Home Pool Advantage: Indiana-Affiliated Swimmers Thriving at Olympic Trials

Drew Kibler -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Home Pool Advantage: Indiana-Affiliated Swimmers Thriving at Olympic Trials

Imagine qualifying for an Olympic team while sleeping in your own bed. A significant chunk of the swimmers racing this week at Lucas Oil Stadium have been able to go home before and after sessions, enjoy home-cooked meals, maybe even spend time with their pets. An even larger group has come from surrounding towns and made the familiar trek to Indianapolis, possibly staying in the same hotels they had frequented for years for meets at the nearby IUPUI Natatorium.

Indeed, Indiana natives have been extremely successful this week at Olympic Trials, with six swimmers who attended an Indiana high school already qualifying for the Paris Games while two others who represent universities in Indiana have gotten onto the team.

Aaron Shackell was the first, winning the men’s 400 freestyle on night one. A day later, another former Carmel High School swimmer, Drew Kibler, got onto his second Olympic team in the men’s 800 free relay. Blake Pieroni, a native of Crown Point, Ind., and an Indiana University grad, came in sixth in the 200 free final, likely securing a spot of his own.


Lilly King — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Later in the evening, Lilly King of IU and Evansville claimed the Trials win in the 100 breaststroke for the third consecutive Trials before Alex Shackell joined her older brother as a likely Olympian when she finished sixth in the women’s 200 free. Tuesday night, a sixth swimmer made it when Luke Whitlock, a native of Noblesville, finished second in the 800 free and even challenged defending Olympic gold medalist Bobby Finke.

Then there’s Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano and Indiana University’s Anna Peplowski, who both made it in the 200 free, with Guiliano securing an individual spot and Peplowski all but certain to go as an 800 free relay swimmer. Another IU swimmer, Mariah Denigan, is already on the team for open water swimming while Josh Matheny could contend in the 200 breast.

None of these qualifiers are particularly surprising, with King and Kibler as established veterans while Guiliano, Peplowski and Alex Shackell were part of last year’s Worlds team. Pieroni’s comeback to the sport following his two Olympic appearances and brief retirement has gone better than most outsiders expected. Aaron Shackell had been steadily progressing, even if the 200 free was seen as his better opportunity (for relay purposes) entering the week.

Sure, Whitlock was no frontrunner, but we cannot be surprised by his progression after finishing top-eight in the 800 free at last year’s U.S. Nationals and at the World Junior Championships. Male swimmers tend to hit big time drops in their late teenage years, and Whitlock’s breakout has been a feel-good surprise of these Trials.

Of course, these Indiana-affiliated swimmers have the advantage of receiving support from friends and family inside the stadium, but King argues that the rest of the country is now just seeing the level of swimming she has witnessed for years on the high school level.

“This is what we do,” King said. “Obviously I have a rooting interest, but I go to high school state every year and see kids drop the fastest times in the country every year, every single year, and I don’t think it is something that is always acknowledged. You know, we think of, ‘Oh, California, Texas, like the big states, they are good at swimming.’ But we are not just good at basketball here. We are good at swimming, too.

“I think it’s been really cool to see all the Indiana kids and the kids with Indiana ties — adults — sorry, not all of them are kids. But all the swimmers that have Indiana ties swimming fast here because we are so used to swimming fast here.”

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1 month ago

Swimming is just a bigots sport like nascar now, who cares

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