Olivia Smoliga of Glenbrook South High School in Illinois will be to Missy Franklin next year what Rachel Bootsma was to Liz Pelton this year. Though without the same international acclaim, Smoliga is a phenomenal backstroker who will still be a primary target for every major college program in the country both because of her speed and versatility.
Her versatility was best on display at this weekend’s Illinois High School State Championships, where satisfied with her state record as a sophomore dropped the 100 back in favor of the 50 and 100 freestyles at this year’s meet.
This was a shocking decision to some, given that she was within a second of Bootsma’s National Record in the 100 back last season. But that doesn’t mean that her swims this year were any less impressive.
First in the 50 free, she broke twice the oldest record in Illinois swimming: the 50 free. First came a 22.66 in prelims, followed by a 22.55 in finals to cement her standing in the record-books. The old mark was set back in 1996 by future SMU Mustang Alison Wimer of Palatine High School at 22.78.
Next, in the 100 free, she crushed the old mark held by current Stanford All-American Betsy Webb with a 48.88 in prelims. Smoliga was a hair slower in finals (48.92), but still was a second ahead of Webb’s old mark of 49.92.
These times showed a huge progression for her, especially in the 100. That was roughly 4.4 seconds better than her previous fastest time, done in 2009, of 53.34. These swims make her ultimately more valuable to college programs and should vault her up many coaches’ wish-lists.
The question will be as to which events Smoliga will swim at next year’s State Championship meet. Her commitment is likely to be in writing by then, so there will be no big pressures in that regard, but her post-race comments indicate that the swim was as much about pride and proving what she was capable of as anything else. Still, if she adds back the 100 backstroke to her schedule, she will have a great chance of breaking the National High School Record as it stands now, with classmate Franklin likely to lower it between now and then anyways.
The runner-up in the 100 free, Virginia commit Samantha James of State Champions and hosts New Trier, nearly broke the Meet Record as well in 49.94. One of the other highlights of the meet was a 53.53 victory in the 100 fly from Mimi Schneider of Fenwick High. That swim vaulted her into the national recruiting eye, as she’s only a sophomore. She could be the swimmer that ultimately breaks Smoliga’s sprint records, given that last year as a freshman she swam 50.1 and 23.1.
Rachel Stoehr, who will be off to Arkansas in the fall, also took two individual wins – in the 200 free (1:49.16) and 500 free (4:50.14 – she was a few tenths faster in prelims).