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.
As college recruiting has reached earlier and earlier into high school classes, we’re continually expanding our recruiting ranks and coverage. Last spring, we ranked out the then-sophomore class. This is essentially a re-rank of that class, taking into account a year of improvements. Stay tuned to our recruiting channel for more additions to our yearly recruiting coverage:
- Girls & boys ranks for current juniors – high school class of 2022 (updated rankings from our “Way Too Early” rankings last spring)
- Way Too Early ranks for current sophomore girls & boys – high school class of 2023
- Re-Rank of outgoing senior girls & boys – high school class of 2021
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.
2021 addendum: This year more than ever, we’re all working with only partial information. Plenty of these swimmers missed potential taper meets amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s difficult to determine whose times have stagnated and which swimmers merely haven’t had enough chances to rest up and race in the past year. Beyond that, pool access for both training and competition has been very uneven based on local coronavirus restrictions. (Of course, swimming opportunity has always been inherently uneven – it’s just being talked about more now because those who have always had opportunities aplenty are just now experiencing what it’s like to struggle for pool access and competition opportunities. But that’s an argument for a different day.)
With that in mind, we’re putting a little less emphasis on time progressions this year – at least, we’re trying not to knock athletes too badly for not progressing much. As always, it’s a factor we consider – but it’s a more complicated consideration this year.
- Incredibly good IM group
- Deep in breaststroke
- Fairly thin in sprint free after one star
- Distance group is developing
- Not a great or deep backstroke class
Last year, we noted that this class could be one of the best IM groups we’ve ever ranked. That holds very true as this group has progressed into their junior seasons. The top of this class is stacked with IM types who cross over into multiple other strokes.
The downside of that, from an NCAA perspective, is that relay impact is a little dulled for IM specialists. The class doesn’t have a lot of really high-end 50/100 freestyles – with one very, very notable exception at the top. This group will probably be in line to contribute more individually than on relays in the early years, with the 4×200 free relay being the best relay outlet for a lot of the top 10.
As far as the strokes go, this class is really tilted toward butterfly – especially the 200. There are some powerhouse flyers who could be dominant NCAA talents for a long time. The flip side is backstroke, where the class is extremely thin and there aren’t many NCAA scoring times coming in the door.
If your favorite college program needs a breaststroker, you better hope they got one in this group – but also that they can develop one. The breaststroke field is extremely deep, but most of that depth are developmental types in the 1:00-1:01/2:12-2:14 range. We don’t have any breaststrokers in our top 5 as of now, but there are two pretty clear standouts near the top.
When we evaluated this group as sophomores, distance free was a weak point. A couple of distance standouts have really risen, though, and this group has a lot more NCAA potential than it appeared to a year ago, even if depth is still a little bit of an issue.
|Top Times in the Class of 2022|
|50 Free||Claire Curzan||21.50|
|100 Free||Claire Curzan||47.23|
|200 Free||Blair Stoneburg||1:44.63|
|500 Free||Blair Stoneburg||4:38.83|
|1000 Free**||Blair Stoneburg||9:34.74|
|1650 Free||Lucy Malys||16:09.22|
|100 Back||Claire Curzan||50.03|
|200 Back||Claire Curzan||1:49.35|
|100 Breast||Lydia Jacoby||59.35|
|200 Breast||Lydia Jacoby||2:08.61|
|100 Fly||Claire Curzan||49.51|
|200 Fly||Charlotte Hook||1:52.72|
|200 IM||Charlotte Hook||1:54.79|
|400 IM||Justina Kozan||4:05.67|
**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 United 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 stars. 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 carry the most weight by a longshot. But we also keep an eye on a swimmer’s trajectory, especially in deciding between two swimmers with relatively even times.
- Short Course over Long Course – while every club and every swimmer will have a different balance of focus between short course and long course swimming, the NCAA competes in short course yards, and that’s going to be the main factor considered in these rankings. Long course times are another data point for consideration, but we mainly view them through the lens of what a big long course swim could mean for an athlete’s future in short course.
- 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 20 SWIMMERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2022
1. Claire Curzan (Previous Rank: #1) – TAC Titans – Cardinal Gibbons High School – Cary, NC
Best Times: 100 fly – 49.51, 100 back – 50.03, 200 back – 1:49.35, 50 free – 21.50, 100 free – 47.23, 200 free – 1:45.47, 200 fly – 1:53.59, 200 IM – 1:58.87
What can you say about Curzan? She’s one of the best recruits we’ve ever seen in college swimming. She would have made the 2021 NCAA A final in six different events (100/200 fly, 100/200 back, 50/100 free). She’s the best sprint freestyle in the class by a longshot, and she might not even swim those events at the college level because of how good her fly and back are. Her lifetime-bests haven’t had race videos available lately, but this long course swim from November shows how smooth and efficient her butterfly is. And her underwater kick speed is unbelievable, especially coming off the turn. Curzan is in lane 4.
2. Charlotte Hook (Previous Rank: #2) – TAC Titans – Cary Academy – Raleigh, NC **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:52.72, 200 IM – 1:54.79, 400 IM – 4:06.43, 500 free – 4:41.83, 200 free – 1:45.38, 100 fly – 52.20, 100 back – 52.85, 200 back – 1:55.28, 1650 free – 16:27.38, 1000 free – 9:42.51, 100 free – 49.98, 50 free – 22.81, 100 breast – 1:01.59, 200 breast – 2:13.91
Hook is Curzan’s club teammate, and the two of them pretty well cover the butterfly events in this class with outstanding speed. Hook definitely qualifies as one of those IM/stroke types we mentioned above who don’t really cross over into a lot of relay events. But she’s got the best 200 fly and 200 IM in the class, and has a 200 free that should give her at least one high-level relay event early on in her career. Hook isn’t quite the underwater rocket that Curzan is, but race videos show a really tough, disciplined swimmer. This is an older swim, but the way Hook (lane 4) paces this swim and then rips away from the field in the back half is veteran-level 200 fly strategy.
3. Justina Kozan (Previous Rank: #3) – Mission Viejo Nadadores – Santa Margarita Catholic High School – Brea, CA **Verbally committed to USC**
Best Times: 400 IM – 4:05.67, 200 IM – 1:56.31, 200 fly – 1:54.75, 100 fly – 52.42, 200 back – 1:55.74, 100 back – 54.12, 200 free – 1:45.15, 100 free – 49.05, 50 free – 23.08
Hook and Kozan are very similar swimmers in their event range. Kozan is a little bit better (in fact, #1 in the class) in the 400 IM, but a little behind in the 200 IM and 200 fly. Kozan is just so clearly a natural 400 IMer. In this race (lane 4, red cap), Kozan is very sharp and deliberate with all four legs, but it’s probably her freestyle (and that massive flutter kick) that’s most impressive. Kozan hasn’t hit many lifetime-bests this year, but she’s also kind of been forced to focus in on long course with California cancelling last year’s high school season in the spring. She did hit a lifetime-best 4:42.0 in the long course 400 IM just a few weeks ago.
4. Blair Stoneburg (Previous Rank: #16) – Treasure Coast Aquatics – Jensen Beach High School – Jensen Beach, FL **Verbally committed to Wisconsin**
Best Times: 500 free – 4:38.83, 200 free – 1:44.63, 1000 free – 9:34.74, 1650 free – 16:14.60, 100 free – 49.22, 50 free – 22.85, 100 fly – 53.78, 200 fly – 1:59.14
Stoneburg is probably our biggest riser from sophomore ranks. At the time, Stoneburg was clearly in the thick of the second tier of distance swimmers, with times of 1:46.2/4:46/9:56/16:45. She’s made massive progress since then, highlighted by an eight-second drop in the 500, a 1.6-second drop in the 200, and a 22-second drop in the 1000 free. She now ranks #1 in the class in all three of those events. Stoneburg has nice range down into the free relays, and has also had major long course drops. This race video is a 10-second drop Stoneburg (lane 1, top of the screen) hit at U.S. Open in November. She swims fearlessly in the early laps and gets after her turns well. Though her kick comes and goes throughout the race, the first 100 and her breakouts show a really powerful kick that college coaching could continue to develop in consistency.
5. Claire Tuggle (Previous Rank: #4) – Santa Maria Swim Club – Clovis North High School – Mariposa, CA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:44.96, 500 free – 4:41.36, 1000 free – 9:41.96, 1650 free – 17:41.17, 100 free – 49.43, 200 fly – 1:59.55, 400 IM – 4:16.91, 200 IM – 1:59.62
Tuggle might be the most polarizing recruit on this list. In terms of pure short course times, you could probably argue that she’s over-ranked at #5. Since last year’s ranks, she’s been passed over as the top 200/500/1000 freestyler in the class. On name value, many would probably put Tuggle higher than this. That’s mostly owing to her incredible long course production – she’s got best times of 56.2/1:58.2/4:07.8/8:37 in long course freestyle. No one else in the class even comes close to that kind of long course range. The pandemic wiped out much of California’s short course season last spring, so Tuggle has mostly focused on long course, like Kozan has. But the pandemic came after Tuggle’s time drops also stalled a little in 2020, so most of her best times are now from 2018 or 2019 – and that’s in both long course and short course. Still, even though she’s not dropping time, Tuggle isn’t moving backwards, either. She’s been 1:45.8/4:42.5 already this season, and those times by themselves are plenty enough for inclusion on this list. Here’s Tuggle’s 2018 lifetime-best in the 200-yard free (lane 4, white cap). The potential is clearly evident – a huge flutter kick, a ton of distance with each stroke, brutally efficient arm catch.
6. Kennedy Noble (Previous Rank: #9) – YMCA Westside Silver Fins – Millennium High School – Avondale, AZ **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 100 back – 51.51, 200 back – 1:51.91, 200 IM – 1:57.07, 100 fly – 53.43, 200 fly – 1:57.71, 400 IM – 4:16.45, 200 free – 1:48.36, 100 free – 49.81
Outside of Curzan (who may not swim backstroke at the NCAA level), Noble is the top pure backstroking talent in this class. We’ve gotten a little spoiled with 51/1:51-or-better types over the past few classes, but it’s hard to put into context just how fast that actually is. Noble actually has three NCAA scoring times, with both backstrokes on the cusp of A finals and her IM just under 2021 scoring range. That comes after a massive junior year of drops – she was 52.4/1:54.4 in back and 2:00 in the IM as of our last ranks. Here’s a video of Noble dropping almost three seconds in the 200 back (lane 5). She’s got excellent arm speed from start to finish, and generates a ton of power immediately when she starts her underwater kicking.
7. Lucy Bell (Previous Rank: #7) – Fort Collins Area Swim Team – Fossil Ridge High School – Fort Collins, CO **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:54.93, 100 fly – 52.17, 400 IM – 4:12.42, 200 IM – 1:56.54, 100 free – 49.17, 200 free – 1:49.33, 50 free – 22.99, 100 breast – 1:01.45
Bell is yet another 200 fly/200 IM type in our top 10. She’s already got an NCAA scoring time in the 200 fly, and is right on the cusp in the 100 fly (.04 away from a 2021 scoring time) and 200 IM (0.6 away). Bell is also a pretty solid sprint freestyle who should find a way to contribute somewhere between the freestyle and medley relays. The Colorado prospect also has a handful of times that get an altitude-adjustment bump, so she might be an even bigger value depending on how much you weigh altitude. Here’s a race video of Bell swimming her lifetime-best 200 IM against a field of high school boys (top lane). She really bounces off the walls well on her open turns, and her butterfly and breaststroke are especially smooth.
Jacoby is a name many swim fans should be familiar with, especially after her breakout long course performances at the Mission Viejo Pro Swim Series. Jacoby was just 1:00.4/2:14 in short course as of our last ranks, and lost in a glut of mid-level breaststrokers in this class. She has clearly separated herself from the pack, though, in both short course and long. 2:08.61 is an NCAA scoring time in the 200 breast, and her 59.3 in the 100 is just tenths away. Her recent long course swims are a step better yet. Here she is swimming side-by-side with the best college breaststroke in history, Lilly King. King always swims away from everybody on the breakouts, but Jacoby shows some incredible raw potential, pretty much holding pace with King outside of the breakouts, and actually outsplitting King on the second 50. Jacoby is about as efficient as a breaststroker can be, very straight-forward, without a lot of up and down motion and a really textbook body-line in the glide phase. There’s really no third event to speak of, but Jacoby can do plenty enough damage in the breaststroke and medley relays to be a big-time college swimmer.
9. Zoe Dixon (Previous Rank: #5) – Nova of Virginia – Mills E. Godwin High School – Richmond, VA **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 400 IM – 4:06.43, 200 IM – 1:57.22, 200 fly – 1:56.97, 100 fly – 53.90, 200 back – 1:54.06, 100 back – 53.81, 200 free – 1:49.12, 100 breast – 1:02.28
Dixon is yet another awesome 400 IMer in this class – her best time would have made last year’s NCAA A final. While she hasn’t dropped any time in her IMs since our last ranks, she’s started to bring around several options for a tertiary NCAA event: Dixon dropped from 1:59 to 1:56 in the 200 fly and from 1:55 to 1:54.0 in the 200 back. This isn’t her lifetime-best, but is still a great 400 IM swim from a few months ago – Dixon is in lane 4. She’s got one of those smooth, effortless butterfly strokes, but her backstroke might be the most impressive leg of this particular race, with awesome arm speed. She’s pretty leg-driven across all four strokes, and her kicking motor never slows down from start to finish.
10. Rye Ulett (Previous Rank: #6) – Dynamo Swim Club – Atlanta, GA **Verbally committed to Louisville**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:51.84, 100 back – 52.87, 500 free – 4:47.92, 200 free – 1:47.30, 400 IM – 4:14.94, 200 IM – 1:58.42, 200 fly – 2:00.90, 100 fly – 54.86
Ulett is just a tick faster than Noble is in the 200 back, but doesn’t match Noble down to the 100 yet. Race video of Ulett’s lifetime-best, though, suggests that might be more about her start than her actual short speed. Ulett (lane 5) loses a lot of ground to the field off the start, but more than makes up for it with her on-the-surface speed. Ulett had just hit a bunch of best times in the six months leading up to the pandemic, so even though she hasn’t dropped a lot since last year’s ranks, she’s also not that far removed from her career-bests. Ulett did improve her 200 IM this year, and that might make a nice day 1 event in the NCAA format.
11. Lucy Malys (Previous Rank: Unranked) – OLY Swimming – Clarkston High School – Clarkston, MI **Verbally committed to Ohio State**
Best Times: 1650 free – 16:09.22, 1000 free – 9:39.58, 500 free – 4:42.55, 200 free – 1:49.60, 400 IM – 4:13.60
The distance swimmers in this class have really been breaking out over their junior years. Malys dropped 20 seconds off her mile to move to #1 in the class in that event, and four seconds under 2021 NCAA scoring territory. Here’s Malys (lane 5) dropping five seconds in the 500 free this spring. There’s some choppiness to her breathing, but Malys also has such a quick breath that it almost drives her tempo rather than interrupting it. She seems to get better as the race goes on and should be a force at the college level in the mile.
12. Carly Novelline (Previous Rank: #13) – NASA Wildcat Aquatics – New Trier High School – Winnetka, IL **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.26, 100 free – 48.16, 200 free – 1:45.14, 100 fly – 52.77, 100 back – 53.02, 200 back – 1:56.21, 200 IM – 2:01.38
In a class mostly ruled by IMers and distance types, Novelline brings really, really valuable relay speed. Outside of Curzan, Novelline is the best sprint freestyler in the class, on the cusp of NCAA scoring level in the 50 (it took 22.22 to score in 2021) and bringing in scoring times up to the 100 and 200. That range is really impressive for Novelline, who was a good sprinter as of our last ranks (22.4/48.8), but has really flourished into an all-around freestyler with a three-second drop in her 200. She’s also a very good long course 100 freestyler – in fact, she went 48.1 short course and 55.0 long course in the same day this spring. Her start-through-breakout is a thing of beauty, and Novelline has a massive flutter kick behind her, evidence of a high 100/200 ceiling.
13. Emma Weber (Previous Rank: #8) – University of Denver Hilltoppers – Fairview High School – Boulder, CO **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 100 breast – 59.74, 200 breast – 2:10.39, 200 IM – 2:01.71
Weber was the top breaststroker in this class a year ago, and though she didn’t drop time as a junior, she stayed pretty close to her bests in limited competition opportunities. Weber has the tools to be a really high-level breaststroker. Here (lane 3, yellow cap), she arguably matches or outswims national high school record-holder Kaitlyn Dobler on the surface. She’s losing a lot of water on the arm catch of her underwater pullouts, but if she can even get her underwaters to just hold their own at the college level, she’s going to swim away from a lot of good breaststrokers with her excellent turnover and her fast feet.
14. Hayden Miller (Previous Rank: #12) – Cypress Fairbanks – Cypress Creek High School – Houston, TX **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 1650 free – 16:12.54, 500 free – 4:42.74, 200 free – 1:46.37
Miller has had a great junior year at both ends of her event range – she cut 21 seconds in the mile and more than a second in her 200 this year. She’s definitely a pure distance swimmer and there won’t be a lot of mystery as to what her NCAA event lineup will look like. The angle is pretty wide here, but you can see Miller (lane 5, the one way out ahead of everyone else) holds a good arm tempo across her career-best mile. She attacks her turns well at the front, but loses a little of that aggressiveness as her feet come over the top. 1:46 is going to give her a real relay opportunity as a distance swimmer, which is really how a miler can jump to the next level as an NCAA scorer.
15. Kayla Wilson (Previous Rank: #17) – Tide Swimming – Norfolk Academy – Virginia Beach, VA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:44.90, 500 free – 4:47.37, 100 free – 49.30, 50 free – 23.03
Wilson is knocking on the door of the class’s best 200 freestyle after dropping 1.3 seconds back in December. Here’s that swim, with Wilson in lane 5 (blue cap). She’s got a stroke that covers a lot of ground without needing crazy-high turnover, and that almost makes you more excited for her 200/500 than her sprints. But 49.3 is still one of the better 100 times in the class, and Wilson should have some relay potential no matter where she focuses in college.
16. Emma Karam (Previous Rank: #11) – Reno Aquatic Club – Galena High School – Reno, NV **Verbally committed to UNC**
Best Times: 100 back – 52.19, 200 back – 1:54.93, 100 free – 50.18, 200 free – 1:50.02, 200 IM – 2:02.98
Karam was a fast riser in our last ranks who had just dropped 3+ seconds in her 200 back. She hasn’t dropped a ton in her backstrokes as a junior, but still remains one of the top backstrokers in this recruiting class. Karam (lane 4, fourth from the top) is a great underwater kicker, as seen in this race video of her lifetime-best 100 back from March 2021. At the college level, it might just be a question of improving lung capacity and leg strength for Karam to be able to use that top-end speed better in a 200-yard swim.
17. Sophie Duncan (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention) – Nation’s Capital Swim Club – Holton-Arms High School – Bethesda, MD **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 400 IM – 4:09.80, 200 IM – 1:59.56, 500 free – 4:45.74, 200 free – 1:48.79, 1650 free – 16:33.46, 1000 free – 9:49.76, 200 fly – 1:58.22, 200 back – 1:57.98
Just another sub-4:10 IMer in this class. To give some perspective on how that stacks up historically, NCAA runner-up Ella Nelson was just 4:10.8 as a high school junior. Duncan isn’t far off what NCAA champ Brooke Forde was as a junior (4:07.4). Duncan is also on a great trajectory, dropping from 4:14.8 as of last spring. Here’s that swim, with Duncan in lane 5. Freestyle is her strong point, with a good leg drive on each freestyle breakout. She might project best as a 500 free/400 IM/1650 free type at the college level, with good toughness in those daunting events.
18. Kristina Paegle (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Indiana Swim Club – Bloomington South High School – Bloomington, IN **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:45.96, 100 free – 48.78, 50 free – 22.96
Paegle is another sprint freestyler with good range from 200 down to 50. Here’s an older swim from Indiana’s high school state meet – Paegle is in lane 6, third from the bottom, and surges past a crowd for second place in a very patient (perhaps too patient) race. Watch her last two turns especially – she carries a ton of speed through the flip and crushes everyone on momentum over the final 50. Paegle has been a lot faster than this over the past year – in fact, she dropped more than two seconds from that time in the 2021 high school season. Paegle is also 56.0 in the long course 100 free and dropping fast.
19. Katherine Helms (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Mason Makos Swim Team – South County High School – Fairfax Station, VA **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 400 IM – 4:13.29, 200 free – 1:46.18, 100 free – 49.30, 50 free – 22.65
Helms has a pretty unique event combination. Over her junior year, she dropped about seven seconds down to 4:13 in the 400 IM. But she’s also 1:46-low in the 200 free with 22-mid/49-low speed into the sprints. Whether she’s more of a mid-distance or IM swimmer in college or not, she’ll have a shot at relay value early. Pretty much all of her big swims came this spring, including this impressive 200 free. Helms (lane 4, third from the top) has one of the slowest arm tempos of anyone in the race, yet she still powers away from the field on efficiency and her flutter kick.
20. Ella Welch (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention) – Cardinal Aquatics – Assumption High School – Louisville, KY **Verbally committed to Louisville**
Best Times: 50 free – 22.55, 100 free – 48.85, 200 free – 1:47.78, 100 fly – 53.58, 100 breast – 1:01.96, 200 IM – 2:00.68
One more really good sprint freestyler to round out our list. Welch has excellent 50/100 speed and a developing 200 free. (She cut 2.4 seconds from 1:50.1 since out last ranks). She’s also got pretty intriguing versatility, with great fly (53.5) and breast speed (1:01.9) to go with a decent 56 backstroke. If she can develop a little more endurance, her 200 IM could become a real dark-horse event down the road. Here’s a recent 100 free swim (Welch is in lane 5, five from the bottom). Arm and leg tempo are major strengths, and you can see how much of a natural sprinter Welch is.
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.
Zoe Skirboll (Previous Rank: #15) – Racer X Aquatics – Fox Chapel Area High School – Pittsburgh, PA **Verbally Committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 100 breast – 1:00.19, 200 breast – 2:12.61, 200 IM – 1:58.75, 50 free – 22.87, 100 free – 49.65, 200 free – 1:46.50, 100 fly – 54.15, 200 fly – 1:58.72
Skirboll has crazy versatility, and it’s still very unclear where her best college event focus should be. She dropped her 200 breast from 2:15.7 to 2:12.6 this year, though her 100 hasn’t dropped quite as much and remains on the wrong side of one minute. Meanwhile her 200 IM stuck at last year’s best, but Skirboll made a major 2.3-second breakthrough in the 200 free.
Claire Dafoe (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Nova of Virginia – Cosby High School –Midlothian, VA **Verbally committed to South Carolina**
Best Times: 1650 free – 16:15.53, 1000 free – 9:42.50, 500 free – 4:43.97, 400 IM – 4:18.60
Dafoe has had massive distance drops this year: from 16:43 to 16:15 in the mile and from 4:52 to 4:43.9 in the 500. She also blew up in long course, and could press some of the ranked distance swimmers for position by our senior re-ranks.
Paige Kuwata (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Sandpipers of Nevada – Palo Verde High School – Las Vegas, NV **Verbally committed to Louisville**
Best Times: 500 free – 4:43.86, 1650 free – 16:24.08, 1000 free – 9:51.11, 400 IM – 4:16.82
Kuwata is a major distance talent with a 4:43 in the 500. Based on her recent successes in open water, we’d expect Kuwata to make an even bigger jump in the 1650 free, and she’s got a pretty intriguing 400 IM, too.
1:45.4 would have scored at 2021 NCAAs in the 200 free, and Lueking was a really tough one to leave off this list. She’s dropping well in the 200 free, but doesn’t quite have the event range yet to crack the top 20. Keep a close eye on her butterfly, which dropped from 55.6 last year to 53.5 this year.
Renee Gillilan (Previous Rank: #18) – Fort Collins Area Swim Team – Fossil Ridge High School – Fort Collins, CO **Verbally committed to Notre Dame**
Best Times: 100 fly – 52.95, 200 fly – 1:56.71, 100 back – 53.76, 200 back – 1:59.53, 200 IM – 2:00.04
Gillilan is clearly figuring out the 200 fly in all courses. She went from 1:59.3 to 1:56.7 in yards and from 2:19 to 2:17 in long course meters this year. She’s a very versatile talent, and on the cusp of breaking 1:00 in the long course 100 fly.
Natalie Mannion (Previous Rank: #10) – Sarasota YMCA Sharks – Buckingham Browne & Nichols School – Boston, MA
Best Times: 100 back – 53.07, 200 back – 1:54.24, 500 free – 4:45.93, 200 free – 1:46.83, 100 free – 49.70, 100 fly – 54.57, 200 fly – 1:59.68, 200 IM – 1:59.95
Mannion is going to make a very good NCAA scorer somewhere between backstroke and the mid-distance freestyles. She really didn’t drop much as a junior, but she’s already got a great range of events with NCAA scoring potential.
BEST OF THE REST
Some more names that came up in our research. For the purposes of space, we won’t include every top event for these athletes, but just a few of their standouts. Verbal commitments are listed where they’ve been reported. Each of these athletes is still an extremely high-level recruit:
- Sprint free:
- Distance free:
Feeling nostalgic? Here’s a look back at our historic recruiting class rankings, plus our retrospectives of those classes after four NCAA seasons:
|High School Class of 2022||Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores|
|High School Class of 2021||Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores||Ranks as Juniors|
|High School Class of 2020||Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores||Ranks as Juniors||Re-Rank As Seniors|
|High School Class of 2019||Ranks as Juniors||Re-Rank As Seniors|
|High School Class of 2018||Ranks as Juniors||Re-Rank As Seniors|
|High School Class of 2017||Ranks as Juniors||Post-college retrospective|
|High School Class of 2016||Ranks as Juniors||Post-college retrospective|
|High School Class of 2015||Ranks as Juniors||Post-college retrospective|
|High School Class of 2014||Ranks as Juniors||Post-college retrospective|
|High School Class of 2013||Ranks as Juniors||Post-college retrospective|