The Indiana Hoosiers showed up at the Ohio State Invite last week with significantly improved women’s backstroke group. As we sit at the midpoint of this season, IU’s young group of backstrokers have already blown away the Hoosiers’ backstroke times from last season, and they’re arguably already the fastest group for IU of the last several seasons.
The group was led by freshman Anna Peplowski, who dropped huge amounts of time in both back events last week. Peplowski, who was primarily thought of as a freestyler entering college, didn’t race the 100 back individually last week, but led-off IU’s 400 medley relay in 52.66. The swim marked a drop of 3.08 seconds from her previous best of 55.74, which she swam in 2020. She would go on to swim a 1:53.70 in prelims of the 200 back, improving on her previous best of 1:57.86 by over 4 seconds. Through the first week of mid-season invites, Peplowski currently ranks 12th in the NCAA this season in the 200 back.
The question with Peplowski going forward is whether she’ll continue to put training focus into the 200 back, or if she’ll focus on freestyle. She chose to race the 200 back over the 100 free last week, however she still got a shot in the 100 free, leading off the IU 400 free relay in 48.77. That was also a huge personal best for the 19-year-old, marking her first time under 50 seconds in the event. As things stand now, it appears the 200 back is Peplowski’s better event in terms of NCAA placing potential, but that may not still be the case at the end of the season.
Along with Peplowski was fellow freshman Kacey McKenna, who also posted a huge personal best in the 100 back. McKenna led off the B 400 medley relay last week in 52.57, edging out Peplowski by 0.09 seconds. The swim took 1.80 seconds off McKenna’s previous best of 54.37, which had stood since February of 2019. She would go on to swim 53.63 in prelims of the individual 100 back, and 53.02 in finals, both of which were also well under her previous best time coming into the meet.
Sophomore Anna Freed also posted a pair of personal bests to help bolster this backstroke group. In the 100 back, Freed clocked a 53.53, taking 0.40 seconds off her previous best of 53.93, which she swam at the Big Ten Championships last season. Freed then went on to clock a 1:55.03 in the 200 back, tearing down her previous best of 1:56.62, which she also swam at Big Tens last season.
Here is a breakdown of Indiana’s backstroke season bests from the last several seasons:
|2018-19||2019-20||2020-21||2021-22 (Thru 11/26/21)|
|100 Back||51.97||Morgan Scott||52.47||Cora Dupre||53.53||Bailey Kovac||52.57||Kacey McKenna|
|53.88||Grace Haskett||52.77||Grace Haskett||53.93||Anna Freed||52.66||Anna Peplowski|
|54.69||Bailey Kovac||55.27||Bailey Kovac||56.25||Mia Ristic||53.53||Anna Freed|
|56.26||Lauren Miller||55.52||Katrina Sommer||56.84||Mary Reicherter||54.97||Elyse Heiser|
|200 Back||1:58.16||Bailey Kovac||1:56.41||Josie Grote||1:54.07||Bailey Kovac||1:53.70||Anna Peplowski|
|1:58.44||Josie Grote||1:56.89||Bailey Kovac||1:56.62||Anna Freed||1:55.03||Anna Freed|
|2:03.04||Christin Rockway||1:57.87||Cora Dupre||2:00.63||Josie Grote||1:58.53||Elyse Heiser|
|1:59.08||Katrina Sommer||2:02.45||Mary Reicherter||1:59.88||Katie Broderick|
|2:00.41||Ryley Ober||2:00.16||Mac Looze|
|2:00.86||Mac Looze||2:01.04||Kacey McKenna|
Bearing in mind that we’re only halfway through this season, it’s clear that this backstroke group is Ray Looze’s fastest of the last 4 seasons. At this point, you may be thinking why does this matter? Afterall, this is a good backstroke group, but it certainly still falls short of being elite. So, what’s the importance of Indiana seeing this improvement in backstroke?
This matters because the Hoosiers have been struggling in backstroke the last several seasons, particularly at Big Tens. Take last season as the example: Indiana scored a grand total of 46 points in the backstroke events, while Ohio State and Michigan, the 2 teams that finished ahead of Indiana in the team standings, scored 152 and 159 points respectively. Narrowing that gap would be a key element in IU’s attempt to reclaim the Big Ten crown from Ohio State, who are the back-to-back defending champions.
This step forward for Indiana backstroke is also a step towards what could be a thrilling team battle at the 2022 Women’s Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships.