Despite being shorthanded this weekend, IU didn’t have trouble dispatching Cincinnati 195-102 on the men’s side and 187-106 on the women’s.
Both sides recorded 12 event wins even though 12 of IU’s top swimmers didn’t compete due to the USA College Challenge and junior Blake Pieroni and sophomore Lilly King only competed in the 200-yard medley relays before heading to Indianapolis for the duel meet.
This weekend had a jam-packed schedule for the program. IU welcomed Cincinnati to the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center, and another 14 swimmers, the most of any Big Ten school, and head swimming coach Ray Looze headed to Indianapolis for the USA College Challenge to compete for the Big Ten All-Star squad against Team USA.
“You can’t win just dual meets and especially big end-of-the-season meets on just the big stars,” senior captain Max Irwin said. “You have to have depth, too, and that’s a really important thing.”
The Hoosiers who remained in Bloomington had to rely on some less recognizable names and faces to pull out points against a solid program in Cincinnati. Of those to step up, senior Marwan Elkamash led the way for the men’s swimmers. He won the 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle, 400-yard freestyle relay and finished second in the 100-yard freestyle.
Elkamash said he tried not to focus on who was and was not swimming, but just the meet at hand.
On the women’s side, the Cincinnati meet was another big showing for junior Ali Rockett. She won the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard medley relay and finished second in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle.
“It’s a huge confidence-booster,” Rockett said. “The past couple years haven’t been what I wanted it to be so coming in and performing and scoring for my team is huge.”
Looze credits her performance to how positively she responded to a more sprint-based training.
The IU divers also provided a major help in the meet. Sophomore Taylor Pamplin, an Ohio State transfer, won both the one-meter and three-meter competitions, and sophomore James Connor won the same two events for the men. Pamplin, Connor, and Joshua Arndt also all posted scores above the NCAA standard count.
Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, the Hoosiers, Looze and the Big Ten All-Stars had their hands full with Team USA and lost the meet 349-247. Many Hoosiers still posted quality results despite the loss. King swam the sixth fastest 100-yard breaststroke time in school history, and Pieroni and Ali Khalafalla left Indianapolis with a combined four victories.
The meet was also the first time this season the Hoosiers wore full suits in competition. Full suits tend to result in quicker times.
Pieroni won the 100-yard freestyle with the fastest NCAA time of the season and posted the NCAA’s second-quickest time in his wins in the 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyle relay. Other notable performers were seniors Gia Dalesandro and Bailey Pressey, junior Kennedy Goss, and sophomore Vini Lanza.
Looze said his swimmers exceeded his expectations for where he thought they’d be in early November and some might set a higher bar for meets later in the year.
The Hoosiers also swam against some familiar faces. IU alumnus Cody Miller and post-grad swimmer Zane Groth, both of whom train with the IU squad, competed for Team USA.
“It was weird,” Looze said. “I walked past Cody and Zane, and I go ‘I kind of feel weird,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, but we’re here to kick your butt.’ You know, Zane and Cody were a thorn in our side all weekend long. They’re really, really good swimmers.”
While the meet results didn’t quite go as planned against Team USA, Looze said he was pleased with his team’s performance and even more excited to see the sport of swimming gaining some major exposure.
“To be on live TV on a Saturday afternoon and a Sunday midday, for the sport of swimming, it doesn’t get any better than that. We’re popular. We’re something that people want to watch, and at Indiana I think we have a lot of those personalities that are drawing TV viewers in to watch,” Looze said. “So it doesn’t always have to be football or basketball. There’s some other good sports out there.”
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