 up to the 500 or longer. Pash is right around the class’s best in the 50, 100, 200 and 500, plus adds a bunch of IM speed. She went lifetime-bests in both IMs and the 100/200 free at Winter Juniors and seems to be still improving. Pash is also a World Juniors medalist with experience swimming in some heated relays.
11. Madelyn Donohoe – The Fish – Bishop O’Connell School – Annandale, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 1650 free – 16:01.60, 1000 free – 9:37.78, 500 free – 4:44.27, 200 free – 1:47.75
Donohoe already has an NCAA scoring time in the mile, and is the best pure distance swimmer in the class. However, like all distance swimmers, her value is a bit limited. Considering it took 4:38 to score at NCAAs in the 500, she’s got some work to do to raise her points ceiling, but her 200 is solid enough that should could develop into a relay contributor down the road.
12. Chloe Clark – Sierra Marlins Swim Team – Granite Bay High School – Granite Bay, CA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:57.32, 400 IM – 4:13.94, 100 back – 53.23, 200 back – 1:56.79, 50 free – 22.65, 100 free – 49.27
Clark is a very good IMer and backstroker with enough sprint free talent to round out a full college conference meet lineup. The downside is that most of her best times come from 2016, and she’s been a bit off her mark since. Still, she’s one of the best IM prospects in this class and a high-upside pickup if a college coach can return her to form.
13. Talia Bates – Gator Swim Club – F.W. Buchholz High School – Gainesville, FL **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.87, 100 back – 53.97, 200 back – 1:56.87, 50 free – 22.44, 100 free – 49.56, 200 free – 1:47.11
A Swiss Army knife of a sprinter, Bates should have a big impact in the college lineup. Her 100 fly is among the best in the class, and her 50 free is only two tenths from NCAA scoring level.
Cooper is the best 200 flyer in the class, but doesn’t have a lot of complementary speed in other events. Her 200 is only seven tenths out of NCAA scoring range, though, and she’s on a rocketship of improvement: Her 200 dropped from 2:01.8 in 2016 to 1:58.9 in 2017 to 1:56.0 already in 2018, and she’s dropped more than a second in her 100 at the same time. That insane improvement curve bumps her up a bit in our rankings, especially when we’ve seen diamond-in-the-rough flyers like Kelsi Worrell and Sarah Gibson excel in recent years.
15. Ashley McCauley – Marlins of Raleigh – Leesville Road High School – Raleigh, NC **Verbally committed to Georgia**
Best Times: 200 breast – 2:09.54, 100 breast – 1:01.01, 200 IM – 2:00.46, 400 IM – 4:16.11
McCauley is a very good breaststroker who gets crowded out in our field of great breaststrokers. She dropped almost two seconds in her 200 between Winter Juniors in 2016 and 2017. She’s also an outstanding long course swimmer, dropping from 2:32 to 2:29 in the 200 last summer.
16. Mary Smutny – AquaKids Sharks Swim Team – Homeschooled – Cutler Bay, FL **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:45.36, 500 free – 4:42.80, 200 fly – 1:56.58, 100 fly – 53.81, 100 free – 49.48
Smutny is one of the class’s better 500 freestylers, with times down into the 200 and 100 that make her an intriguing prospect. She’s a very fast riser, dropping from 4:46 to 4:42 in the 500 over the year 2017, and her butterfly has improved even faster than that.
17. Miranda Heckman – Pleasanton Seahawks – Granada High School – Livermore, CA **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 500 free -4:41.53, 200 free – 1:46.79, 1650 free – 16:28.51, 400 IM – 4:15.91
Heckman has the best 500 free in the class along with a great 200 free and a solid mile. She’s also a standout long course swimmer (4:13/8:42). Her high school postseason is still coming, too, so we could see Heckman better those 200 and 500 times. (She dropped 1.5 seconds in her 500 last May). While she hasn’t swum the sprints much individually, her relay splits show quite a bit of range; she split 22.5 and 49.9 last spring.
18. Kaitlynn Sims – Magnolia Aquatic Club – Montgomery High School – Montgomery, TX **Verbally committed to Michigan**
Best Times: 1650 free – 16:10.94, 1000 free – 9:45.72, 500 free – 4:42.38, 200 free – 1:49.69, 400 IM – 4:16.40
Another strong miler, Sims is only seven seconds out of NCAA scoring range in that event, and she’s got one of the class’s best 500 frees to pair with it. She’s not much of a relay factor yet, but is an excellent long course swimmer (4:15/8:44/16:42).
Cuomo is a great sprinter and versatile relay weapon. Her 100 back, in particular, is dropping at a perilous rate: from 57.0 in 2015 to 54.1 in 2016 to 53.4 earlier this year.
20. Ayla Spitz – Irvine Novaquatics – Newport Harbor High School – Newport Beach, CA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:58.68, 100 back – 53.46, 200 back – 1:57.27, 200 free – 1:46.41, 100 free – 49.29
Spitz finds herself on this list after a breakout winter of 2017. She had plateaued in her 200 IM since 2015, but blasted from a 2:03 to a 1:58 in December. In that same month, she cut from a 2:01 to a 1:57 in the 200 back, and she’s also nearly dropped two seconds off her 200 free over the last year. Spitz, too, still has her high school championship season to come this spring.
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.
- Sarah DiMeco (Issaquah Swim Team / Skyline High School / Sammamish, WA) – an excellent mile (16:19) and a good 200/500 free (1:48/4:44), DiMeco is hurt by the NCAA’s emphasis on sprinters. Her 200 fly and 400 IM are also very good, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see her become the unranked star of this class. **Verbally committed to Cal**
- Rachel Klinker (Lexington Dolphins / Tates Creek Senior High School / Lexington, KY) – great at the 200 (1:46.0) but hasn’t yet put that kind of performance together in adjacent events. (She’s 49.9 in the 100 and 4:46 in the 500). Good miler, very good 200 flyer (1:57.9). **Verbally committed to Cal**
- Gabby Dang (Bellevue Club Swim Team / North Creek High School / Bothell, WA) – one of the class’s best butterflyers at 52.7, plus 22.9/49.8 speed in free. A swimmer built for NCAA impact.
Feeling nostalgic? Here’s a look back at our recruiting class rankings over the past 6 recruiting classes, plus our retrospective of the first class we ranked after 4 years in the NCAA: