Key Additions: Grace Vertigans (Great Britain – sprint freestyle), Marie Chamberlain (MA – freestyle/backstroke), Kennedy Goss (Canada – freestyle), Ali Rockett (PA – sprint freestyler/back), Kaitlin Kitchens (GA – free/fly), Delaney Barnard (FLA – free), Reagan Cook (IND – fly/IM), Samatha Lisy (OH – IM/fly), Rachel Matsumura (NV – back/free), Gabi Rajic (IL – free), Holly Spears (IL – free), Taylor Truex (CA – breaststroke/IM), Sarah Lewis (first year junior – sprint freestyle)
Key Losses: Lindsay Vrooman (29 NCAA points, 1 NCAA relay), Kait Flederbach (4 NCAA relays, top freestyler), Bronwyn Pasloski (9 NCAA points, 2 NCAA relays), Brenna MacLean (4 NCAA points), Kate Hillman (7 NCAA diving points)
Sophomore Brooklynn Snodgrass came through big for the Hoosiers last season, winning the program’s second-ever NCAA title in women’s swimming. She won the 200 back – which appropriately is the same event that Kate Fesenko won four years earlier – in 1:50.52. In the process, she beat a who’s-who of backstrokers: Liz Pelton, Courtney Bartholomew, Sinead Russell, Elizabeth Beisel, and Melanie Klaren.
Her defense won’t get any easier though – all of those swimmers, aside from Beisel, return this coming season, and added to the battle in the 200 back is Kylie Stewart at Georgia (1:49.85 in high school), Ally Howe at Stanford (1:52.74 in high school), and Clara Smiddy at Michigan (1:50.59 in high school. Plus, there’s always the looming presence of 200 long course and short course meters World Record holder Missy Franklin at Cal, who didn’t swim any backstroke races at NCAA’s last season.
In other words, it won’t get any easier for Snodgrass.
She’ll swim the lead-off leg of Indiana’s medley relays, including the 400 that won the B-Final at NCAA’s last year. The only other returning swimmer from that medley is butterflier Gia Dalesandro, who had an explosive freshman season, including a 51.75 in the 100 yard fly – a second-and-a-half improvement upon her best coming into the season – and is on the precipice of becoming a national star. Though she hit her peak pre-NCAA’s, she set herself up to reach even higher as a sophomore, and is poised to take advantage of the graduation of 5 NCAA A-finalists last season in the 100 fly.
The two graduating legs of those NCAA medley relays are breaststroker Bronwyn Pasloski and anchor Kait Flederbach. Flederbach was only at Indiana for one season, but it was an important season. The Hoosiers still didn’t have enough sprint free depth to score in the free relays, but she was enough to help their medleys in a big way.
Hers, though, won’t be the loss that hurts the most. Indiana’s recruiting class (more on that later) brought in nearly an entirely new sprint free relay – and after graduations, they needed an entirely new sprint relay. Snodgrass doesn’t focus on the freestyles individually, but is a very good sprinter none-the-less, but other than her, Indiana graduated their two best flat-start sprinters from last season.
The graduation that is going to hurt the relays the most is Pasloski. She was 9th at NCAA’s in the 100 breaststroke in a new school record of 59.39.
Breaststrokers are a Problem
With her gone, Indiana’s best returning breaststroker is sophomore Claudia Dicapua, who was a 1:03.86 last season in the 100. They don’t return anyone who is likely to score even at Big Tens without serious improvement. Their best incoming breaststroker is Taylor Truex, who was a 1:06.0 as a junior in high school.
One of those two will have to develop, or Indiana will have to develop a breaststroker, if Indiana wants to score again in the 200 medley relay. They’re probably good enough to pick up a few points in the medley even with a 1:02 on their breaststroke leg – something not many programs can say.
Make it Up on the Free Relays
Indiana finished 12th at NCAA’s last year scoring only a single point between the three free relays. That sounds odd, but both the Hoosiers’ men’s and women’s programs have done similar things over the past couple of seasons.
This year, the tables will be flipped. Where Indiana might only pick up a couple of points in the medley relays, their free relays should be new, improved, and First-Team All-American worthy.
Here’s the candidates for the relay, along with their best freestyle times pertinent to the relays:
- Brooklynn Snodgrass, Jr., 22.56/51.05/1:46.47 (relay split)
- Kennedy Goss, Fr., LCM: 27.24/56.53/2:00.46 (23.81/49.48/1:45.63 conversion)
- Alexandra Rockett, Fr., 23.14/50.71/1:53.40
- Marie Chamberlain, Fr., 23.25/51.66/1:56.70
- Delaney Barnard, Fr., 23.49/50.28/1:48.85
- Grace Vertigans, Fr., LCM: 25.45/55.42/2:00.52 (22.20/48.48/1:45.69 conversion)
- Cynthia Pammett, Sr., 23.22/49.82/1:45.55
- Kaitlin Kitchens, Fr., 23.40/50.55/1:49.88
In addition to those swimmers, there’s a handful of other similarly-capable names, like Justine Ress, Holly Spears, Gabi Rajic, etc. who could develop to make these relays.
The sleeper for the relays is Gia Dalesandro, who in high school was 24.4 and 51.9 in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles in high school: still her lifetime bests on flat starts. However, given that she’s been 51.7 in the 100 fly at Indiana, we have to believe that her freestyle times are capable of even better.
The point is that if you start adding up those times, and apply relays starts, Indiana can get under 1:30 in the 200 free relay, under 3:16 in the 400 free relay, and under 7:06 in the 800 free relay. Those times will all score, and the latter two will start getting into serious relay scoring.
And that’s not even where things get exciting. Indiana has hired former Minnesota assistant Dennis Dale, and while Dale is most recognized for his work with the Gophers’ male sprinters, his women’s sprint group at Minnesota has been undeniably both very good and very deep (as Indiana knows well from the Big Ten Championship meets). If he can work a little magic on some of these sprinters, Indiana could actually move up next year, despite those really big graduations.
If There Were a Backstroke Relay…
then Indiana would be really, really good at it. In addition to Snodgrass, the star, they also have Cynthia Pammett (53.22), Allie Day (53.11/1:53.54) and Justine Ress (52.92/1:54.41), to go with some talented incoming freshmen like Marie Chamberlain (53.56/2:00.01) and Ali Rockett (55.07/2:01.72). Grace Padget was a 54.4 in the 100 back as a freshman last year, Dorina Szekeres was a 1:56.19 in the 200 back, and the Hoosiers had the four fastest 200 backstrokers in the Big Ten (and all were underclassmen).
As good as Snodgrass’ year was in the backstrokes, Ress, Day, and Pammett didn’t swim best times last season. They didn’t have bad years, though; they just weren’t as good as they were in the 2012-2013 season when all really had breakout years.
If Indiana can put a couple more of those swimmers on the All-American lists this year by scoring points at NCAA’s, it will help their chances at remaining in the top 12 significantly.
Szekeres – the Next Great Hungarian 400 IM’er?
Senior-to-be Dorina Szekeres was the Big Ten Champion in the 400 IM in 2013, then added about seven tenths in 2014 to place 3rd. She’s placed no higher than 15th in the race at NCAA’s, but is capable of making the leap toward the top 10 this year thanks to a lot of graduations.
Last season, while she didn’t go a best time in the 400 IM, She dd make significant improvements in several other events, including the 200 breaststroke that represents the weakest part of her IM. The hope for the Hoosiers is that the improvement in the breaststroke is just a buildup to a big 400 IM in her future. Szekeres is a native of Hungary, who as a country have been on fire as of late.
Hungary is known for putting out very good female 400 IM’ers (Katinka Hosszu, Zsu Jakabos, Evelyn Verraszto), and what’s more is that those 400 IM’ers most of them tend to improve well into their 20’s. For Szerkeres, who just turned 22 in July, she’s entering a period where Hungarian 400 IM’ers typically step on the gas pedal. That could pay off for the Hoosiers in March.
Other Key Swimmers
- The emergence of Dalesandro changed the role of junior Haley Lips last season. The Hoosier medley relays no longer needed her, which allowed her to focus a little more on her preferred distances of 200 yards and longer. In fact, she really moved away from the butterfly races altogether and into a stronger focus on the 200 and 500 freestyles – that is where Indiana needs her more this coming year with the graduation of Lindsay Vrooman. That transition resulted in no NCAA qualification for Lips, but she did finish 9th at Big Tens in the 200 free (1:45.94), and swam collegiate bests in all of the freestyles longer than 50 yards. This summer, she went back to the butterflies, and was a personal textile best in the 200 meter fly at Nationals going a 2:12.03. There’s some interest nationally in how this plays out, because any potential Olympic future could depend on the 200 fly, but the Hoosiers need her most as a freestyler this coming season.
- Along those lines, Stephanie Marchuk placed 7th at Big Tens in the 500 free with a 4:45.00 in prelims (4:45.52 in finals). She was flat as a senior in high school in the distance freestyles, but last year made huge improvements – a seven second drop in the 500, for example – while continuing to get a little better in the 200 free (1:49.33). If she can continue on that path, an NCAA qualification could be in her future.
- Bailey Pressey, like Dalesandro, had a very good season of butterflying as a freshman last year. She swam in total the four fastest times of her career in the 100 fly during the season, though her best came mid-year in 54.21.
- Shelby Carroll is a little bit of a sleeper on this Indiana team, but she had a very good sophomore year and at the least is another nice piece to the backstroke training group; at best will be a double-digit scorer at Big Tens and NCAA qualifier. She had a small improvement on her lifetime best in the 200 yard back at Big Tens, and then followed it with a big drop to start her long course season. She didn’t go to nationals and seemed like maybe she trained straight through the summer long course – racing only locally in long course. If she’s on any kind of a full-year taper approach, 2015 could be a breakout for her.
Indiana diving is as thin as it’s been on the women’s side in a very, very long time, with the graduation of their lone NCAA qualifier from last year Kate Hillman. In fact, there’s only three on the roster, and none of them dove for Indiana last year. Freshman Kathleen Heeter, a Bloomington native, has big potential but has been plagued by injury throughout her career and at 5’10” is very tall for a diver. Jessica Parratto red-shirted the season, but was 4th on platform at the FINA Diving Grand Prix stop in Mexico and 3rd at USA Diving Winter Nationals. She has potential for NCAA points as a red-shirt freshman this season.
The Hoosiers also return from a red-shirt Lacey Houser, who sat a year after transferring from Miami University. She is expected to have two years of eligibility left, and finished as high as 3rd on the 3-meter springboard at the MAC Championships in 2012. She has improved a lot in the last year and was 6th on the 3 meter at this summer’s USA Diving National Championships. She also has NCAA scoring potential in all three disciplines.
The 2014-2015 season is a year of transition for Indiana. This team has the talent and potential of being a top 10 (or even a top 8) team, but they may be a year early after the graduations of Vrooman and Flederbach.
In the last 20 years of Indiana Hoosiers women’s swimming, though, there might not have been a more “important” year than this coming season. What I mean by that is that with Amy Bilquist, Aly Tetzloff, Breanna Robinson, and Lillia King all going through the recruiting process this fall, the Hoosiers have a chance to move themselves into the country’s truly elite teams. There’s another fantastic class coming out the year after, and for the foreseeable future.
Notre Dame’s women’s program is in a little bit of turmoil, with both head and assistant coaching leaving right as recruiting season is heating up. That means that the Hoosiers should be in the driver’s seat for the services of those in-state swimmers, if those swimmers decide to stay in-state. If Indiana were able to sign even two of those swimmers, it makes them a top-5 contender at NCAA’s in two seasons. The big target has to be Lillia King, as she’ll have an immediate impact at NCAA’s, and fill Indiana’s biggest need.
There’s a lot of question marks for Indiana this season, though. The improvement in their sprint group, if everyone reaches their potential, should replace what Indiana loses in medleys without a breaststroker. If Indiana surprises us with any kind of a 1:00-or-better breaststroker, this team could sneak into the top 10. The diving group adds a lot of uncertainty as well.
For 2014-2015, we’d project Indiana to finish somewhere in the 10-14 range again, all things considered, and to move solidly into the top 10 in 2015-2016 with another strong recruiting class.