Staying the Course: Olivia Peoples’ SEC Title in 100 Fly Proves Hard Work Pays Off

by Riley Overend 2

March 08th, 2024 College, News, SEC

Sometimes the secret ingredient is as simple as consistency.

University of Florida junior Olivia Peoples saw three years of training in Gainesville pay off at last month’s SEC Championships with a conference crown in the 100-yard butterfly, dropping more than a second off her lifetime best in the process.

Peoples’ winning time of 50.47 is tied for 4th in the NCAA this season, making her a surprise podium contender at the national championships later this month. She went into the SEC Championships last month with a personal best of 51.59 from November’s Georgia Invitational before firing off a 51.38 in prelims. Her best time before this season stood at 51.62 from last year’s NCAAs, where she placed 16th in the B-final.

Peoples credited her breakthrough this season to “staying the course of the program” under Florida head coach Anthony Nesty, who will help coach the U.S. Olympic team this summer in Paris.

“Freshman year was a big adjustment,” said Peoples, who placed 13th in the 100 fly (52.49) at the 2022 SEC Championships. “And although I got better every year, it’s taken a couple seasons for that improvement to lead to a breakthrough.”

A native of St. Augustine, Florida, Peoples committed to the Gators back in 2019 after blazing a 52.73 in the 100 fly at the FHSAA 4A State Championships. However, her senior year of high school was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it took her entire freshman campaign at Florida to get back on the improvement trajectory.

Peoples dipped under 52 seconds for the first time at last year’s SECs, where she placed 6th (51.81). A turning point in her development came over the offseason, when she was named a team captain to help lead a talented group of Gator newcomers including graduate transfer Isabel Ivey, freshman Bella Sims, and freshman Lainy Kruger. Ivey clocked a program record in the 100 fly last year (50.60) before Peoples reset the standard at SECs last month with her personal-best 50.47. Meanwhile, Sims ranks 7th in Florida history with her 52.09 from this season.

“Being captain has encouraged me to be at my best for the team,” Peoples said. “We have such a strong group of freshmen this year that I hope I’ve been able to be a role model for. They’ve made me better in the pool and I’ve pushed myself to be more extracurricularly involved. Being more active in volunteer work has complemented my swimming and helped me enjoy my time in the pool even more.

Peoples was named to the 2024 SEC Swimming and Diving Community Service Team last month for logging 140 hours as a volunteer medical assistant at Ageless Medical Solutions. The medical field major also spent more than 80 hours cast painting at UF Health OSMI.

During training this season, Peoples made it an emphasis to focus on her kick and stroke counts in the 100 fly, cleaning up some of the more technical details of her race. Now the question is: Can she duplicate the effort when it matters most at NCAAs this month?

“My SEC race was by no means perfect, but nailing my turns and breakouts has helped tremendously,” Peoples said. “Winning that race meant that the process I’ve been working through with the coaches these past few years is bearing its fruit. And of course, being able to contribute to the Gators’ success means a lot. Iron sharpens iron…my teammates have certainly made me better this year, and I can only hope I’ve been able to sharpen them, as well.”

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Wheeler Walker Jr.
2 months ago

Zygote! IYKYK

2 months ago

Love this. Determination and grit.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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