July 1st marks the opening of the NCAA’s recruiting season for swimming, with coaches finally allowed to pick up the phone and start recruiting the nation’s top high school seniors to their respective college programs.
July 1st also marks the publishing of our annual Top 20 Recruit rankings, always an informative (and controversial) event in swimming coverage.
As we do in these rankings every season, we’ll begin with an explanation/disclaimer.
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:
- Sprints over distance – 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.
- Conference scoring ability – yes, freshmen who score at NCAA’s, especially on the men’s side, are incredibly valuable. But college coaches know that their Athletics Directors also want to see success at conference meets, so we’ve factored that in as well.
- 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. For example, the women’s backstrokes have been loaded with stars in the NCAA the past few years. Though a 52-second backstroker is still valuable, that time won’t get you near as far as it would have in years past. In the same vein, if a recruiting class is loaded with swimmers in the same event, they all are devalued a little, relatively speaking. This year’s class of boys features a horde of backstrokers in the 48/1:45-range, which leaves them all jockeying with each other for position in the rankings.
With that out of the way, let’s get to our rankings.
Disclosure: 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 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 2016
(All best times are in short course yards.)
1. Meghan Small – York YMCA – Lineboro, MD **Verbally committed to Tennessee**
Best times: 200 IM – 1:54.25, 400 IM – 4:03.96, 100 back – 52.19, 200 back – 1:51.74, 200 free – 1:45.48
Meghan Small was the star of YMCA Nationals this past season, and it would be no large surprise to see her become the star of college nationals in the near future. Small should come in the door with shots at NCAA titles in both IM races, and she’s also an accomplished backstroker. On top of that, her 200 free is fast enough to make her a relay threat on at least the 800 free relay. Versatility, a couple standout events, great endurance and relay capabilities – what more can you look for in a top-tier recruit?
2. Elizabeth (Beata) Nelson – Madison Aquatic Club – Madison, WI **Verbally committed to Wisconsin**
Best times: 100 fly – 51.08, 100 back – 51.67, 200 back – 1:55.68, 200 IM – 1:57.88, 100 free – 49.02, 50 free – 22.51
Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson is a machine underwater, which makes her a dangerous NCAA swimmer from the get-go. Nelson is the national public high school record-holder in the 100 fly and could easily turn out to be one of the top few butterflyers in the nation as a freshman. Her backstroke is nothing to scoff at, either, and she’s got enough speed in the sprint freestyles to be a free relay factor as well as a potential game-changer on the medleys.
3. Becca Mann – North Baltimore Aquatic Club – Homer Glen, IL **Verbally committed to USC**
Best times: 1650 free – 15:45.33, 500 free – 4:34.77, 400 IM – 4:05.52, 200 free – 1:47.73, 200 IM – 1:58.46
Mann’s status here gets hurt slightly by her distance swimmer status, but she’s the rare distance swimmer who can still procure a top-3 ranking despite not being much of a relay threat. Mann’s lifetime-best would have been second at last year’s NCAAs in the 1650, and she’ll instantly be one of the top distance swimmers in the college ranks. A killer 400 IM only adds value, and the hope will be that her 200 free can improve enough to make a relay splash in the 800.
4. Constanze (Stanzi) Moseley – Roadrunner Aquatics – Bakersfield, CA **Verbally committed to USC**
Best times: 200 free – 1:44.55, 100 free – 48.14, 50 free – 22.11
The California-based Junior National champ is a dream relay piece. Fast from the 50 to the 200, Moseley could turn out to be a plug-and-play relay swimmer in any of the 5 relay events – or all of them – from her freshman season onwards. Her 200 free is most impressive, leading a class that includes some top-tier 200 freestylers.
5. Claire Adams – Carmel Swim Club – Carmel, IN **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best times: 100 back – 51.99, 200 back – 1:51.87, 50 free – 22.97, 100 free – 49.19, 200 free – 1:45.09
Part of a dominant group at the Carmel Swim Club, Adams is a multi-event star. She’s got outstanding backstroke times that will put her in the thick of a brutal NCAA stroke discipline, and she’s also got legitimate potential as a developmental relay swimmer – maybe more than that in the 200 free, where she’s among the best in her recruiting class.
6. Katie Drabot – Ozaukee Aquatics – Mequon, WI **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best times: 200 free – 1:45.22, 100 free – 48.96, 500 free – 4:43.09, 50 free – 22.75, 200 IM – 1:57.97, 400 IM – 4:09.43
It seems a bit odd putting U.S. Short Course World Champs team member Katie Drabot all the way at #6, but this is a very tough class, particularly in the freestyle events where Drabot excels. Still, she’s a rangy talent who will give coaches lineup versatility and relay options. An underrated part of Drabot’s skill-set is her IM prowess – she could be an NCAA point-scorer in either IM her freshman season, depending on what events she winds up swimming in college.
7. Veronica Burchill – Carmel Swim Club – Carmel, IN **Verbally committed to Georgia**
Best times: 50 free – 22.29, 100 free – 48.48, 100 fly – 52.26
Another stud from the Carmel Swim Club. Burchill is more of a pure sprinter than her teammate Adams, but that could work in her favor as a relay swimmer. Burchill is knocking on the door of a 21-second 50 free, and is also just outside of NCAA scoring range in the 100 fly.
8. Allie Szekely – Central Bucks Swim Team – Doylestown, PA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best times: 400 IM – 4:06.33, 200 IM – 1:57.68, 200 back – 1:53.36, 100 back – 53.37, 200 breast – 2:10.22, 100 breast – 1:01.34
Pennsylvania’s Allie Szekely has had a very unique development. A high-profile young breaststroker, Szekely has really broken out in backstroke lately, to the point where it’s those events that might attract the brunt of college recruiters. Still, it’s her 400 IM that would have scored at last year’s NCAAs. Szekely is a Swiss Army knife of a swimmer that should give one college coach a wealth of lineup options.
9. Grace Oglesby – Cardinal Aquatics – Louisville, KY **Verbally committed to Louisville**
Best times: 100 fly – 51.75, 200 fly – 1:56.32
Oglesby doesn’t have the event versatility of some of the names above her, but what she does, she does well. Very well. Swimming out of Louisville, Kentucky, Oglesby is one of the nation’s best high school butterflyers over both distances, and could be a huge medley relay option down the road. She’s already committed to her hometown team, the Louisville Cardinals, and will follow in the footsteps of American record-holder Kelsi Worrell.
10. Lindsey Horejsi – Mantas Swim Team – Albert Lea, MN **Verbally committed to Minnesota**
Best times: 100 breast – 59.56, 200 breast – 2:11.05, 200 IM – 1:59.77
The only breaststroker to make our list, Minnesota’s Lindsey Horejsi is already under a minute in the 100 – an NCAA scoring time in 2015 – and is close to NCAA points in the 200. She’s got some potential in the 200 IM that could be developed as well. Breaststroke can often be a hole that sinks an otherwise-sound medley relay, and Horejsi is a head above the rest of her class, which should intrigue any team with a breaststroke hole heading into 2016-2017.
Honorable Mention (#11-20)
11. Erin Voss – Greater Holyoke YMCA – Northampton, MA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best times: 200 back – 1:51.95, 100 back – 53.37
12. Savanna Faulconer – Y-Spartaquatics – Simpsonville, SC **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best times: 400 IM – 4:08.59, 200 breast – 2:10.79, 100 breast – 1:02.00
13. Keaton Blovad – Tualatin Hills Swim Club – Lake Oswego, OR **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best times: 100 back – 53.51, 50 back – 24.93, 200 IM – 1:58.71, 100 free – 49.01, 50 free – 22.75, 200 free – 1:46.65, 100 breast – 1:01.02, 200 back – 1:57.38
14. Megan Byrnes – Nation’s Capital Swim Club – Fairfax, VA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best times: 1650 free – 16:01.83, 500 free – 4:43.43, 200 free – 1:48.61
15. Kirsten Jacobsen – Barrington Swim Club – Barrington, IL – **Verbally committed to Arizona**
Best times: 1650 free – 16:06.66, 500 free – 4:42.31, 200 free – 1:46.98, 100 free – 49.66
16. Ali Galyer – Y-Spartaquatics – Greer, SC **Verbally committed to Kentucky**
Best times: 200 back – 1:53.76, 100 back – 53.66, 200 free – 1:48.01
17. Tatum Wade – Nashville Aquatic Club – Nashville, TN **Verbally committed to USC**
Best times: 200 free – 1:45.59, 200 breast – 2:12.73, 200 fly – 1:58.34, 200 IM – 1:57.53
18. Lauren Case – Chattahoochee Gold – Woodstock, GA **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best times: 100 fly – 52.81, 200 fly – 1:56.31, 200 free – 1:45.96
19. Asia Seidt – Lakeside Swim Team – Peewee Valley, KY **Verbally committed to Kentucky**
Best times: 100 back – 53.06, 200 back – 1:55.14, 200 IM – 1:58.53, 200 fly – 1:57.11
20. Kennedy Lohman – Lakeside Swim Team – Prospect, KY **Verbally committed to Arizona**
Best times: 100 breast – 1:00.51, 200 breast – 2:10.87