The past year in Indiana athletics gave us a little bit of everything. This summer, the HN staff is recounting the best from the year. Each week, we’re revealing a new game, moment, or memory which stood out to us as worthy of a spot in our #HNTop10. It all culminates in August with our best moment from the year.
#6: We remember one of the most accomplished athletes to ever compete in Bloomington — Lilly King.
Lilly King sat at Noodles & Company on the corner of Indiana and Kirkwood Avenues a week before the 2019 Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving championships were set to begin.
The Big Ten would convene in Bloomington, as the Counsilman Billingsley Aquatic Center was set to play host to the event.
Michigan was the favorite. The Wolverines had beaten IU in a dual meet previously in the season and were undefeated against the Big Ten. Michigan won the title by over 300 points in 2018.
But as King sat in Noodles & Company, she knew her team would find a way to pull off the upset.
King has two Olympic gold medals and is the most decorated female breaststroker in NCAA history. But she had never won a team title, at least not before the Big Ten Championships.
On Saturday February 23, King and teammate Jessica Parratto had a tearful embrace on the pool deck. Parratto had just won the Big Ten title in the platform dive. The Big Ten title was sealed. In King’s final collegiate competition in Bloomington, she had a team title.
Indiana’s upset push began on the second night of the competition where it wasn’t favored to win any of the five events, but won two. Parratto won the one-meter dive over Minnesota’s Sarah Bacon, the defending national champion. IU’s 400-yard medley relay team upset Michigan which had the fastest time in the conference, a win made possible by King’s record setting breaststroke leg.
“I was really surprised,” head coach Ray Looze said of the team’s second night performance. “But pleasantly so. Then we extended it, and I was like, ‘Wow, this just might be possible.’”
IU entered the third night with an unexpected lead in the overall standings. King had yet to swim either of her two best events.
On the third night, King made her mark.
No woman had ever broken 56 seconds in the 100-yard breaststroke — until Lilly King. King, without tapering, posted the then-fastest time in American history, 55.88 seconds. It was a record that would stand for just one month before King broke it again at the NCAA Championships.
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) February 23, 2019
On the final night, King made her final collegiate swim in Bloomington, winning the 200-yard breaststroke. Looze walked across the pool deck to the IU fan section, throwing his arms up in the air. Indiana had all but clinched the title.
King won her seventh and eighth Big Ten breaststroke titles as the Hoosiers won the overall championship.
The win was King’s first team title of any kind in her life, and was the first team trophy in the best run of success in the program’s history. The women’s swim and dive team has made a top-10 finish in each of King’s four years at IU — something it had never done before. It had been one of the best teams in the Big Ten each and every year.
But IU hadn’t won a trophy in that stretch.
In the team’s home pool, that changed. Indiana had a team trophy, a lasting mark of King’s era as the team moves on without her.
In the final time King put on an IU swimsuit in Bloomington, she produced one of the best performances of her college career.
Even after thinking it could happen a week before, King was in disbelief when it became reality. With her banner looking down from the wall behind the diving platforms, Lilly King had left a final stamp on her legacy.