We’ve already done a deep dive into our recruiting archives, looking at how the top 20 recruits from the high school class of 2018 did after four NCAA seasons. Now it’s time to look back at a more recent recruit ranking: the current year’s freshmen:
Naturally, this analysis has a far smaller sample size than the lookback of how the class of 2018 fared over their entire career, so it’s much more difficult to read too much into these numbers. Still, it’s useful to look at which first-year NCAA swimmers had the best performances relative to their recruiting ranks.
As always, our notes on this data:
The data included is only individual scoring at NCAAs. That’s not an exact measure of an athlete’s contribution to a program: many of these swimmers (and others not listed) were relay scorers at NCAAs, scored significant points at conference meets and provided great leadership and culture-building for their programs. This data isn’t a perfect analysis of the best recruits – it’s merely a quick look at the data we can compile.
A college swimming career includes four years of eligibility, and sometimes more. Revisiting scoring after one year is an incomplete analysis of a swimmer’s career – this is not the final word on any of these prospects, and we will revisit this data over the next three seasons to get a more complete evaluation.
The ranks listed below are from our re-rank last summer – they are not current ranks of NCAA athletes. We also do not rank international athletes as recruits, as it’s hard to predict if and when they’ll come to the U.S., and which class with which to include them.
TOP 20 RANKED RECRUITS
Gretchen Walsh had an unbelievable freshman year at UVA after falling from #1 to #2 in the re-rank. Walsh won an individual title in the 100 free, was second in both the 50 free and 100 back, and contributed on three winning relays as she scored 54 points to help the Cavaliers defend thier NCAA title.
Walsh’s total eclipses the highest freshman marks we saw last season, where Phoebe Bacon scored 51 points and Walsh’s sister Alex put up 48.
Torri Huske came into college riding a ton of momentum and followed through with a very impressive season for Stanford that included a pair of runner-up finishes in the 100 fly and 200 IM. After failing to advance to the ‘A’ final of the 100 free, Huske touched first in the consolation final in a time that would’ve been fourth in the big heat.
Paige McKenna joined Walsh in winning an NCAA title as a freshman this season, dropping six and a half seconds from her best time to win the 1650 free by … six and a half seconds in 15:40.84. Prior to going 15:47 to win the Big Ten title in February, McKenna hadn’t lowered her PB in the event since March of 2019, which was part of the reason we only slotted her sixth in the class re-rank. She also won the B1G title in the 500 free and then made the NCAA final, placing sixth.
Georgia’s Abby McCulloh lowered her best time on three separate occasions in the 1650 during the season, culminating with a 15:49.87 at NCAAs to finish fifth overall. McCulloh also cracked 4:40 for the first time in the 500 free at the mid-season Georgia Tech Invite before earning a second swim and placing 16th at NCAAs.
Letitia Sim was easily the classes’ top breaststroker coming out of high school and swam best times in both races at NCAAs, taking 10th in the 100 and 18th in the 200 breast. Her Michigan teammate Lindsay Flynn also had an impressive season for the Wolverines, including scoring six points in the ultra-competitive 100 free.
#3 Grace Sheble shouldn’t necessarily be categorized in the misses category, as she did have a strong ACC Championship performance that included a third-place finish in the 400 IM and two more ‘A’ finals in the 200 fly and 200 IM. She managed to score at NCAAs in the 200 fly and had she matched her ACC time in the 400 IM, would’ve been ninth in prelims.
Stanford’s Samantha Tadder never seriously approached her best times all season for the Cardinal and didn’t earn an NCAA invite. Her highest finish was ninth (400 IM) at Pac-12s.
Recruits ranked seventh through 11th earned invites but didn’t score at NCAAs.
Besides Strouse, only two others* who ranked inside the top-20, Ashley Strouse and Amy Tang, didn’t earn NCAA invites. Strouse came into her first season at Northwestern with most of her primary best times having been set back in 2018, which resulted in a fall from #7 to #14 in the re-rank. She wasn’t able to reach those this season, with her highest Big Ten finish being a 13th in the 500 free. Tang swam on the Pac-12 winning 200 free relay with Stanford in February, but narrowly missed getting under the time required to qualify for NCAAs in the 50 and 100 free.
*The above does not include Brooke Zettel, who only swam two meets for Florida before announcing she was transferring to Virginia Tech next season.
And of course, we’ll include everyone’s favorite part: which unranked recruits earned NCAA invites and scored points this season – both domestic up-and-comers and international pickups.
Anna Peplowski wan an absolute stud for Indiana, earning a pair of runner-up finishes individually at Big Tens in the 200 free and 200 back. She essentially matched her 200 free best to then take 10th in the 200 free at NCAAs.
Stanford’s Aurora Roghair hit lifetime bests in the 200, 500 and 1650 free at Pac-12s, and followed up by snagging 15th in the mile to score at NCAAs.
Rye Ulett was ranked 10th in our high school class of 2022 rankings, but joined Louisville early, the way Reilly Tiltmann did last season.
Ellen Walshe‘s NCAA point total doesn’t do justice to how incredible of a season she had for Tennessee, proving to be an all-around threat. This was highlighted by the Irish native winning back-to-back SEC titles in the 400 IM and 100 fly during the same session (following up by making the championship final at NCAAs in both races). While she wasn’t quite on the same form at nationals as she was at the conference championships (like her whole team), she’s a legitimate NCAA title threat in the future.
Another standout for Tennessee this year was Germany’s Julia Mrozinski, who, at 22, was quite a few years older than those coming straight out of high school (like many international recruits). Like Walshe, her best times of the season came at SECs, including winning the 500 free, and although she ended up adding at NCAAs, she still placed ninth in the 500. Her SEC time (4:35.95) would’ve been .03 outside of third.
Israeli native Leah Polonsky scored in both IMs for Cal, South Africa’s Dune Coetzee put up some freestyle points for UGA, and Singapore natives Ching Hwee Gan (1650 free) and Christie Chue (200 breast) put points up for Indiana and FIU, respectively.
U.S. Olympian Hailey Hernandez proved to be an invaluable asset for the Texas Longhorns, scoring 26 points to help the team edge out Stanford by 6.5 points and finish second in the team race.
OTHER FRESHMAN SCORERS
There were a few other swimmers officially classified as freshmen this season who didn’t come from this high school class.
Stanford’s Regan Smith, Lillie Nordmann and Virginia’s Emma Weyant all deferred enrollment last season, so they were competing as freshmen but come from the high school class of 2020. The same goes for Canadian native Avery Wiseman, who swam for Tennessee.
UVA’s Reilly Tiltmann was in this high school class but joined the Cavaliers a semester early and competed at the 2021 NCAAs. The results list her as a freshman, but she’s burned two years of eligibility.
Texas’ Erica Sullivan was a freshman this season but came out of the high school class of 2018, where she was ranked fifth and committed to swim for USC. Sullivan deferred a few years, won an Olympic medal, and then joined Texas and scored 33 points. (Despite only swimming in one NCAA meet, that point total still ranked Sullivan fifth among the class of 2018 over the last four seasons.)