A stellar — and sometimes enjoyable — offseason has spurred Chesterton senior Olivia Kabacinski's early impressive marks in her final prep swimming campaign.
In last week's season opener against Highland, Iowa recruit Kabacinski broke Talor Whitaker's pool and school mark in the 200-yard individual medley by finishing in 2 minutes, 5.44 seconds — a mark that would have been good for sixth at last year's state meet.
"I was stressed as an underclassmen," said Kabacinski, who has six top-four finishes at the state meet — including a win in the 200 free as a sophomore. "I didn't really know if was improving by leaps and bounds.
"I've wanted to have fun but still try to have state (meet) times. I think I've been able to do both on the same page."
One stess reliever for Kabacinski was her recent commitment to the Hawkeyes. She followed Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel's advice and wrapped things up before the season began.
"I'll be honest. It was a little stressful," Kabacinski said. "I did my college visits early during the school year, so I wouldn't miss practices.
"I had so many options, and it's a great weight off my shoulders."
Kabacinski admitted that Iowa assistant and Portage alumnus Nathan Mundt helped make the process less hectic.
"He was the first person to call me (from a college), and there was an initial connection since we were from the same area," Kabacinski said. "That probably had me sold the most.
"It was great to have someone I could relate to. It's a small world."
Kabacinski also enjoyed a career-best 17th-place finish in the 50 free at the Speedo Junior Nationals this past summer.
Outside of swimming, Kabacinski also has enjoyed a few laughs — at her own expense. The Trojans coaching staff tried out some new training techniques in the preseason, and one included a workout video.
"It was really, really hard," she said. "It was quite funny to watch myself and others do jumping jacks and sweat really hard. We feel like we can swim for miles and miles, but put us on dry land, and things became really difficult.
"I don't know really how much it will be to our advantage, but it was great to do something different."
Kinel doesn't expect much different from Kabacinski. The first meet is one indication of the confidence he has in his senior swimmer.
"She can do a lot of different things at a high level," he said. "She prided herself on going for that record. It doesn't matter where we put her."
Kabacinski lost by four hundredths of a second in the 50 free and by fifty-four hundredths in the 100 free at last year's state finals. Those near misses don't appear to weigh on her mind.
"That just makes me look forward to this year," she said. "I knew I had to work harder, and now I want to go out with a bang."