Freshman Mackenzie Looze first jumped into the outdoor pool on IU's campus at two years old.
Her dad, IU swimming and diving Coach Ray Looze, said when their family moved to Bloomington, they stayed at the Hampton Inn. The outdoor pool was used to get the kids out of the room.
“She started swimming under the water across one of those pools and she was two," Ray Looze said. "It was just weird to see somebody so small swim under water, and she would swim with her eyes open. I’ll never forget it. People were going ‘What? Is she going to drown?’ The life guards were ready right there.”
She didn’t drown, and she’s barely left the pool since.
Mackenzie Looze has grown up around swimming, though her journey to IU is different than most of her other teammates. Looze grew up around her swimming coaches — they are her parents.
Ray Looze has been the head swimming coach at IU since 2002, when he moved to Bloomington with his daughter Mackenzie, and wife, Kandis Looze. Ray Looze isn’t the only swimming coach in the family. While he coaches the Hoosiers, Kandis Looze is the head coach at Bloomington High School South.
Mackenzie Looze got her first taste of the pool early on in her life, but she had other interests in her childhood as well.
“When she was younger, she did gymnastics and swimming,” Kandis Looze said. “When she was about 10, the demands with both sports was really high. She chose herself swimming at the age of 10.”
The choice to stick with swimming panned out well for Mackenzie Looze, as she swam for Bloomington Swim Club growing up, and eventually, entered her high school career at Bloomington South.
“It’s weird to have the dynamic of a coach, and the dynamic of that’s your mom,” Mackenzie Looze said.
Mackenzie Looze primarily swims the 400 individual medley, an event that isn’t raced in high school. She swam that event with Bloomington Swim Club, but with Bloomington South, Mackenzie Looze swam the 200 IM, 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and in her senior year, she swam the 100 breast stroke.
Mackenzie Looze was a successful high school and club swimmer. Though when it came to the recruitment process, she had to go through a different process than most high school athletes.
“Actually, my dad had zero to do with my recruitment process," Mackenzie Looze said. "I told him that if he did, I would not commit."
Ray Looze said that his daughter wanted to be recruited by IU, and he had associate head coaches Coley Stickels and Mike Westphal recruit her to IU.
For years, though, Mackenzie Looze didn’t want to go to IU.
At first, Mackenzie wanted to be somewhere else in the country, and not at the program she knew so well growing up. But in the end, Looze trimmed her list down to two schools: IU and the University of Kentucky.
“The Kentucky coach is literally my best friend, and I trust him,” Ray Looze said. “I would have been totally comfortable with her going there.”
Mackenzie Looze went down to Lexington, Kentucky, for Junior Day, and said she came away impressed. The difference between the Hoosiers and Wildcats came down to not just the team, but the people on that team.
Mackenzie Looze had already known so much about IU from the years she had spent living in Bloomington. However, she was convinced by how good of a team and a program the Hoosiers offered, pushing IU ahead of Kentucky on her list of schools.
Kandis Looze said that during the summer, the college team turns into a club team. Mackenzie Looze got the chance to compete with this group, thus having the opportunity to bond with the other IU swimmers, another factor that came into her ultimately picking IU.
“I think the summer I committed, I was committing to how great of a team they were,” Mackenzie said of IU. “They were really supportive, and really welcoming, and not that Kentucky wasn’t, but I just felt at home here. I think that’s what I was committing to.”
After one more summer competition as part of the IU club team, and coming off a strong performance at the Phillips 66 National Championships in California during the summer of 2018, Mackenzie Looze's head coach changed from Coach Looze to Coach Looze.
"The first summer was rough, and then after that she embraced it and matured with the kids," Kandis Looze said. "I think she felt comfortable. The last summer that she trained for them, she bonded with the kids and she realized that the culture was exactly what she wanted.”
They share the bond of daughter and father, but they've also gotten accustomed to their swimmer and coach relationship.
“We’ve worked together for a couple summers now, and it’s been fine,” Ray Looze said. “She’s really, really coachable. She likes to get better. She races hard. She’s a knucklehead at times."
Just like any family relationship, there are ups and downs.
“I’ve never had a problem with you,” Mackenzie Looze turned to her dad and said. She then turned toward her mom, and added, “Yet.”
Mackenzie Looze said that she won’t be able to call her father by his first name on the pool deck, which Kandis Looze noted that every other swimmer on the team is able to. According to Ray, it will be either “dad” or “coach.”
“I think I’m going to cut her, maybe suspend her,” Ray Looze joked if Mackenzie Looze calls him by his first name.
Since Mackenzie Looze has such a familiarity with IU and Bloomington as a whole, she’s emerged as a leader among the strong freshman class.
"I’ve already been labeled the mom because I give everybody rides, make sure they all do their homework,” Mackenzie Looze said.
Though he’s certainly not complaining about having her wearing the cream and crimson striped IU uniforms, Ray Looze joked about other passions his daughter could have pursued.
“I was hoping she’d get into skydiving, but that just didn’t fly,” Ray Looze said.
When Mackenzie Looze asked her father if he'd miss her when she goes to college, he said he might see her now more than ever.
"For all three of us it’s special,” Ray Looze said. “It’s a real, real blessing that we have this opportunity."
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