It’s that time of year again when 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 2023 (updated rankings from our “Way Too Early” rankings last spring)
- Way Too Early ranks for current sophomore girls & boys – high school class of 2024
- Re-Rank of outgoing senior girls & boys – high school class of 2022
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.
2022 addendum: The sport has returned to something a little more resembling normal after two years of the coronavirus pandemic. That said, the pandemic remains the elephant in the room when it comes to ranking these classes. Certainly every athlete on the list has lost out on training and racing opportunities of some kind, and each swimmer in wildly varying amounts. As we can’t reliably quantify whose current portfolio of times is most suppressed by the pandemic years, all we can do is rank based on the in-pool production we’ve seen. But it’s worth noting up-front that this class has a real chance for some big upheaval as swimmers ‘catch up’ from the missed pandemic years.
- Incredible distance class
- A bit thin in the sprints
- Still light on fly/back/breast types, but top-end talent is developing
- Lots of fast risers
When we ranked this class as sophomores, we noted that it was still very much a class in development – and wow did a lot of them blow up over their junior seasons. That’s really noticeable in both the top-end talent and the depth.
It’s still a class very centered around distance freestyle, which makes it especially interesting in an NCAA format that favors the value of sprinters. Three of our top five swimmers are distance types, and even the top 50/100 freestyler is arguably better in the 200 than in either of those events.
There’s a clear-cut #1 in the class – when we ranked them as sophomores, Bella Sims was a great age grouper, but in the year since, she’s become a U.S. Olympian and a force on the national stage. It’s no coincidence that this class of distance swimmers has risen up around her.
That’s a contrast to the past few classes, where the elite talents have been more focused on the 100s: Claire Curzan in the class of 2022, Gretchen Walsh in 2021 and Regan Smith in 2020. This class doesn’t have any 100 flyers or backstrokers on that incredible level, but the top-end talent is starting to develop more compared to last year, and it’d be pretty surprising if we didn’t have a 50-point or two in fly or back by next year.
This group as a whole is rising fast, with a lot of huge improvement curves among the top 20 recruits.
|Top Times in the Class of 2023|
|50 Free||Camille Spink||22.16|
|100 Free||Camille Spink||48.13|
|200 Free||Bella Sims||1:42.92|
|500 Free||Bella Sims||4:32.13|
|1000 Free**||Bella Sims||9:31.16|
|1650 Free||Bella Sims||15:48.70|
|100 Back||Berit Berglund||51.32|
|200 Back||Bella Sims||1:51.69|
|100 Breast||Lucy Thomas||58.93|
|200 Breast||Lucy Thomas||2:09.16|
|100 Fly||Kiley Wilhelm||51.07|
|200 Fly||Kiley Wilhelm||1:52.54|
|200 IM||Bella Sims||1:54.90|
|400 IM||Bella Sims||4:03.67|
**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 2023
- 200 free: 1:42.92 (best in class)
- 500 free: 4:32.13 (best in class)
- 1000 free: 9:31.16 (best in class)
- 1650 free: 15:48.70 (best in class)
- 400 IM: 4:03.67 (best in class)
- 200 IM: 1:54.90 (best in class)
- 100 free: 48.52
- 50 free: 22.74
- 200 back: 1:51.69 (best in class)
- 100 fly: 52.21
- 200 fly: 1:53.91
This time last year, Sims was a rising star. This year, she’s an established star and an Olympic medalist. What hasn’t changed is that Sims profiles as the #1 recruit in this class by a staggeringly wide margin. She’s the best pure distance swimmer in a strong distance class, and carries the best times in the class for the 200, 500, 1000, and 1650 frees. But she’s also got elite versatility, with the class’s best 200 back, 200 IM, and 400 IM times. Sims’ 1:42.9 in the 200 free is the fastest time we’ve seen from a junior prospect in years, comparing pretty well to legends Katie Ledecky (1:42.03 as a junior) and Missy Franklin (1:43.15 as a junior).
Don’t pigeonhole Sims into the distance freestyle, either. Her 400 IM is the fastest time we’ve ever seen from a high school junior. You can check out the competition in our ranking last year of the top high school prospects of the decade.
- 100 fly: 51.07 (best in class)
- 200 fly: 1:52.54 (best in class)
- 200 IM: 1:55.78
- 200 back: 1:52.71
- 100 back: 52.47
- 200 free: 1:45.98
- 100 free: 49.33
Wilhelm claimed the #3 rank on this list last year by virtue of a class-leading 200 back. But she’s had a meteoric rise as a butterflyer over her junior year, dropping from 52.6/1:59.3 to 51.0/1:52.5 – both times are the best in the class. Wilhelm profiles as a classic fly/back combo swimmer, which can be an especially valuable archetype because of the medley relay flexibility they give a college program. Wilhelm also has an outstanding 200 IM, which means she doesn’t necessarily have to pull a 100 fly/100 back double in the college championship meet format to maximize her scoring.
- 1650 free: 15:58.97
- 1000 free: 9:35.18
- 500 free: 4:37.90
- 200 free: 1:44.48
- 100 free: 49.20
Gormsen would have been the top distance swimmer in a lot of recruiting classes, and she brings in times that would have made the NCAA’s top 8 in both the mile and the 500 free this year. Gormsen has also improved her speed dramatically, taking her 200 free from 1:46.1 to 1:44.4 over her junior year. That’s a big boost to her relay value at the college level.
- 200 free: 1:44.29
- 100 free: 48.13 (best in class)
- 50 free: 22.16 (best in class)
- 100 back: 52.76
The best pure sprinter in the class, Spink is going to carry a lot of value in the NCAA’s relay-heavy format. College coaches will be especially happy with Spink’s development in the 200 free, where she’s dropped from 1:46.1 to 1:44.2 over her junior year to rank near the top of the class there. Spink also has a pretty good backstroke, and could turn out to be a medley relay fill-in there in addition to a heavy free relay schedule. Keep an eye on Spink as perhaps the next swimmer in this class to smash onto the national stage in long course: she dropped from 56.0 to 55.2 in the 100-meter freestyle since last year’s rankings.
- 200 free: 1:44.37
- 500 free: 4:40.63
- 1000 free: 9:43.05
- 1650 free: 16:39.70
- 100 free: 48.83
- 50 free: 22.73
- 200 fly: 1:57.04
- 200 IM: 1:57.78
Gemmel is another 200/500 free specialist with a pretty wide portfolio of intriguing times. Gemmell cut from 4:45.9 to 4:40.6 over her junior year in the 500 free, and from 1:45.9 to 1:44.3 in the 200. She really hasn’t dropped time in the distance events since last year’s ranks, but is improving rapidly as a sprinter, which is probably a better move for the NCAA format anyways.
- 100 fly: 51.98
- 200 fly: 1:52.76
- 400 IM: 4:13.47
- 200 back: 1:53.28
- 100 back: 52.93
- 200 free: 1:45.56
- 100 free: 49.48
- 50 free: 22.89
Howley was the top butterflyer in this class a year ago and dropped time in both, though she’s been passed up by Wilhelm for the top times in the class. Howley has a great range of times, though, cracking into the 51s in the 100 fly and sitting just two tenths out of the best 200 fly in the class. That 4:13 in the 400 IM has to be intriguing, especially when we note that Howley was just 4:19 in that event at this time last year.
- 100 back: 51.32 (best in class)
- 200 back: 1:53.52
- 100 free: 48.70
Berglund carries the top sprint backstroke time in the class, coming in very near 50-point territory. Last year, she was a great 100 backstroker who needed some more development on her support events. She’s still not as versatile as the other names in the top 10 here, but has made massive strides in her probable NCAA events: from 1:57.9 to 1:53.5 in the 200 back and from 50.1 to 48.7 in the 100 free. That makes her an outstanding candidate to add several relays onto her individual events at some point in college.
- 100 breast: 58.93 (best in class)
- 200 breast: 2:09.16 (best in class)
- 50 free: 22.33
- 100 free: 49.23
- 200 free: 1:46.82
- 200 IM: 1:59.16
In our ranks last year, we noted that Thomas was coming off a big drop in the long course 100-meter breaststroke. She parlayed that into a huge short course drop in her junior year, breaking a minute for the first time and then cutting all the way to 58.9 for the top time in the class. For a breaststroker, Thomas is also surprisingly versatile, sitting just a few tenths off the top 50 free time in the class, which could make her a Sophie Hansson-esque addition to multiple NCAA relays.
- 100 fly: 51.89
- 200 fly: 1:54.49
- 200 IM: 1:57.47
- 400 IM: 4:14.96
- 100 back: 52.68
- 200 back: 1:54.18
- 100 breast: 1:01.51
- 200 breast: 2:12.76
Stoll is an incredibly versatile prospect who had big butterfly drops over her junior year, including from 1:56.1 to 1:54.4 in the 200-yard fly. (She also broke a minute in the 100 long course meter fly). It’ll be interesting to see how college coaches view her primary events – Stoll could definitely become a fly/back type at the college level, but might project even better as an IMer after dropping about a second in the 200 IM this year.
- 400 IM: 4:08.01
- 200 IM: 1:58.72
- 200 back: 1:55.39
- 100 back: 53.30
- 200 free: 1:47.56
Podkoscielny is an outstanding 400 IMer – Sims’ top times tend to warp our perspective on some of the others in the class, but 4:08 IMers as high school juniors are rare. Podkoscielny got there by dropping nearly five seconds since our last round of rankings. She doesn’t have great secondary or tertiary events yet, but could definitely develop in the backstrokes and 200 IM.
- 100 back: 52.30
- 100 fly: 52.30
- 100 free: 48.89
- 50 free: 22.52
- 200 back: 1:55.31
Sheehan didn’t make this list last spring because she didn’t have the short course production to match the rest of the top 20, though her long course times were outstanding. Turns out, Sheehan had her eyes on bigger things than a top-20 ranking, and it paid off as she represented Puerto Rico in the Tokyo Olympics. Now, she’s coming back for the ranking she missed out on after a year of big short course drops (54.9 to 52.3 in the 100 fly; 56.0 to 52.3 in the 100 back; 23.9 to 22.5 in the 50 free). With identical 100 fly and 100 back times, Sheehan should be an outstanding relay value with a great improvement curve.
- 1650 free: 16:06.56
- 1000 free: 9:46.56
- 500 free: 4:40.12
- 200 free: 1:47.52
- 400 IM: 4:14.09
Mattes has had great junior year drops (16:21 to 16:06 in the mile, 4:42.9 to 4:40.1 in the 500) – her slide out of the top 10 has more to do with the rest of the class going wild with time drops than any concerns over Mattes’ progression. She’s under NCAA scoring range in the 500 and just tenths off in the mile. She’s also had some nice drops in the 400 IM, which could turn out to be a solid third event for her in the NCAA lineup.
- 200 fly: 1:55.17
- 100 fly: 52.83
- 500 free: 4:41.24
- 200 free: 1:46.94
- 1000 free: 9:44.90
- 1650 free: 16:23.63
- 400 IM: 4:14.21
Bellard has a fascinating mix of strokes and events in her top times. The headliner (and the reason she sits at #13) is a 1:55.1 in the 200 fly, coming off a big two-second drop over her junior year. She’s made huge improvements in her speed, which was what we hoped to see when ranking her as an honorable mention last year. But what we didn’t see coming were the huge rises in the 500 free, 1000 free, 1650 free and 400 IM. Now, it’s not totally clear what Bellard projects as at the college level, but it’s much clearer that she’s going to be a highly-valuable prospect.
- 1650 free: 16:11.10
- 1000 free: 9:37.85
- 500 free: 4:42.34
- 200 free: 1:46.85
Yet another great distance swimmer in a great distance swimming class. Cox already has an NCAA invite time in the 500 free and in the mile, coming off of solid junior-year drops. Her 200 free is fast enough to add some relay value in the NCAA format, which is really how distance swimmers boost their recruiting stock to an elite level. Cox dropped two full seconds in the 200 free this past year, so her speed is coming around quickly.
- 200 back: 1:52.42
- 200 free: 1:46.24
- 500 free: 4:47.16
- 100 back: 53.54
Ramey is the second new name to join our top 20 after going unranked in our sophomore report. She’s dropped more than four seconds in the 200 back since last year to smash into NCAA scoring range. In fact, she’s the #2 swimmer in the entire class in that event, behind only Sims. Now, Ramey just needs her other events to rise to a similar level to make a huge move into the top 10.
- 100 breast: 59.73
- 200 breast: 2:10.63
- 400 IM: 4:13.02
- 200 IM: 1:59.37
- 100 fly: 53.20
- 200 fly: 1:56.71
Bricker was the top sprint breaststroker in the class at this time last year, but has stalled out a little with time drops in her primary events. She did make a small drop in the 200 breast and has had some nice development as a 100 flyer. A sub-minute breaststroker is always going to be a valuable high school recruit, and especially so in a thin class like this one. Bricker also carries nice versatility, with a lot of great non-breaststroke event options.
- 400 IM: 4:10.22
- 200 fly: 1:56.86
- 200 IM: 1:59.86
Sun is very specialized to three events, but the bright side is that they work very well together in the NCAA lineup. The highlight is that 4:10 in the 400 IM – college coaches love a great 400 IMer, trusting that they can channel the versatility and endurance into more NCAA-level events. Sun has dropped four seconds in the 400 IM since last year, so there’s a good chance she’s got other events about to pop in a similar way. She also cut two full seconds in the 200 fly.
- 200 back: 1:53.29
- 100 back: 53.94
- 200 free: 1:46.86
- 100 fly: 54.72
- 400 IM: 4:14.68
Brison has really come around in the 200 back, dropping more than two seconds to jump onto our top 20 list. She also dropped about four seconds in the 400 IM, which may become a sneaky college event for her. For now, Brison projects well as a two-distance backstroker who could eventually contribute as a 200 freestyler on a relays.
- 500 free: 4:45.27
- 1000 free: 9:46.06
- 1650 free: 16:06.48
- 200 back: 1:56.95
Waggoner has come up with massive drops since last year, including from 16:19 to 16:06 in the mile and from 4:50.0 to 4:45.2 in the 500. That 1650 free is just tenths off of NCAA scoring level, which merits inclusion in our top 20.
- 1650 free: 16:21.60
- 1000 free: 9:49.45
- 500 free: 4:44.62
Smith is yet another fast-dropping distance swimmer in a deep distance class. Check out these time drops: from 16:53 to 16:21 in the mile, from 9:59 to 9:49 in the 1000 and from 4:54 to 4:44 in the 500 free.
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.
- 50 free: 22.66
- 100 free: 48.69
- 100 fly: 53.70
A great sprinter, just not quite versatile enough yet to crack the top 20. For a sprint-needy program, though, Scott would be much more valuable than some of the distance types in the top 20.
- 50 free: 22.46
- 100 free: 49.04
- 200 free: 1:47.29
Fulton is another relay-value swimmer who can swim all three relay distances. She dropped two seconds in the 200 free this year.
- 400 IM: 4:12.01
- 200 IM: 1:59.15
- 50 free: 22.67
- 100 free: 49.10
- 200 free: 1:47.36
- 100 fly: 53.30
Tilt is incredibly versatile with a 400 IM that should make her a great college prospect. She dropped more than four seconds in that race as a junior.
- 400 IM: 4:12.88
- 100 breast: 1:00.14
- 200 breast: 2:10.13
- 200 fly: 1:57.39
- 200 IM: 1:59.14
Rainey was more of a 200 breaststroker last time around, but after dropping more than four seconds in the 400 IM, she’s now an IM type who could cross over into breaststroke, like an Ella Nelson/Brooke Forde type.
- 100 fly: 52.90
- 200 fly: 1:56.85
- 200 free: 1:47.38
Schalow remains a great two-distance butterflyer who broke 53 seconds for the first time as we were in-progress with these ranks.
- 400 IM: 4:11.80
- 200 breast: 2:11.07
- 500 free: 4:46.87
- 1000 free: 9:51.35
- 1650 free: 16:51.57
- 200 IM: 1:59.34
Count Hazle among the great 400 IMers in this class with a lot of potential in other events, especially the 200 breast.
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:
- Ava Muzzy (1:59.5/4:12.7) **North Carolina**
- Reese Tiltmann (2:00.6/4:14.7) **Indiana**
- Katie McCarthy (2:01.9/4:15.3, 4:48.3/1:48.5FR) **Minnesota**
- Megan Hutchins (2:00.1/4:16.9) **Kentucky**
- Molly Blanchard (4:16.4) **Tennessee**
- Teagan Steinmetz (4:16.6) **NC State**
- Asia Kozan (4:16.1) **UCSD**
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 2023||Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores|
|High School Class of 2022||Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores||Ranks as Juniors|
|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||Post-college retrospective|
|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|