As Postseason Looms, Re-Ranking the Top-25 NCAA Women

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

As Postseason Looms, Re-Ranking the Top-25 NCAA Women

With six weeks to go until the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, we at Swimming World decided to re-rank our top 25 swimmers in Division I at this point of the season. Who has surpassed expectations from last year? Who was performed below what was expected? Who has totally shocked us?

It was a bit difficult to analyze this season due to different schools and conferences having more tangible racing opportunities but we have ranked our top 25 below.

Swimming World’s Top 25 – Women’s Division I

Dropped from preseason rankings:

  • Calypso Sheridan, Senior, Northwestern
  • Cora Dupre, Sophomore, Alabama
  • Laticia Transom, Junior, Southern Cal
  • Freya Rayner, Senior, Ohio State
  • Leah Braswell, Junior, Florida
  • Izzy Gati, Junior, Kentucky

25. Robin Neumann, Senior, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 100 free, 48.66; 200 free, 1:44.01

Even with the loss of sprinter Abbey Weitzeil, Cal still has a good team capable of a top four finish at NCAAs, and senior Robin Neumann has played a big role in that. In limited action this semester, she is ranked in the top eight in the 200 free and will play a big role on Berkeley’s relays that could take some people by surprise.

24. Chloe Stepanek, Freshman, Texas A&M

Chloe Stepanek

Chloe Stepanek; Photo Courtesy: Craig Bisacre / Texas A&M Athletics

2021 times: 100 free, 47.84; 200 free, 1:44.40

Stepanek has transitioned nicely to life at Texas A&M, registering the third-fastest time in the country in the 100 free and is also proving herself to be reliable for the Aggies on relays. A&M is looking to get back to the national top four and at the top of the SEC and Stepanek is definitely a key centerpiece in place for the Aggies moving forward.

23. Kensey McMahon, Junior, Alabama

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Photo Courtesy: Jeff Hanson / Alabama Athletics

2021 times: 500 free, 4:39.84; 1650, 15:54.06

It is a bit difficult to gauge where the distance swimmers are off the pandemic, but McMahon has seemingly not missed a beat, registering the second-fastest time in the 1650 this season at 15:54.06. She also sits seventh nationally in the 500.

22. Kelly Pash, Sophomore, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Angela Wang / Texas Athletics

2021 times: 200 free, 1:43.61; 200 fly, 1:53.18

The Texas women are ranked No. 1 in the dual meet poll and Pash’s rise as a sophomore has played a role in that. She is ranked second nationally in the 200 free and 200 fly, and is also seventh in the 200 IM (1:55.40). Could this be the year the Texas women break through for a top-four finish?

21. Sierra Schmidt, Senior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 1650, 15:53.52

Schmidt had a promising high school career as a World Juniors gold medalist in 2015, but hadn’t quite hit her stride in college while at Michigan. In her junior year, she was top three in both the 500 and 1650 at the Big Ten Championships and was in the talks to take the longer distance at NCAAs. It’s hard to believe Schmidt is just now in her senior year at Michigan, but the perennial “dancing queen” has remained one of the more consistent distance freestylers the last five years. Michigan last produced an NCAA champion on the women’s side in 2008, when Emily Brunemann won the 1650, and she is looking good thus far this year with a 15:53 last week.

20. Kylee Alons, Junior, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: Chris Baird

2021 times: 50 free, 21.90; 100 free, 48.42

Alons swam the butterfly leg in the nation-leading 400 medley relay team last season as the Wolfpack return three of those four legs. Alons has become one of the top sprinters in the nation and will need to be huge in N.C. State’s quest for its first top four finish.

19. Morgan Tankersley, Junior, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 500 free, 4:41.58; 1650, 16:09.91

The 2017 Swimming World high school swimmer of the year showed glimpses of her high school success last season as a sophomore, winning the Pac-12 title in the 1650 and finishing second in the 500. Stanford has been known to rest well for NCAAs so Tankersley might have had more left for NCAAs, but we will never know for certain. But Tankersley returns as an upperclassman in a wide-open year for the 500 & 1650 events, and in some limited action with the Cardinal she is among the nation’s best in those events.

18. Isabelle Stadden, Freshman, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 Times: 100 back, 51.24; 200 back, 1:49.77

Stadden has made her Cal debut this semester with the second-fastest time in the nation in the 200 back. Cal has a rich history in this event, with NCAA champions Natalie CoughlinHelen Silver, Missy Franklin, Elizabeth Pelton and Kathleen Baker donning the blue and gold for coach Teri McKeever. Stadden could be another in a long line of backstrokers in Berkeley.

17. Olivia Bray, Freshman, Texas

Olivia Bray Texas

Photo Courtesy: Olivia Bray

2021 Times: 100 fly, 50.37; 200 fly, 1:52.85

Olivia Bray took a lot of people by surprise when she swam a 50.1 100 fly as a junior in high school and has backed that up with the nation-leading time in the 200 fly and second in the 100 fly. The Longhorns were a bit top heavy last season, swimming just five different swimmers on each of the five relays at Big 12’s last season, and Bray has added some depth to the Longhorns that sit No. 1 in the nation in the dual-meet poll.

16. Ella Nelson, Sophomore, Virginia

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2021 Times: 400 IM, 4:05.02; 200 breast, 2:07.19

Nelson had a tremendous first season in Charlottesville, finishing runnerup in both the 400 IM and 200 breast at ACCs. Now she has returned for her second season where Virginia is the favorites to not only repeat as champions at ACCs, but challenge for its first ever national title. Nelson provided depth for Virginia in the IM and breaststroke events and she will be a key piece to this year’s team as they aim for history.

15. Sarah Thompson, Senior, Missouri

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2020 times: 50 free, 21.76; 100 back, 51.90

Thompson finished fourth in a deep 100 back field at SECs last year as the Missouri women’s sprinters really showed out well at their conference meet. Thompson swam the butterfly leg on the 200 medley relay team that was just out-touched in the end by Tennessee and also anchored the 200 free relay with a swift 21.3 to help the Tigers finish in third. She already has the second fastest time in the country in the 50 free as the Mizzou sprinters are flying under the radar again this year.

14. Katherine Berkoff, Sophomore, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 100 back, 50.40; 200 back, 1:50.20

Berkoff has the nation-leading time in the 100 back and sits third in the 200. NC State has some dangerous medley relays that Berkoff will lead off and could play into the national title at the end of the season in six weeks.

13. Sophie Hansson, Junior, NC State

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NC State’s Sophie Hansson Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 100 breast, 1:00.26; 200 breast, 2:11.98

Hansson was the top seed in both the 100 & 200 breaststroke events heading to the 2020 NCAAs as the Swede won both ACC titles in those events. Although Hansson was not the official NCAA champion in the first year without four-year champ Lilly King, she still has the target on her back in her junior year as she is following in the footsteps of her sister Louise, who had a successful NCAA career at Southern Cal. And although she hasn’t performed up to speed with where she was last year, Hansson is still among the favorites for the breaststroke titles.

12. Phoebe Bacon, Freshman, Wisconsin

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Best Times: 100 back, 52.27; 200 back, 1:53.87; 200 IM, 1:57.80

Wisconsin scored a huge commitment out of Phoebe Bacon last spring as the Badgers saw immense success out of outgoing senior Beata Nelson. Bacon, who swims primarily the same events as Nelson, is already one of the top 100 backstrokers in the world, taking the gold at the Pan Am Games in 2019 and also put herself in the running to make the Olympic team. In just one meet with the Badgers, she is already leading the conference in both backstrokes and the 200 IM.

11. Alicia Wilson, Junior, California

2021 times: 200 IM, 1:53.58; 400 IM, 4:04.10

Wilson is ranked second nationally in both IM events and is a big reason why the Golden Bears are again favorites for another top three finish at NCAAs. Wilson is well ahead of where she was last year and could score some big points come NCAAs in six weeks.

10. Alex Walsh, Freshman, Virginia

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Best Times: 200 IM, 1:54.47; 100 breast, 59.02; 200 breast, 2:06.72

Walsh joined a red hot Virginia team that has become a recruiting powerhouse the last few years. She is already ranked in the national top six in three separate events and will help the Cavaliers be a force to be reckoned with in four of the five relays come NCAAs.

9. Rhyan White, Junior, Alabama

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Photo Courtesy: Jeff Hanson / Alabama Athletics

2021 times: 100 fly, 51.41; 100 back, 50.45; 200 back, 1:49.30

White is leading the nation in the 200 back and is in the top three in both the 100 fly and 100 back, albeit quietly. We haven’t heard much from White this year with a lot of attention placed on the likes of Kate Douglass and Katharine Berkoff in her respective events. But the results have spoken for themselves, and White is a national title contender.

8. Brooke Forde, Senior, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 500 free, 4:39.58; 400 IM, 4:02.90

Had Forde swam fully rested at NCAAs, she might have been a little higher on this list since she is known to be a big rest swimmer. But Forde was still able to boast the nation-leading time in the 400 IM from last year and is still technically the reigning champ in the 500 free. Forde has proved to be a clutch swimmer for the Cardinal each of the last three years as she helped the Cardinal win national titles in her first two seasons in Palo Alto. Now in her senior year and in limited racing, she is leading the nation in the 400 IM and is ranked sixth in the 500.

7. Zoie Hartman, Sophomore, Georgia

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Photo Courtesy: Chamberlain Smith / Georgia Athletics

2021 Times: 200 IM, 1:54.35; 100 breast, 58.34; 200 breast, 2:06.34

Hartman had a big freshman campaign for the Bulldogs as she swept the breaststroke double at the SEC Championships. She was unable to follow that up at NCAAs in her home pool, but Hartman is the real deal, putting herself in the national top three in three events, and is a big reason why the Bulldogs are ranked third.

6. Courtney Harnish, Senior, Georgia

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Photo Courtesy: Georgia Athletics

2020 times: 500 free, 4:36.86; 200 free, 1:45.22; 200 fly, 1:53.50

Harnish was SEC champion in the 500 and played a big role for Georgia last year. She missed out on competing at NCAAs in her home pool, but how much has that motivate her into her senior year for the Bulldogs? She is ranked as high as third nationally in the 500 and fourth in the 200 fly. Georgia has a rich history in the events she swims and could follow that legacy as a senior this year.

5. Anna Elendt, Freshman, Texas

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Anna Elendt; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

2021 times: 100 breast, 58.06; 200 breast, 2:06.04

Elendt has transitioned to college nicely in her first year at Texas as the German native is leading the NCAA in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes after one semester in the U.S. Elendt also helped the Longhorns put up the nation leading time in the 400 medley relay and could help Texas finish a historic season.

4. Isabel Ivey, Junior, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 200 IM, 1:55.08; 100 fly, 51.77; 100 back, 51.52; 100 free, 47.53

Ivey is one of the more versatile swimmers in the NCAA and has been a key piece to Cal’s relays moving forward without American record holder Abbey Weitzeil. Ivey has already proven to be a force in a number of events this season, putting up nationally top ten ranked times in four events – with the 100 free as perhaps her best shot at a national title.

3. Paige Madden, Senior, Virginia

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 500 free, 4:33.09; 200 free, 1:42.39; 1650, 16:01.93

Madden had the second fastest time nationally in the 500 last year and was a favorite to take the national title before the meet was cancelled. She has steadily improved to be one of the top freestylers in the nation as she is leading the national rankings in both the 200 and 500 freestyle. She will be one of the first swimmers for the Cavaliers at NCAAs in the 800 free relay and 500 free, and will be huge in picking up momentum.

2. Maggie MacNeil, Junior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 times: 50 free, 22.20; 100 free, 49.24

MacNeil was our pre-season No. 1 swimmer but hasn’t raced much this season as she leads the Big Ten in the 50 free. She has not swam the 100 fly yet this season, but it’s a matter of time before she produces a big time in her best event. With her qualification for Tokyo already solidified, MacNeil will be able to fully focus on the NCAA meet in six weeks.

1. Kate Douglass, Sophomore, Virginia

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Photo Courtesy: Virginia Athletics

2021 times: 200 IM, 1:50.92; 100 fly, 49.73; 100 free, 46.86

Douglass was a big reason why Virginia was last year’s national title favorite as she was the top seed in the 200 IM and was ranked in the top four in the 100 fly and 200 breast. Now Douglass returns for her second year, where she is the top swimmer nationally in three events and has also helped the Cavaliers post the nation-leading times in the 200 medley and 400 free relays. It seems like every time Douglass dives into the pool, she sets a new best time, and swimming fans will be eager for her NCAA championship debut in six weeks.