We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs from the 2017 NCAA Championships – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24. Can’t get enough college swimming news? Check out the College Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine for some inside looks at the life of a college swimmer as told by college swimmers themselves, plus full-length profiles of a few of college swimming’s biggest names, including our cover athlete, Simone Manuel.
#8 Indiana Hoosiers
We’ve tightened up our criteria from last year, where our first stab at a letter grading system got hit by a little bit of classic grade inflation. Again, bear in mind that all of these grades are projections more than 6 months out – and as none of us has a working crystal ball, these projections are very subjective and very likely to change over the course of the season. Disagreeing with specific grades is completely acceptable; furiously lashing out at a writer, commenter, or specific athlete is not.
- A = projected to score significant (10+) NCAA points per event
- B = projected to score some (3-10) NCAA points per event
- C = projected on the bubble to score likely only a few (1-2) or no NCAA points per event
- D = projected to score no NCAA points
The Hoosiers’ eighth-place finish at NCAAs last year was second only to their 2016 performance, where the 1-2 (in the 200 and 1-3 in the 100) breaststroke punch of then-freshmen Lilly King and Miranda Tucker boosted the team to seventh overall. Tucker is now swimming at Michigan, but King’s star burns ever brighter. The now-junior came away with double NCAA individual titles in the breaststroke events in 2017, including a national record in the 200. Her unbeatable breaststroke helped propel the Hoosiers to finals appearances in the 400 medley (5th: 3:28.58 ) and the 200 medley (4th: 1:35.26). King’s swims this summer in Budapest– world titles in the 50 and 100 breaststroke, a world record in the 50 breast, and a fourth-place finish in the 200 breast– show that she has no intention of slowing down going into 2018.
The second-biggest name for Indiana in 2017 was then-junior Kennedy Goss. Goss grabbed a bronze medal in the 500 behind the likes of Katie Ledecky and Leah Smith, beating out a Mallory Comerford in the meet of her life to make the medal stand. Goss also made the A-final in the 200 back, finishing 7th overall.
Now-graduated Gia Dalesandro proved a vital butterflier for the Hoosiers, finishing eighth in the 100 fly and 11th in the 200 fly and swimming on both medleys and the 800 free relay.
Freshman Cassy Jernberg scored in the mile, finishing 14th, and Jessica Parrato was a big scorer on the diving side, finishing second in the platform event and 10th on the one-meter.
SPRINT FREE: D
The Hoosiers will need to improve their sprint freestyle program if they want to move up in the NCAA rankings. Last season, no Hoosier swimmers qualified for the 100 free, and the team didn’t qualify their 200 or 400 free relays for NCAAs. Their single 50 free qualifier, Ali Rockett, DFSed the event. Her best time, 22.79, is still a far cry from the 22.01 that it took to make the 50 free B final last year.
Holly Spears and Shelby Koontz are the other two potential NCAA qualifiers in the 50 free. Spears was 22.85 in Big Ten prelims, while Koontz was 22.88 at Big Ten finals last year.
Incoming freshman Grace Haskett is a likely NCAA qualifier with her best time of 22.68 in the 50 free, though she’s still got a ways to go to score.
DISTANCE FREE: B
Looking up into the distance frees, the Hoosier program gets stronger. Kennedy Goss has been 1:43.37 in the 200 free, which would have placed her in the upper half of the NCAA B final last year.
The Indiana 800 free relay finished 12th last year at NCAAs (6:59.91), but they will have to replace their second-fastest leg Gia Dalesandro, who graduated in May. The other four legs, Goss, Delaney Barnard, and Maria Heitmann are returning. Sophomore Cassy Jernberg will be the likely replacement, but she’ll have to speed up her best time of 1:48.9 to hold with the rest of the team. A major improvement is not out of the question for her, though, as she dropped a second and a half in the event last season.
Outside of the breaststroke events, the Hoosiers’ other major strength is Goss’s 500 free, which came up third last year for major points at NCAAs. With Leah Smith of Virginia out of the picture, Goss also could have the potential to bump up to a second-place finish, if she can hold off Louisville’s Mallory Comerford.
Jernberg’s true test of her sophomore year will be the 1650 free. Last season she dropped nearly nine seconds from her high school best in the event to finish 14th overall in 16:01.94. It will take a time well under 16 to make the A final, but Jernberg has the potential to score bigger B final points in 2018.
We’ll talk more about the King’s specialty later, but Lilly King has settled into the 200 IM as her third NCAA event. Though she didn’t make finals last year, King’s best time, a 1:55.49 from 2017 Big Tens, would have made the lower half of the 2017 NCAA B final. Sam Lisy is the other potential 200 IMer for the Hoosiers, though she didn’t swim at NCAAs last year. Her 1:58.51 from Big Tens is still about two seconds from the time it took to make the B final last season.
Indiana’s 400 IM qualifier last year, Bailey Pressey has graduated, which means that it is up to Lisy (4:12.15, 2017 Big Tens) and Reagan Cook (4:13.65, 2017 Big Tens) to take over the event. It took a sub-4:08 to make the B final in 2017.
The now-graduated pair of Dalesandro and Pressey were the two Indiana athletes to swim butterfly at NCAAs last year, which leaves a space for another Indiana swimmer to step up, especially on the medley relays. Christine Jensen is the likely culprit, after finishing eighth in the 100 fly at 2017 Big Tens. Her best time is 52.98, and it took under 52.1 to make it back last year. Given that Dalesandro was a reliable mid-51, the Hoosiers will have some ground to make up on their medleys.
Kennedy Goss played the backstroke leg for the Hoosier’s fifth-place 400 medley last year with a 52.77 lead-off, though she didn’t swim the individual. Given her greater potential in the 200 free, 500 free, and 200 back, Goss will likely stick to the same strategy next year. She’ll return to the 200 back after finishing 7th in 2017 (1:50.94). However, with NC State’s Alexia Zevnik, Texas’s Tasija Karosas, and Kentucky’s Danielle Galyer all graduated, Goss will have the potential to fight for an even higher finish, potentially even battling Kentucky’s Asia Seidt, Michigan’s Clara Smiddy, and Kentucky’s Ali Galyer for a podium spot (though it’s unlikely she will challenge Cal’s defending champ Kathleen Baker).
Ali Rockett is somewhat of a wild card going into this season. Last year at NCAAs, she DSFed the 200 back and the 50 free and finished 33rd in the 100 back (52.83). However, she was the lead leg that brought the Hoosiers to a 4th-place finish in the 200 medley, splitting 24.05. She also made the top-30 in the 50 backstroke at U.S. Nationals in Indy this summer. Her high-52 was a huge improvement from her lifetime best in the 2016 season, a 54.0, so she may be able to push even faster this year.
Freshman Camryn Forbes is another likely NCAA backstroke qualifier for the Hoosiers, given her 1:54.83 200 back and 53.94 100 back.
Of course. Like the Stanford’s distance freestyle events, Indiana has the breaststroke events on lockdown. Lilly King will return to Indiana this season as a new world record holder in the 50 breast and 100 breast, one of just two individual world record holders in the women’s NCAA circuit. Last season, she won the 100 breast in 56.71 (after setting the American record in 56.30 at Big Tens), finishing over a second ahead of the field, and it is all-but-sure that she will hold her title this year.
In the 200 breast, King took the title and the national record last year with 2:03.18, and with her closest challenger, Kierra Smith of Minnesota, and five others from the A final out of the running, King should have an easy victory.
However, it will be interesting to watch King race her former teammate Miranda Tucker, who had to take 2017 off after transferring in-conference from IU to Michigan. King and Tucker were one of the best breaststroke duos in history back in 2016 when the pair of Hoosier freshmen went 1-2 in the 200 breast and 1-3 in the 100 breast at NCAAs.
The only thing keeping Indiana from an A+ here is their lack of depth. King was the only Hoosier breaststroker to swim at NCAAs last year. Freshman and rare backstroke-breaststroke-IMer Bailey Kovac has the breaststroke skill to make NCAAs with her 2:12.45 200 breast, but she’ll need to improve in the coming season to reach scoring range, which took 2:09.8 last season.
The Indiana women, led by Lilly King and Kennedy Goss, may have to fight to hold their place in the NCAA top ten this year, despite fielding one of two individual world record holders in the entire college circuit. The biggest challenges for the Hoosiers will be replacing their medley relay butterflier and making up for their weak sprint freestyle program (and the resulting lack of free relay points). Though they have a decent recruiting class coming in with opportunities for NCAA qualification, they don’t have quite the power of comparable teams like USC, NC State, or Virginia.
However, the nearly-guaranteed points that King brings, along with the potential for big performances from Goss ensure that the Hoosiers will remain relevant and give us some can’t-miss swims throughout the 2017-2018 season.