Lilly King said she always knew she was fast. The freshman also said she knew she was capable of winning her events and setting records.
But what she said she didn’t know was she would be a double American record holder in the 100 and 200 breaststroke after her first year.
Last weekend at the NCAA Championships, King became the first woman ever to swim faster than 57 seconds in the 100 breaststroke.
Her time of 56.85 led her to her first career NCAA title and set an NCAA meet record, U.S. Open meet record, IU school record and a Big Ten record.
In high school, King said she considered the 100 breaststroke to be her best event. But one day after setting the American record in the event, King proved she is the best in the 200 as well.
She became the first woman ever to swim faster than 2:04 in the 200 breaststroke and King’s 2:03.59 finish was almost three seconds ahead of the second place finisher.
King said she expected to get faster and stronger but she didn’t think she would achieve the goals she set at the beginning of her college career at the end of one season.
“I had an idea of where I was headed as my times kept getting faster,” King said. “But to be able to do all of this in my first season was something I never expected. I went in expecting to win my events, but I had high expectations for myself to set the records. Two ARs in one meet is a big deal, and I’m happy I could contribute for my team.”
King took part in scoring 78 of IU’s 228 points, helping lead IU.
King said it’s a little weird to know the next time she swims, she will be swimming against her own American records.
Next season, King says her mentality will be simple: don’t lose.
Even with two record-breaking swims, King said she wasn’t fully pleased with the way she looked in the water.
“Once I watched it back, I thought my 200 looked better,” King said. “In the 100, my stroke was choppy, and my turns weren’t the greatest. I could have done a lot better with my start and pullouts.”
King said she is used to high expectations and thrives off of a competitive atmosphere. She has been swimming against the men’s team during the season to give her faster opponents to race against.
The combined men’s and women’s program at IU was a big deal for King when deciding where she wanted to continue swimming. After traveling to IU to watch Tennessee swim, she fell in love with the Hoosiers’ program and wanted to have an official visit to see if it would be the right place for her.
When King visited, she almost committed on the spot, she said. King said she hates awkward situations so remembering how easily she could talk and joke with the group was what sold her.
When she is up on the starting blocks, it is not uncommon to see King smiling before she enters the water.
“You’ll always find me cheesing up behind the starting blocks,” King said. “If you look around before the race, everyone is so serious, and it makes me laugh. The way I look at it, no matter what happens, there’s always going to be another race for me to swim.”
King started swimming when she was 8 years old. She said she innocently told people she wanted to be an Olympic athlete one day.
When she was 16, she said it set in that this dream could be a reality. Now, three years later, she said she feels she is on the right track.
“Ever since that day, everything I do I do around that,” King said. “My ultimate goal is to focus on the Olympic trials beginning at the end of June. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, because so far it seems to be working.”
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