A blue swim cap with a Kentucky logo flashed in the corner of senior Lilly King’s eye.
King was in a stroke-for-stroke battle with Kentucky’s Bailey Bonnett in the 200-yard breaststroke. The noise inside Counsilman Billingsley Aquatic Center rose as cream-and-crimson-clad Hoosier fans, alongside blue-and-white-clad Kentucky fans stood up from their seats.
The two swimmers turned into the final 25 yards, and all of the sudden, King was gone.
“Usually, I kind of save it for the last 25,” King said. “I know I can speed up the last 25 whenever. Usually, I’ll just kind of sit on people and wait until I need to go.”
King pulled away in the final 25 yards of the race to win the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:11.63.
“I was ready for that race all week,” King said. “I know the girl who was swimming with me. She's a very good breaststroker. She was the best race I had all last season, so I pretty much figured she was going to be the biggest race I have this season. I was ready to go, and it was a fun race.”
It was a performance that showcased all of what the No. 6 IU women’s swim and dive team offered in the opening meet of the season — an ability to dominate with a flare for the dramatic. IU went 2-0-1 in its season opening quad meet, defeating No. 14 Kentucky 183-117, No. 15 Missouri 188-112 and tying No. 18 Notre Dame at 150.
“They did what we asked them to do,” IU Coach Ray Looze said. “We just said, ‘You know this is your home. We’re hosting Big Tens. Let’s get good at defending our home.’ I thought they did a really, really good job.”
It was a meet that started off with a bang as the Hoosiers took the opening event, the 200-yard medley relay and finished in the same fashion as IU finished the relay sweep, taking the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The IU women won a total of six events in the meet. King won the 200 and the 100-yard breaststroke. King’s 100-yard breaststroke time, 59.74, was the fastest collegiate time in the nation this season. King also was part of the 200-yard medley relay team, which won the event with a time of 1:39.09.
“I’m just going to enjoy every bit of Lilly King there is to enjoy,” Looze said. “She’s been arguably the greatest female athlete in our department’s history.”
Freshman Ileah Doctor, freshman Morgan Scott and senior Christine Jensen were the other members of the relay team.
Maria Heitmann won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:49.70, the third fastest in the nation this season. Jensen won the 100-yard butterfly with at time of 53.30. Finally, the group of Heitmann, Jensen, Shelby Koontz and freshman Noelle Peplowski won the 400 freestyle relay, coming from behind to gain the lead and pull away in the final two legs, with a time of 3:20.69.
“We’re establishing a nice relay culture, out of the gate, which is critical to our development as a deep team," Loose said.
IU saw impressive performances out of its freshmen today, notably Doctor, Peplowski, Christin Rockway and Maggie Wallace. Rockway won two heats, as both she and Wallace showed strong potential for the future in the distance races. Peplowski and Doctor had big impacts on the relay teams.
“I thought the best freshman, if I had to single out anybody, would be Noelle Peplowski,” Looze said. “She was on the 400 free relay, swam a great two free, swam a great 100, 200 breast. I thought she was really sharp.”
King hit NCAA B-Cuts in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke, while Jensen hit NCAA B-Cuts in the 100 butterfly.
The Hoosiers' next meet will be in Austin, Texas, where the team will face the No. 4 Texas Longhorns and No. 19 Florida Gators on Oct. 19 and 20.
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