So far this season, Anna Peplowski has been second to none in the pool.
The senior has won every swimming event she has entered since returning to the Metamora Co-op team this season after a two-year absence.
"She has not lost a race this year, and she has swum every event except diving," Redbirds coach Shane Morrison said.
It’s the second stint with the Metamora squad for Peplowski, who qualified for the IHSA state meet in four events as a freshman.
For the past two seasons, however, Peplowski — sister of two-time Journal Star Girls Swimmer of the Year Noelle Peplowski — has been swimming for the Bloomington WAVES club team.
The younger Peplowski wanted the advantages of a year-long training period, higher-level practices and more training facilities offered by club swimming. That also helped her in the college recruitment process.
The move helped develop her into one of the top high school swimmers in the state.
Peplowski’s best times last year would have qualified her for the A finals in four different events in the IHSA state meet — the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free and 100 back.
"I got recruited for my freestyle events, and that’s what I’ll be swimming in college," Peplowski said.
This season, however, she decided to return to the Redbirds team and enjoy her senior season. But it wasn’t an easy choice.
"In the beginning, I was thinking that I would stay with my club team," Peplowski said. "But after COVID happened, I was like, you know what? I’m already committed to the college I’m going to. So, I’m going to have a fun senior year and just enjoy swimming with some of my friends.
"There’s a lot of differences with club teams and high school teams, just because there are a lot more meets (in high school). There is also a bigger atmosphere, because there are a lot more people on my high school team."
Peplowski, a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, is committed to swim at Indiana University next season, where she will join her older sister on the team.
Until then, however, she is taking full advantage of a second chance with her high school teammates.
"I’ve really enjoyed it so far, because our team is always positive about swim meets, and cheering people on," Peplowski said. "Club team is more high level. I’m not saying that the high school season isn’t, but high school season is more for the experience — having fun and making memories."
Because the IHSA’s COVID guidelines do not allow for relays in this season’s meets, Peplowski has been able to post times in all eight individual swimming events already. That has helped the Redbirds to a 3-2 start in dual meets.
"It’s been my priority to get every event I can in and try to get a time for that," she said. "Coming into the season, I wanted to get a good baseline of every event I could."
Because of the no-relays rule, Morrison has had the option of using Peplowski and his other swimmers in as many as four events each meet.
And he was more than happy to have her back in the fold.
"Having her back obviously adds a lot more speed to our team," Morrison said. "Probably because the girls have been going to school with her, they’ve been bonding great.
"And I think a lot of the other girls are really excited, because they know what kind of talent she is. I think that kind of lifts their spirits up and kind of makes them work harder."
A few weeks into the season, there have been a few top times posted on a website that generally tracks the best swim times in the state. But the list is far from complete.
"I think since there is no state meet, as of right now, people aren’t as concerned with the state times," Peplowski said. "So, everyone is just kind of focusing on dual meets as of right now, until we have further notice on what the plan is."
Based on the times posted, Peplowski ranks in the top five in five individual events. She ranks second in the 200 free (a top time of 1:51.99) and the 500 free (5:05.73) — behind defending state champion Rachel Stege of Naperville Neuqua Valley in both events — third in the 100 back (:58.43), fourth in the 50 free (:24.0) and fifth in the 100 free (:52.61).
Peplowski’s times have already bettered the IHSA state qualifying standards in all of the freestyle events.
"My times are right around where I need them to be and where I want them to be," she said. "As far as setting goals for myself, I’m completing most of them.
"Since there is no state meet, we’re planning on tapering for our Mid-Illini meet, and I plan on tapering for sectionals. We’re still about a month out, and I’m still getting a broader range of what my times are like."
Morrison used Peplowski in just three events in the first four meets. He did use her in four events in a tough 72-69 dual meet loss against the Washington Co-op last week.
Peplowski was dominant in winning all of her events — again.
She won the 200 free by 14 seconds, the 50 free by three seconds, the 100 free by almost six seconds and the 100 back by 13 seconds.
"That’s one reason why it’s all so easy to try to go for the win," Morrison said. "No matter how tired she is, people in this area aren’t catching her."
Peplowski’s winning time of :58.43 in the 100 back at the Five Points pool broke her own school record in that event. She also owns the Metamora records in the 50 free and the 100 free. Her older sister owns the school records in the other five individual events.
And with no state titles to try for, Anna Peplowski still has a few high school meets left to try and break more of her sister’s school records before joining her at Indiana next year.
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.