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King, Finnerty, Lillard named IU Athletes of the Year



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Former IU men's soccer player Grant Lillard celebrates after the Hoosiers scored against the University of North Carolina during the NCAA semifinal game on Dec. 8 at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. Lillard was one of three IU athletes to be named IU Athletes of the Year on Monday. Noble Guyon Buy Photos

On Monday, the IU Department of Athletics announced senior swimmers Lilly King and Ian Finnerty, and now-graduated men’s soccer player Grant Lillard, have been named IU’s 2017-18 Athletes of the Year.

King, now a three-time recipient of the award, defended her 100- and 200-meter breaststroke titles this year. 

The six-time NCAA champion posted the fastest times in history in both events and became the first woman in Big Ten history to win three-straight national championships. With her performance, she helped the Hoosiers to an eighth-place finish in the NCAA Championships, the third-straight top 10 finish for IU.

The 12-time Big Ten champion was also named Big Ten Swimmer of the Year for the third time, earning her third straight First Team All-Big Ten selection and Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year. She was also given Academic All-Big Ten honors for the second time in her career.

King's six NCAA championships are the most for any woman in Big Ten history and ties Rebecca Soni of the University of Southern California and Kristy Kowal of Georgia for the NCAA record of six total breaststroke titles.

Finnerty, the other IU swimmer to receive the IU Athlete of the Year award, took home three NCAA crowns in 2018. One was with the team that won the 400 medley, and two were as an individual in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke races. 

By doing this, Finnerty became IU’s first men’s swimmer to win both 100- and 200-meter breaststroke titles in the same season. 

Finnerty also broke some records in his individual titles, breaking the 50-second barrier in the 100-meter breaststroke championship final, posting the fastest time in history at 49.68 seconds. Then, he went on to break the IU, Big Ten and pool record for the 200-meter breaststroke at 1:50.17.

He also took home five conference titles at the Big Ten Championships, earning him First-Team Big Ten honors.

Lillard, a four-year athlete with the Hoosiers, finished his last season at IU as a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist, unanimous First-Team All-American, Big Ten Defender of the Year, First Team All-Big Ten, First Team United Soccer Coaches All-Midwest Region, College Cup All-Tournament Team, Big Ten All-Tournament Team and Academic All-Big Ten honors.

He led one of the best defenses in the country last season, with IU leading the nation in shutouts, goals allowed and goals-against average. The center back also helped the Hoosiers out on offense this year, scoring two goals and assists. 

After this last stellar season of Lillard helping the Hoosiers to a 18-1-6 record and an appearance in the National Championship match, he signed a Homegrown Player contract with the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer.

Lillard is only the third player in IU history to sign that kind of contract, along with Patrick Doody, who signed in 2015 with the Chicago Fire and Tommy Thompson, who signed with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2014.

Declan McLaughlin

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