By Andy Ross
With the 2017-2018 NCAA season among us, Swimming World has decided to rank the top 25 swimmers for the upcoming season based on last year’s performances. Transfers who were ineligible last year were also factored into the equation. The times used were from last season only, so even if a swimmer had gone faster in a previous season, those times did not count in their ranking.
This list is heavy with upperclassmen as this could be one of the deepest fields in women’s swimming history at the NCAA’s this year. Last year, only one senior won an individual event and that was Farida Osman of Cal in the 100 fly. Only four other girls in last year’s senior class had won titles previously in their careers including Olivia Smoliga of Georgia, Leah Smith of Virginia, Danielle Galyer of Kentucky and Kierra Smith of Minnesota. And there’s only three seniors in the top ten here so next year could be monumental for that graduating class.
This list is not a prediction, rather it is a preview of the upcoming season. Think about it as a pre-season poll but for individual swimmers. So here it is, the pre-season poll of the top 25 women’s swimmers for the 2017-2018 season.
Others receiving votes: 26. Silja Kansakoski, Sophomore, Arizona State; 27. Riley Scott, Junior, Southern Cal; 28. Asia Seidt, Sophomore, Kentucky; 29. Meghan Small, Sophomore, Tennessee; 30. Maddy Banic, Junior, Tennessee; 31. Maddie Murphy, Sophomore, California; 32. Claire Adams, Sophomore, Texas
25. Noemie Thomas, Senior, California
2017 Times: 100 Fly, 50.44 (Pac-12); 200 Fly, 1:53.77 (Georgia Invite)
Thomas returns for her senior year as a contender for a butterfly national title. Thomas has yet to win an individual title as she has won multiple relay NCAA titles in her career. The 100 seems to be her best chance as she has the third fastest time into this season.
24. Siobhan Haughey, Junior, Michigan
2017 Times: 200 Free, 1:41.21 (NCAA); 100 Free, 47.39 (NCAA)
Haughey’s junior campaign is coming off a huge summer in which she won two gold at the World University Games in Taipei for Hong Kong. Haughey also has a formidable 200 IM and could be a three-time finalist in 2018.
23. Lindsey Horejsi-Kozelsky, Sophomore, Minnesota
2017 Times: 100 Breast, 58.03 (NCAA); 200 Breast, 2:08.03 (NCAA)
The national high school record holder in the 100 breast has been overshadowed by world record holder Lilly King in her freshman campaign, but Kozelsky is building in her sophomore season. She got married and is swimming for an underrated breaststroke coach in Kelly Kremer, so do not sleep on her this season.
22. Chelsie Britt, Senior, Georgia
2017 Times: 100 Fly, 50.93 (SEC); 200 Fly, 1:52.72, (SEC)
The Florida State transfer had a nice transition back to the NCAA after taking the 2016 year off. Britt is surprisingly the only Georgia swimmer on this list as she looks to lead a “rebuilding” Bulldogs team as they hope not to fall out of the top four for the first time since 2010.
21. Rose Bi, Junior, Michigan
2017 Times: 500 Free, 4:34.28 (Georgia Invite); 1650 Free, 15:51.94 (Georgia Invite)
Bi peaked mid-season in the 2016-2017 season and will be looking to be more on her game as she faces a deep distance field at the Big Ten Championships.
20. Brooke Zeiger, Senior, Minnesota
2017 Times: 400 IM, 4:02.71 (AT&T Winter Nationals); 1650 Free, 15:44.00 (AT&T Winter Nationals)
Zeiger had a disappointing junior campaign after sitting out Big Ten’s and swimming well off her game at NCAA’s. The highly touted recruit will add to the aforementioned distance freestyle depth in the Big Ten and will be looking to lead Minnesota back to Big Ten royalty.
19. Miranda Tucker, Sophomore, Michigan
Best times: 100 Breast: 58.10 (2016 NCAA); 200 Breast: 2:06.27 (2016 NCAA)
Tucker hasn’t swam at the NCAA championships since 2016 when she played second fiddle to Lilly King at Indiana. She has since transferred to Big Ten rival and home state team Michigan, where she will be a player in the stacked Big Ten field. The top three times leading into this year in the 100 breast are all swimmers at Big Ten schools.
18. Abbey Weitzeil, Sophomore, California
2017 Times: 50 Free, 21.40 (Pac-12); 100 Free, 47.22 (Georgia Invite)
The 2016 Olympian and 2017 World Championship team member had a relatively disappointing freshman campaign in Berkeley. Her sophomore year won’t be very forgiving as she still will have to face one of the most stacked sprint fields in NCAA history including Simone Manuel, Mallory Comerford and Liz Li.
17. G Ryan, Senior, Michigan
2017 Times: 500 Free, 4:34.28 (Georgia Invite); 1650 Free, 15:44.93 (B1G)
Ryan has finally showed their swimming potential this past season after they were summer national champion in the 800 when they were 15. Ryan is now a senior and is the defending Big Ten champ in both the 500 and the 1650 and they will have to fight for every yard to repeat in those.
16. Kennedy Goss, Senior, Indiana
2017 Times: 500 Free, 4:36.13 (NCAA); 200 Free, 1:43.37 (NCAA); 200 Back, 1:50.62 (NCAA)
Goss is easily one of the best closers in the country. She will be relied on heavily in her senior year as Indiana will be fighting for a Big Ten title with two-time defending champions Michigan.
15. Amy Bilquist, Junior, California
2017 Times: 100 Back, 50.85 (Georgia Invite); 200 Back, 1:50.06 (Georgia Invite); 100 Free, 47.55 (NCAA)
Bilquist is a part of a deep Cal team that will need every ounce out of her if they want to catch Stanford. Bilquist was third and fourth in the 100 and 200 back at the 2016 Olympic Trials and will be looking to get back to that level in her junior season in Berkeley.
14. Cierra Runge, Junior, Wisconsin
2017 Times: 500 Free, 4:35.55 (Texas Invite); 200 Free, 1:43.18 (Texas Invite); 1650 Free, 15:51.72 (B1G)
Runge is an Olympian and a 2017 World Championship team member. She also had a bit of a rough going in her first season in Madison after she transferred from Cal and left Bob Bowman at North Baltimore. Runge’s best times would put her higher on the list, but she has been a little off those this past year because of some rough patches along the way.
13. Bethany Galat, Senior, Texas A&M
2017 Times: 200 IM, 1:54.16 (NCAA); 400 IM, 4:01.06 (NCAA); 200 Breast, 2:06.68 (NCAA)
Galat could easily be the most improved swimmer so far on this list. She achieved a silver medal at the World Championships in the 200 breast this past summer and should improve on that 9th place finish in that event she had last season.
12. Katie McLaughlin, Junior, California
2017 Times: 500 Free, 4:36.04 (Pac-12); 200 Free, 1:43.17 (NCAA); 200 Fly, 1:52.37 (NCAA)
McLaughlin hasn’t been quite the same since injuring her neck her freshman season. She seems to have moved more focus to middle distance freestyle, but she is still a formidable 200 butterflyer and could potentially win her first title in that event in 2018.
11. Liz Li, Senior, Ohio State
2017 Times: 50 Free, 21.29 (NCAA); 100 Fly, 50.90 (B1G); 100 Free, 47.50 (B1G)
Li may have the best underwaters in the NCAA. That could pay dividends for her if she wants to upset Simone Manuel in the sprint freestyle events at the NCAA Championships. Li will be swimming in her home pool at Ohio State in March so she could have that in her favor.
10. Louise Hansson, Sophomore, Southern Cal
2017 Times: 200 IM, 1:53.72 (Pac-12); 100 Fly, 50.39 (Pac-12); 100 Free, 47.03 (Pac-12)
Hansson made a nice transition to yards in her first year in the United States. The Sweden native is a favorite in the wide open 100 fly as she split a 49.7 at Pac-12’s last year in the medley relay. Hansson could pull the USC team to a top four finish in her sophomore season if she continues to adjust to Dave Salo and short course yards.
9. Mallory Comerford, Junior, Louisville
2017 Times: 500 Free, 4:36.16 (NCAA); 200 Free, 1:40.36 (NCAA); 100 Free, 46.35 (NCAA)
Comerford is rapidly improving every year and will take no one by surprise this year in her junior season. Comerford already has an individual NCAA title in the 200 free alongside Katie Ledecky and she has showed she isn’t afraid of big competition as she beat Simone Manuel in the 100 free at the Summer Nationals in June.
8. Sydney Pickrem, Junior, Texas A&M
NCAA Times: 200 IM, 1:53.30 (NCAA); 400 IM, 3:59.36 (NCAA); 200 Breast, 2:05.23 (NCAA)
Pickrem rapidly improved in her sophomore season as she walked away with three A-final appearances at the NCAA’s and continued that momentum with a bronze medal in the 400 IM at the Worlds in Budapest. Pickrem is now a favorite in the stacked 200 IM field that includes classmates Kathleen Baker and Ella Eastin who have traded wins in that event the last two years.
7. Janet Hu, Senior, Stanford
2017 Times: 100 Fly, 50.38 (Pac-12); 100 Back, 50.29 (Pac-12); 200 Back, 1:49.36 (Pac-12)
Hu is one of the most underrated swimmers in the Stanford dynasty. Hu was absent at Summer Nationals but she will no doubt provide valuable depth in the 2018 season for the defending national champions.
6. Ella Eastin, Junior, Stanford
2017 Times: 200 IM, 1:52.27 (NCAA); 400 IM, 3:57.57 (NCAA); 200 Fly, 1:51.35 (NCAA)
It’s hard to believe Eastin is only a junior. She already has four individual NCAA titles and has been an integral part in Stanford’s rise to the top. Eastin had a strong summer where she won three medals at the World University Games in Taipei and she will be looking to continue that momentum into her junior campaign in Palo Alto.
5. Ally Howe, Senior, Stanford
2017 Times: 100 Back, 49.69 (Pac-12); 200 Back, 1:51.16 (Pac-12)
Howe broke Natalie Coughlin’s vaunted American Record in the 100 back and became only the second swimmer to break the 50 second barrier in the event. Howe could not quite continue that momentum into March at the NCAA’s but she still has the fastest best time in the field going into this season so she should not be counted out.
4. Kathleen Baker, Junior, California
2017 Times: 200 IM, 1:51.69 (NCAA); 100 Back, 49.84 (NCAA); 200 Back, 1:48.33 (Pac-12)
The reigning NCAA swimmer of the year had a huge sophomore season where she won three individual titles and one relay title for the Golden Bears. Baker won silver and bronze in the 100 and 200 back at the Worlds in Budapest so she should have the confidence to defend all three titles in 2018.
3. Lilly King, Junior, Indiana
2017 Times: 100 Breast, 56.30 (B1G); 200 Breast, 2:03.18 (NCAA)
King has yet to lose a race at the NCAA Championships. She has bullied her way through college with four American records in her first two years. No woman has ever won four NCAA titles in both breaststrokes. The only to ever do the 100 is Tara Kirk from 2001-2004 and the only to ever do the 200 is Rebecca Soni from 2006-2009. King could be on her way to being the best NCAA breaststroker ever.
2. Simone Manuel, Senior, Stanford
2017 Times: 50 Free, 21.17 (NCAA); 200 Free, 1:40.37 (Pac-12); 100 Free, 45.56 (NCAA)
Speaking of the greatest ever, Manuel is officially the fastest 100 freestyler ever and could be the first to win three titles in the event since Kara Lynn Joyce won four from 2004-2007. Manuel is now a World Champion after she won the title in Budapest this past summer. Don’t expect her to slow down into her senior season.
1. Katie Ledecky, Sophomore, Stanford
2017 Times: 500 Free, 4:24.06 (NCAA); 200 Free, 1:40.36 (NCAA); 1650 Free, 15:03.92 (Ohio State Invite)
Depending on how long her career lasts, Ledecky may be the best NCAA swimmer ever as she is on pace to catch Natalie Coughlin’s 11 individual titles. Ledecky has no peers in the distance events, but it is the 200 free where she is most vulnerable. She had to squeeze everything out of her to tie Mallory Comerford last year in the event. Would that cause her to shy away from that in favor of the 400 IM? Or will she accept the challenge and lock horns with her and Simone Manuel for the second straight year?
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.