MIKE DICKBERND/IU SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY Allysa Vavra swims the 200 breaststroke on Saturday during the Big Ten Championship Meet. Vavra took third in the event. She posted first place finishes in both the 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley earlier in the meet.
Allysa Vavra was spectacular. But she wasn't satisfied.
That's why Indiana University coach Ray Looze thinks her impressive performance at last week's Big Ten Swimming Championships might just be the tip of the iceberg.
Vavra, a Coaldale native and Panther Valley High School graduate, captured Big Ten titles in both the 200 and 400 individual medley and added a third-place finish in the 200 breaststroke. In the process, she set three school records, two pool records, a meet record, and a Big Ten record.
Vavra's incredible individual effort helped the Indiana women to their third straight Big Ten championship.
"It was nice to see all the hard work I put into swimming pay off," said Vavra. "I knew I was capable of swimming the times I did.
"But at the same time, I have high expectations for myself. So while I'm really happy about what I accomplished, I'm not satisfied. I think I can go lower with my times, especially in the 400 IM."
Her coach agrees.
"I believe Allysa was the top point producer in the entire meet," said Looze, who is in his sixth year coaching the Indiana women's swim team. "She was tremendous in all three events she swam.
"But I believe that people still haven't seen her best yet. Based on her training times, I think Allysa can improve at the NCAAs. She hasn't really had a big NCAA meet yet and I'm hoping this is going to be her breakout year."
During the nine dual meets the Hoosiers swam this season, Vavra was unbeaten in both the 200 and 400 IM. She also had success in a variety of other events, including setting the Louisville pool record in an event the 1,000 freestyle that she really didn't practice.
"A lot of the media covering the Big Ten Championships were referring to it as my 'breakout meet,'" said Vavra. "But I don't really consider it that.
"I had been swimming pretty well the entire season and swimming a lot of different events. So I think it was more of a continuation of what I had been doing."
Looze wasn't surprised by Vavra's performance at the Big Ten Championships or her consistency throughout the season.
"Allysa is not very big, but she is incredibly strong," Looze said. "She also trains at a very high level. That combination of strength and hard work has made her an outstanding swimmer.
"But I think the one thing that really stands out about Allysa is her ability to recover after a workout or race. She is as good as anyone I've ever coached when it comes to that. It seems like she never gets tired. That's something that enables her to really push during workouts."
Vavra showed that ability to recover quickly during a grueling three-day stretch of qualifying heats and finals last week when Indiana hosted the Big Ten Championships at the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center.
On Thursday, she set a pool and school record in winning the 200 IM in a time of 1:57.01. She followed that up with another first place finish on Friday in 400 IM, setting school, pool, meet and Big Ten records with a time of 4:04.59. Vavra capped things off on Saturday with a third-place finish in the 200 breaststroke, setting a school record with a time of 2:07.71.
"I've gone through a lot of changes moving from high school, to the University of Virginia, and then transferring to Indiana," said Vavra. "But I'm really happy now. I love the school, my teammates, and my coaches.
"I think I've grown athletically, but even more importantly, I've grown as a person. I think that has been a huge help in improving as a swimmer."
Vavra will now take that improvement into the NCAA Championships, which are scheduled for March 17th, 18th and 19th at the University of Texas campus. Vavra has qualified in all three events she swam at the Big Ten Championships.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Vavra about the NCAAs. "We don't do a mid-season taper like a lot of other teams do for the league meet. I'll do my main taper in preparation for the NCAAs so that should help my times."
Looze thinks she's ready.
"Allysa has come a long way since she stepped onto campus as a freshman," he said. "She has always done everything at the highest possible level. Whether it was swimming, or school work, or whatever else she was doing at the time.
"But now she has a sense of maturity about her. That maturity, combined with the tremendous heart and discipline she always had, has given her an inner confidence that is really paying off both in and out of the pool."