2013-2014 College Swimming Previews: #9 Indiana Men Hope for Freshmen to Improve Relay Scoring

Key Losses: James Barbiere (12 NCAA points, 1 NCAA relay), Nicholas Schwab (NCAA Qualifier), Sam Trahin (4 NCAA Points), Daniel Kanorr (9 NCAA Points, 2 NCAA relays)

Key Additions: Anze Tavcar (Slovenia – sprint free), Jackson Miller (CA – sprint free), Max Irwin (IN – sprint free/fly), Joe Steinkamp (IN – freestyle), Bradley Stamper (FLA – freestyle), Bob Glover (Neb – backstroke), Luke Lete (IN – free/fly), Blaine Nichols (IN – breaststroke/IM)

2012-2013 Lookback: The Indiana men finished 9th at last year’s NCAA Championships with 201 points, meaning that they successfully cleared the huge point gap to get beyond 10th place last year. As has become pretty typical for the Hoosiers, they had a lofty finish without much in the way of relay scoring. They put up only 36 points from relays, and for the second-straight year didn’t score in either the 200 or the 400 (they didn’t even enter them in 2013). That means that the Hoosiers came up with 165 points in individual events.

Put into more processable terms, that’s the equivalent scoring of fifteen 8th-place swims. Can you count to 15 8th-place swims on that roster?

Take into account Cody Miller’s DQ in the 100 breaststroke, and Eric Ress’ day 1 funk that left him out of the points in the 200 IM (and on only a single Indiana relay), and the count to 165 points gets even harder to summon.

But that’s just the thing: this is a very good team, and is starting to put a lot of swimmers on national and international teams and is garnering the kind of attention and recognition that a 9th-place NCAA team usually gets.

Ress and Miller, both seniors, are the best-known swimmers on this team.

Ress, though he’s now been through two redshirts/Olympic waivers/years off, will still only be 22 going into the 2013-2014 season. He finished 3rd at NCAA’s last year in the 100 back with a spectacular 45.31 and 5th in the 200 back in 1:39.92. Over the summer, he spent some time on a few French international teams (he was raised in the United States, but has dual French citizenship), and Indiana will need him to be as sharp as ever next year. That’s because with incoming freshman Jack Conger (Texas) and Ryan Murphy (Cal) shaking up the men’s backstroking scene, and very few graduations, it will be a battle to stay in the top 5 in both races next year. He’s certainly got the ability, though.

The Hoosiers will also need him to be a bigger factor in 2014 outside of those races. He finished 19th in the 200 IM at NCAA’s, which was also the only of his three events where he didn’t score individually. Had he even matched his season best, he would have been in the top 12, and probably could’ve realistically battled for an A-Final. That, though, is another race without many scoring graduations.

Miller had a great junior year as well. He won his 3rd-straight Big Ten title in the 200 breaststroke, and broke the Big Ten Records in both that and the 100 yard race. As mentioned, though, he was DQ’ed in the 100 at NCAA’s. That wasn’t the only DQ issue he’s had in the last year (he was called for an illegal kick in the 400 medley relay at Big Tens), but one would imagine that cleaning those up would be a big focus of he and coach Ray Looze for Miller’s senior season.

At the end of the day, though he scored no Big Ten points in the event, Miller ended up as the 2nd-best NCAA 100 yard breaststroker (51.50). He also ranked 2nd-best over the course of the season in the 200 (1:51.03).

Medley Quandries: But here’s the weird thing: there’s a chance that we could see an Indiana medley relay that had no Eric Ress on the backstroke leg, and no Cody Miller on the breaststroke leg. We saw it in the 200 medley at NCAA’s last year.

There, Indiana’s second backstroker, James Wells, who is also very good, swam the backstroke leg after finishing 8th in the 100 yard final (his season best was 45.52 – not far from Ress’). Miller, in that medley, they had swim the butterfly leg (he’s a very good athlete) while they put freshman Tanner Kurz on the breaststroke leg. Miller and Kurz both had good splits, but that butterfly leg was an obvious deficiency (Kurz’ 24.11 actually ranked 6th among all breaststrokers in the finals on legally finished relays).

A similar move wouldn’t have made as much sense on the 400 medley relay, as their top butterflier Stephen Schmuhl gets better as the distances get longer. In that race, the Hoosiers won the B-Final for their highest-placing relay. Wells still was on the backstroke leg, but here Miller swam breaststroke, Schmuhl fly, and the now-graduated Daniel Kanorr anchored. As Schmuhl’s stock has risen nationally, especially in the IM races and the 200 fly, his speed hasn’t really come up to match it yet in the 50, but his 100 has become very strong.

That means Miller remains their best sprint butterflier by a mile – he was a 47.8 flat-start, and the next best was junior-to-be Joe Powell in 49.41. Schmuhl, though, with a 46.9 relay split on that 400 medley, should hold that position, but the 200 likely will remain in Miller’s hands. The Hoosiers are fortunate then to have the former National Age Group Record holder Kurz to slide into that 200 medley leg.

More on Schmuhl: After swimming at the 2012 World Short Course Championships during his sophomore year, Schmuhl had a huge summer in long course after it. That includes a 5th-place finish in the men’s 400 IM at the 2013 U.S. World Championship Trials. That is the same position in which he finished at NCAA’s last year, hitting a 3:42.41 in finals (though he was a bit faster in prelims). Individually, he swam the 200 fly as well in 1:44.62,  and then was on that 400 medley and led-off Indiana’s 8th-place 800 free relay in 1:35.91.

That 800 free relay graduated only one leg, Jimmy Barbiere, and though there’s no obvious replacement on the roster, it was a very balanced relay (with Schmuhl, Barbiere, sophomore Matthew Gerth, and Ress) that should score significant points again in 2014.

Other Potential Scorers: The aforementioned Kurz as a freshman last year placed 23rd at NCAA’s in 53.80. He’s part of a new breed of relatively-tall breaststrokers (6’3″) and is showing that despite being a National Age Group Record holder at a very young age, he still has a lot of great swimming in front of him.

Rounding out the breaststroke group is Donald Hurley. He hasn’t gotten any real attention, even though he was a 53.70 at NCAA’s (and his best time of 53.32 would’ve put him in the B-Final at NCAA’s). He’ll be a junior next year, and at the very least, expect the Hoosiers to put three scorers in the A-Final at the Big Ten Championships. That’s one of the few areas where Indiana has really built up depth, which is important as this team will otherwise be hit hard by graduation after next season.

Diving: One group that will have no problems with depth next season is the Indiana divers. They sent an amazing four divers to the NCAA Championships last year, and all four were underclassmen. In the innovative hands of new coach Drew Johansen, they should at least be able to match the 54 points they scored at NCAA’s last year.

The Hoosiers scored two on the 1-meter at NCAA’s, with Darian Schmidt taking 6th and Emad Abdelatif taking 12th. Schmidt was 3rd on the 3-meter, and Abdelatif was 13th there. Conor Murphy, a platform specialist, took 3rd at NCAA’s on the tower, and all three of them will be seniors next year. Abdelatif (19th) and Danton Rogers (20th) each just missed scoring on the platform as well.

And that was just the beginning. Bryce Ogden returns; he was 7th on the 3-meter and 8th on the 1-meter at Big Tens: big improvements as a redshirt junior. Casey Johnson was 6th on the platform at Big Tens and 7th on the 3-meter. The Hoosiers are in a tough region and a tough conference, but still pulled 4 guys into NCAA’s and dominated Big Ten Championship scoring in diving.

They did lose Dathan Schmidt, Darian’s little brother, who is no longer on the team’s roster, and they graduate a ton of this diving group, so the Hoosiers will have to be on the recruiting trail to replenish their ranks, or risk sacrificing these wildcard points.

Freshmen: For the second-straight season, the Hoosiers have brought in a good, deep class. This one is focused on sprinters, which as we’ve harped on, the Hoosiers desperately need. Daniel Kanorr ended up being a phenomenal anchor for the medley relays, but that was about it. Gerth was a good piece on the 800 free relay, but he was the second-fastest flat start in the 100 yard free at just 45.18 at Big Tens. Jake Kelzer showed promise as a freshman in 2013, but he’s the next-best returning option in 45.65. Nobody else comes back with better than a 46.1 from last season. It doesn’t take long to figure out why the Hoosiers didn’t bother entering a 400 free relay at NCAA’s. Their Big Tens relay (which was a DQ, by the way) was solid, but it was Kanorr, Miller, Schmuhl, and Ress: four guys who are not sprint freestylers.

That situation immediately improves with this new class, however.

Jackson Miller, standing 6’5″ out of California, was a two-sport athlete in high school, splitting time between football and swimming. He still put up bests of 20.99 in the 50 yard free, 44.22 in the 100 yard free, 1:35.86 in the 200 yard free, and 4:23.85 in the 500 yard free. Miller is an incredible athlete, and has the inside-track on taking over the anchor leg on Indiana’s medleys.

Max Irwin is only 6’1, but has very similar times in the freestyle events. He goes 20.8/45.45/1:36.9/4:22.6 in the 50-500 yard freestyles. Irwin, however, adds bests of 47.88/1:46.28 in the 100 and 200 yard flys. That means that if all goes well, he should be the medley plug on the butterfly leg that Indiana needs by the time he’s a sophomore, if not right away as a freshman. A local, he split 21.79 on Bloomington North’s 200 medley relay at their State Championship meet as a senior (21.66 in prelims): a meet that he seemed to be fully tapered for. So, he’s close to solving the 200 medley relay issues.

And finally, 18-year old Anze Tavcar from Slovenia will round out this freshman sprint group. He’s been a 22.6/49.9 in the 50 and 100 long course freestyles and is a pretty pure-sprinter type.

The list goes on. Joe Steinkamp is 21.2/46.2 in the sprints. Bradley Stamper from Bolles is 21.9/47.5 in the sprints, but is another 6’5″ guy with high potential. Luke Lete is pure sprint, having been 21.1 in the 50 free but only 49.1 in the 100 free.

Almost this entire class was made up of freestylers, and that’s no coincidence. The other guys are Bob Glover, a 49-second backstroker from Nebraska, and Blaine Nichols, a 57-second breaststroker.

The Hoosiers could’ve used a ‘future backstroker’ in this class, but that will have to be a target for the fall recruiting season. It would be a coup for them to get Aaron Whitaker, an in-stater whose brother Kyle goes to Michigan, but that would solve the backstroke problem for the next four years.

2013-2014 Outlook: This Indiana team lost a high number of NCAA qualifiers, but ultimately it shouldn’t hurt them too much (3 relay spots, and 25 individual points).

The huge diving group coming back is a plus, and if they transition well from one legend (Jeff Huber) to a coach who is working his way toward the same status, then that’s more huge points for the Hoosiers.

This teams top-end potential is entirely predicated on one of those freshmen having a huge year in the sprints. Indiana should be in a dogfight for the 8th-9th positions at NCAA’s. If they all hit their tapers, and the freshmen get fast enough to score some points in the free relays, then the Hoosiers have a chance to climb into the top 7, but that would be a ‘perfect season’. If Indiana fell lower than 10th, it would be a true disaster.

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IU Swim Fan

Braden thank you for a great piece on the IU team! I think this program is doing great things and on its way back to where it was so many years ago. It takes time to rebuild to that level but, I think they are finding talent that others are overlooking which is a credit to the recruiting. I think this will be another great year for this team. As you mentioned in your article, this is a deep freshman class and they are big kids with lots of potential. I am betting many haven’t seen training like they are about to see, in the places that they have come from. When they start building muscle from the dry land… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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