Between world records, Olympic gold medals and back-to-back Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year awards, there isn’t much left for senior Lilly King to accomplish as a swimmer.
After winning five medals in major summer competitions, King enters her final year in Bloomington with only one competitor:
In the final weeks leading up to the 2018-19 school year, King competed in two big events: the Phillips 66 Nationals in Irvine, California, and the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo. King won five total medals — three gold and two silver.
Two of those gold medals came at the Phillips 66 Nationals, where King won the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke. King won the gold in the 100-meter at the Pan Pacific Championships as well.
“The 100 breast at Nationals was my most difficult because I hadn’t qualified for Pan Pacs yet,” King said. “Going into my last event and not having made the team yet, I had never been in that situation before. I think there was a lot more pressure on me to preform then.”
King wound up swimming a spectacular 100-meter race at Nationals, turning on the jets in the final 15 meters to pull away with a victory.
“That’s usually how I swim by race,” King said. “I’m known for taking it out fast, but I also close faster than anyone else in the world.”
The two silvers came at the Pan Pacific Championships in the 200-meter breast stroke, and the 4x100-meter medley relay.
However, by King’s own standards for herself, those results came as a disappointment.
“Nationals didn’t really go as planned,” King said. “Just dealing with the heat outside and the water temperature was a little bit tricky just because we were in California towards the end of July. That one didn’t go as planned, but luckily, I still got on the team."
At Pan Pacs, King swam in the same pool in which she competed in the FINA Swimming World Cup back in high school.
“At the time I was just trying to get the finals and get a medal,” King said of her high school trip to Tokyo. “But now, I’m just trying not to lose."
King and the U.S. team also got to visit the site of the pool she will swim in at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“It will seat more than they did in Rio," King said. "It’s looking like a pretty big stadium, and the bigger the better for me."
Not only have the competitions over the summer helped King, but so has IU’s training program.
Coach Ray Looze and the Hoosiers are committed to getting their swimmers in the pool as much as possible. That correlates to 10 swim practices a week, much more than most other programs.
“The summer is always really good because, especially this summer, there aren’t really very many meets until the very end," King said. "It’s really great to train through. You can really get better from the summer.”
When official practices start for the 2018-19 season Aug. 20, King will begin her final year at IU. One of the most dominant individual athletes ever to walk Indiana’s campus doesn’t have much left to prove, but she said she certainly wants to go out with a bang.
“It’s my senior year,” King said. “I want to kick butt, and do things I haven’t done before. Hopefully breaking 56 seconds in the 100 breastroke, that’s been my goal since freshman year, winning both my events at NCAA's and having a good all-around year.”
To achieve her goals, King said she's focusing on setting new best times for herself.
“I have the records, I have the titles, those aren’t really something you can control," King said. "But just controlling what I can control, which is my times and my training, is kind of what I try to do now.”
However, while King might be her own toughest opponent, she certainly won't be the only one.
King said she knows other swimmers around the Big Ten and the nation are gunning to take her down, a fact she thrives on as a competitor.
“I totally like having the target on my back because that pushes me,” King said. “Until a couple of years ago that wasn’t somewhere I had ever been. I was always the underdog chasing everybody, always the kid in the final heat. But I think being on the other side of that now is better for me because it pushes me a lot more at practice and at meets too.”
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