Ten-time high-school All-American swimmer impresses Iowa in first meets


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Freshman Olivia Kabacinski has quickly made a name for herself on the Iowa women’s swimming team.

In her first two meets as a Hawkeye, she has sprinted her way to a pool record and the second-fastest 50-freestyle time in Iowa history.

“I’ve always wanted to swim Division I,” the native of La Porte, Ind., said. “And I’ve always known that I wanted to swim for four years in college, and I think that’s been my motivation right now. This is my dream, and it doesn’t get any better.”

Kabacinski set a McCaffree Pool record in the Hawkeyes’ opening meet at Michigan State on Oct. 19.

Her 50-freestyle time of 23.23 seconds was just a hair faster than the previous record of 23.29.

Kabacinski swam even faster for her encore. She registered her best 50-free time as a Hawkeye in Iowa’s meet against Minnesota on Nov. 2. She clocked in at 23.12, the second-fastest time in Iowa history.

“Sprinting has always been my base,” Kabacinski said. “It’s natural for me to get up and race, and I think that’s where Iowa’s going to use me the most.”

The freshman has also participated in the 200-medley relay, the 400-freestyle relay, and the 200 freestyle.

Having a successful freshman on the team is hardly news for Iowa. Last year, now-sophomore Becky Stoughton was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Year for her effort in the pool. This year, Iowa seems to have its sights on a repeat.

“[Kabacinski] was one of my recruits last year, and I knew off the bat that she was awesome,” Stoughton said. “Her mental attitude and the way she handles difficult situations and difficult sets is a good quality to have.”

Kabacinski’s resiliency so far can be attributed to her prep career. She was a 10-time individual All-American and a three-time state champion. Her best 50-free time in high school (23.06) would qualify as an Iowa pool record.

“We knew in the recruiting process that she was a great racer,” head coach Marc Long said. “She comes from a strong swimming program in Indiana. I think a lot of her [success thus far] is from her natural ability to race.”

Kabacinski had many of the same worries that all college freshmen do, but her focus stayed on the pool. Her biggest adjustment came with the workout strategies that a college team implements.

“Lifting [weights] has definitely helped,” she said. “For some people, it takes a while for lifting to translate to the water. I think I’m lucky that it’s already helped me.”

Powering through 50 yards, however, isn’t just about being strong. The start, the subsequent turn at the wall, and the finish all matter in such a short race.

“It’s a daily thing for her,” Long said. “Whether it’s working on turns or technical things with the stroke, it’s things she’s working on quite a bit. This is also the time of year where the newcomers start adapting well to the strength training.”

So far the weight training hasn’t been a problem. Kabacinski has been flying by her competition, and her teammates know she has the capability to do it all season.

“She doesn’t need any help; she’s got this,” Stoughton said. “If she sticks with it and keeps training hard, she’ll do pretty well.”

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