Ranking the Best NCAA Women’s Swimmers in Division I From 1-25

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Andy Ross.

With the 2018-19 school year underway, many teams are getting their toes wet with fall training as we dive into a new season. Last year, the Stanford women won their second straight national title and won all five relays, putting themselves amongst the talks of the greatest NCAA teams of all-time.

With a new season commencing, many big names have left. NCAA champions Simone Manuel and Ally Howe have graduated. Katie Ledecky and Kathleen Baker also left college early to pursue pro careers. However with all those big names gone, there are still some big names left in college.

This senior class for 2019 might be one of the strongest we have ever seen in recent years, comparing to the class of 2017 which included Leah SmithOlivia SmoligaLia Neal and Missy Franklin. With this year’s strong senior class, it could be one of the fastest NCAA women’s meets on record.

Swimming World has compiled a list of the 25 best swimmers returning this season to get a sense of what the field looks like as we start duel meets in the next few weeks. This “pre-season poll” was based off of 2017-18 performances, with some newcomer’s converted times factored into play.

Others receiving votes: 26. Joanna Evans, Senior, Texas; 27. Lindsey Kozelsky, Junior, Minnesota; 28. Bailey Andison, Senior, Indiana; 29. Sarah Darcel, Sophomore, California; 30. Riley Scott, Senior, Southern Cal; 31. Kirsten Jacobsen, Junior, Arizona; 32. Annie Ochitwa, Senior, Missouri; 33. Evie Pfeifer, Sophomore, Texas

25. Zoe Bartel, Freshman, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 breast, 58.72 (Sectionals); 200 breast, 2:06.24 (Sectionals)

Perhaps the number one American in the high school class of 2018, Bartel is filling a huge breaststroke hole that Stanford has had since Sarah Haase graduated in 2016. Stanford has won four straight 400 medley relays and could make it five straight with a potential All-American in the second leg.

24. Claire Adams, Junior, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 back, 51.13 (Big XII); 100 free, 47.46 (Big XII)

In 2017, Texas was just a half point out of their first top four finish since 2001. In 2018, the Longhorns were fourth heading into the last day but only managed to get one A-finalist back on the last night, and they faded to sixth. That one finalist was Claire Adams and the junior is looking to bring the Longhorns back to the top four. Adams didn’t swim any best times at the NCAA’s but moved to the 100 free after swimming the 200 back as a freshman. With the 2019 NCAA meet in Austin, Adams and the Longhorns could be in for a big meet.

23. Grace Oglesby, Junior, Louisville

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Photo Courtesy: Sarah D. Davis/theACC.com

2018 times: 100 fly, 51.07 (NCAA); 200 fly, 1:53.16 (NCAA)

Grace Oglesby was a 51.75 her junior year of high school in the 100 fly and finally surpassed that best time this past college season with a 51.07. Oglesby reached the A-Final in both butterfly events in 2018 and could be in line to do that again in 2019. Last year, Louisville had its highest ever finish as a team by reaching fifth place. If they want to stay in the top four, Oglesby is one of the swimmers they will be looking at to take them there.

22. Meghan Small, Junior, Tennessee

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

2018 times: 200 IM, 1:53.05 (SEC); 100 back, 51.46 (NCAA)

Small was one of the best IM’ers in the country coming out of high school in 2016. She had a great freshman season winning an SEC title in the 200 IM, but had a bit of the sophomore blues in 2018. Small showed some versatility though by leading off Tennessee’s 400 medley relay with a 51.46.

However, she swam the 200 fly at NCAA’s instead of the 100 back in 2018. She is the sixth fastest 100 backstroker coming back this season and who knows if that could coerce her into switching events.

21. Katie McLaughlin, Senior, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 fly, 51.17 (Pac-12); 200 fly, 1:52.64 (NCAA)

Going into the fall of 2015 if someone said that Katie McLaughlin would walk into her senior year with zero NCAA titles, no one would believe them. But injuries have gotten in her way and she is just starting to get back to where she was in 2015.

McLaughlin reached three A-Finals in 2018, including the impressive 100 fly-200 free double that was perfected by another Cal great Dana Vollmer in 2009. She made her first National team since 2015 by getting second in the 100 fly at Nationals this summer and is going to be a very strong asset for Cal’s relays in 2019.

20. Elise Haan, Senior, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 back, 50.42 (NCAA); 200 back, 1:51.48 (NCAA)

Haan maybe has one of the most beautiful shoulder rotations in the sport. She is currently the second fastest 100 backstroker headed into this season and could go out on a high note with an individual NCAA title. North Carolina State has never had an individual NCAA champion on the women’s side and that could change in 2019.

19. Anna Belousova, Junior, Texas A&M

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Photo Courtesy: Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

2018 times: 100 breast, 58.40 (SEC); 200 breast, 2:05.08 (SEC)

Anna Belousova was a part of the legendary Texas A&M breaststroke group that put four swimmers in the A-Final of the 200 breast at the 2018 NCAA’s. Belousova was big for the Aggies when she placed in the top eight in both the 100 and 200 breast this past season. The 2019 NCAA meet will be in Austin, not far from College Station and that could help out the Aggie contention in the team race.

18. Miranda Tucker, Junior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 breast, 57.93 (B1G); 200 breast, 2:06.59 (B1G)

The Big Ten is especially stacked in the breaststroke events. The three fastest 100 breaststrokers from last year are all in the Big Ten and all are coming back for more in 2019. Tucker was second in the 100 breast in 2018 at NCAA’s, which was where she placed two years prior in 2016 in the 200 when she was a freshman at Indiana.

Tucker is again a top three favorite heading into this season, and she will definitely be instrumental in Michigan’s quest to stay in the top four.

17. Rose Bi, Senior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

2018 times: 500 free, 4:35.02 (Georgia Invite); 1650 free, 15:51.18 (B1G)

Bi is already in her senior year and she is looking to go out in a big way for the Wolverines. Michigan was fourth a year ago for the first time since 1996, but Bi did not score in the top eight in either event despite coming in as a multi-All-American favorite.

Bi has swum best times at the Georgia Invite the last two seasons (she came in January her freshman season) and will be looking to change that going into this year. Bi is swimming alongside distance standout Sierra Schmidt and it could help both swimmers reach the podium in March.

16. Abbey Weitzeil, Junior, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 50 free, 21.41 (Pac-12); 100 free, 46.63 (Pac-12)

Like her teammate McLaughlin, it’s a little hard to believe Weitzeil has yet to win an individual NCAA title. To be fair though, Weitzeil had to compete with one of the best NCAA swimmers of all-time in Stanford’s Simone Manuel, whom Weitzeil competed with at the 2016 Olympics.

The sprint free events are wide open this year and Weitzeil is definitely a favorite in both the 50 and 100 because remember, Weitzeil still has the American Record in the 50 with a 21.12 from 2016 before she got to Cal.

15. Cierra Runge, Junior, Arizona State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2017 times: 500 free, 4:35.55 (Texas Invite); 200 free, 1:43.18 (Texas Invite); 1650 free, 15:51.72 (B1G)

She has not competed at the NCAA level since she was at Wisconsin in the 2016-17 school year. Before that she was an All-American at Cal in the 2014-15 season. Now at her third school, Arizona State seems to be the right fit for Runge as she is heading into her junior season under one of her old coaches Bob Bowman. If Runge can get back to her 2015 form, it could be bad news for the rest of the country.

14. Aly Tetzloff, Senior, Auburn

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 50 free, 21.77 (NCAA); 100 fly, 51.32 (SEC); 100 free, 47.17 (NCAA)

Auburn senior Aly Tetzloff took a lot of people by surprise in 2018 when she reached two A-Finals at the NCAA Championships. Now in her senior year, Tetzloff is the face of a re-surging Auburn team that is looking to get back to the top ten for the first time since 2012. In the wide open sprint free events, Tetzloff is entering the 2018-19 season as the fourth (50) and sixth (100 free) fastest in the nation.

13. Amy Bilquist, Senior, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 50 free, 21.74 (Pac-12); 100 back, 51.28 (Pac-12); 200 back, 1:50.23 (Pac-12)

With no Kathleen Baker at Cal, senior Amy Bilquist is now one of the go-to swimmers in Berkeley. Bilquist has a wide range from the 50 free to the 200 back and can help out the Golden Bears on any of the five relays. If Cal has any chance to chase down Stanford, they are going to be looking at someone like Bilquist to be able to swim as many events as she can. With Bilquist and Weitzeil back, Cal’s sprint free relays look to be dangerous and could challenge some American Records.

12. Siobhan Haughey, Senior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 IM, 1:53.48 (Georgia Invite); 200 free, 1:40.69 (NCAA); 100 free, 46.91 (NCAA)

Speaking of versatility, Michigan senior Siobahn Haughey is the Swiss army knife for a Michigan team that is coming off of three straight Big Ten titles. She helped the Wolverines get up to the top four for the first time since 1996 and she will be looking to close out her NCAA career in style in 2019.

Michigan has not had an individual NCAA champion since Emily Brunemann in the 1650 in 2008 and Haughey has a chance to end that streak. She had been dealing with injuries in 2018 but was still swimming best times despite this. A fully healthy Haughey could do damage at the NCAA Championships.

11. Ally McHugh, Senior, Penn State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 500 free, 4:36.17 (NCAA); 400 IM, 4:06.43 (B1G); 1650 free, 15:36.27 (NCAA)

Penn State senior Ally McHugh had maybe the surprise of the meet at the US Nationals when she won the 400 IM for her first National title. That swim earned her a spot on the World Championships team for 2019. This upcoming season, she will be swimming in her final year at Penn State, where she returns as the number one miler in the country after Ledecky decided to go pro.

McHugh was only a 4:06 in the 400 IM last season, managing a 17th place at NCAA’s. If she can replicate her 4:34 long course swim in 2019, then she could definitely challenge Ella Eastin’s, as she is going for her fourth straight 400 IM NCAA title.

10. Beata Nelson, Junior, Wisconsin

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 IM, 1:53.54 (NCAA); 100 back, 49.78 (B1G); 200 back, 1:49.27 (NCAA)

Nelson took a lot of people by surprise when she rattled the American Record in the 100 back at Big Ten’s. With that successful year behind her, she is now one of the favorites to win both backstroke events with the absence of American Record holders Ally Howe and Kathleen Baker. Wisconsin only has one national title in school history with Maggie Meyer winning the 200 back in 2011. With Yuri Sugiyama now in town for the Badgers, it could push Nelson to win her first national title.

9. Katie Drabot, Junior, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 500 free, 4:34.86 (NCAA); 200 free, 1:42.99 (NCAA); 200 fly, 1:51.73 (NCAA)

Katie Drabot enjoyed a nice breakout season in 2018 that culminated in a spot on the Pan Pac team in August, which also earned her a spot on the World Championship team for 2019. Drabot reached three A-Finals at the NCAA’s in March and without the likes of Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel, she will be relied upon more heavily this season. She is the number one 500 freestyler coming back in what is turning into a wide open event across the board.

8. Sydney Pickrem, Senior, Texas A&M

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 IM, 1:52.35 (NCAA); 400 IM, 3:59.05 (NCAA); 200 breast, 2:04.62 (SEC)

Pickrem is perhaps one of the best NCAA swimmers yet to win an individual title. Pickrem has her hands full in 2019 with Lilly King and Ella Eastin sitting in front of her in the 200 breast and the 200 and 400 IM respectively.

However, Pickrem did finish ahead of Eastin at the Pan Pacs in the 200 IM. The two will go head to head for the fourth year in a row in both IM’s.

7. Erika Brown, Junior, Tennessee

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 50 free, 21.39 (SEC); 100 fly, 49.85 (SEC); 100 free, 47.08 (NCAA)

Brown was probably the most improved swimmer in the country in 2018. She reached the A-Final in all three of her individual events after not qualifying for the meet individually in 2017. Now in her junior year, Brown is the number one swimmer coming back in the 50 free and is a part of a Tennessee team searching for its first top ten finish since 2014.

6. Asia Seidt, Junior, Kentucky

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 IM, 1:53.04 (SEC); 100 back, 50.86 (SEC); 200 back, 1:49.24 (NCAA)

Seidt has been consistently one of the best backstrokers in the nation and now with Baker out of the picture, could be in line for her first national title. She is coming off a slightly disappointing summer, swimming slower in the 200 back at Nationals than she did at the Columbus Pro Swim Series. Despite this, Seidt is the fastest 200 backstroker coming into the 2018-19 season and will be looking to continue Kentucky’s 200 back tradition that was started by Danielle Galyer in 2016.

5. Taylor Ruck, Freshman, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Ian MacNicol

Best LCM times: 200 free, 1:54.44 (Pan Pacs); 100 back, 58.97 (Commonwealth Games); 100 free, 52.72 (Pan Pacs)

With Ledecky out, in comes her replacement in Canadian Olympian Taylor Ruck. It’s yet to be seen what she can do in an NCAA setting, but if it’s anything like she did in long course in 2018, then Stanford is in good hands. Ruck won eight medals at the Commonwealth Games and five more at the Pan Pacific Championships, including the fastest time in the world in the 200 free. Ruck is capable of swimming on any of the five relays for Stanford and will be a valuable asset for the Cardinal as they look to win their third straight national title in 2019.

4. Louise Hansson, Junior, Southern Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 fly, 49.80 (NCAA); 200 free, 1:41.81 (Pac-12); 200 fly, 1:51.13 (Pac-12)

Now in her junior year, USC’s Louise Hansson is the reigning NCAA champion in the 100 fly and was third in the 200 fly. She swam on all five relays for the Trojans at NCAA’s a year ago after using the 200 IM as her third event in 2017. Hansson is capable of scoring in the top eight in a number of events and will be interesting where the coaches decide to use her this season.

3. Mallory Comerford, Senior, Louisville

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 fly, 50.92 (Winter Nationals); 200 free, 1:39.80 (NCAA); 100 free, 46.20 (NCAA)

Comerford is now the two-time reigning NCAA champion in the 200 free and with Manuel out of the picture, is the number one 100 freestyler coming back this season. Her predecessor Kelsi Worrell won four NCAA titles for the Cardinals in her career and Comerford has a chance to match that if she wins two more titles her senior year. To add to Comerford’s already illustrious career, she is chasing the American Record in the 200 free held by Missy Franklin from 2015.

2. Lilly King, Senior, Indiana

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 breast, 56.25 (NCAA); 200 breast, 2:02.60 (NCAA)

Lilly King has a chance to stamp her name down as the best NCAA breaststroker of all-time. She has not lost a breaststroke race at the NCAA Championships and she is in the driver’s seat to win her seventh and eighth titles in 2019. She also holds the American Record in both events and will be looking to put those records out of reach for the rest of the country. Stanford’s Tara Kirk (2001-2004) won four 100 titles and USC’s Rebecca Soni (2006-2009) won four 200 titles, but no woman has won four titles in both events. King is on her way to history.

1. Ella Eastin, Senior, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 IM, 1:50.67 (NCAA); 400 IM, 3:54.60 (NCAA); 200 fly, 1:49.51 (Pac-12)

Ella Eastin had a dream season last year where she won three individual titles and set three American Records during the year. She broke the American Records in both IM’s last year after breaking the oldest American Record in the 200 fly at Pac-12’s.

She is coming off a summer where she struggled with mono, but she managed to fight her way on to the Pan Pac team. Much like the aforementioned Haughey, a fully healthy Eastin could be doomsday for the rest of the country.

1 comment

  1. Cheryl Ourada Allen

    Christine Brown congrats to Erica so cool! Hope she aha a great season.