For the first time since 2011, the Hoosiers will be hosting the Big Ten women’s swimming and diving conference championships.
For the last time, star senior breaststroker Lilly King and senior diver Jessica Parratto will compete in Bloomington as Hoosiers.
The Big Ten championships will begin Feb. 20 and run through Feb. 23, taking place in the Counsilman Billingsley Aquatic Center.
“It’s going to be a packed house, standing room only,” IU Head Coach Ray Looze said. “We swim and dive extremely well in this building. We’re looking forward to taking full advantage of that.”
Leading up to the championships, the theme for the Hoosiers has been "All In" for one final meet as a complete team.
Though for the Hoosiers to have a chance to win this year’s Big Ten team title, they are certainly going to have be all in and get some help.
The Big Ten championships are going to be a two-horse race between the Wolverines and Hoosiers. Michigan comes into the championships a perfect 8-0 in dual meets, ranked as a top-five team in the country.
“They’re going to need to leave the door open with mistakes or some bad swims for us to have any sort of shot,” Looze said.
Michigan will be the favorite to win the conference team title, repeating its 2018 championship. IU will be the strongest competition to Michigan as it has second highest national ranking in the conference.
IU and Michigan had a dual meet in January, where the Hoosiers lost 178-128. Michigan won 10 individual events in the blowout win, and took two out of the top three spots in the majority of events. Looze knows that IU is going to need Michigan to make mistakes for his team to capitalize on to have a chance at a team title.
Michigan is an extremely balanced group, with swimmers who have top 10 national times in nearly every stroke. IU doesn’t boast the same type of balance as it struggles in events such as freestyle, the stroke where Michigan is at its best.
“The sooner that we can send a message that we are any sort of threat to them, the better because then that will apply a lot of pressure,” Looze said. “The longer they’re under stress and pressure, then we can look across the pool and see crisis management occurring. We got to squeeze the pressure around them.”
IU had its senior day festivities in the final regular season meet of the year against University of Louisville. With the celebration concluded and those emotions in the past, Looze said his team has been able to focus and treat these Big Ten Championships as it would any other meet.
King will be expected to sweep the 100 and 200 yard breaststroke, despite not tapering for the conference championships, and instead focusing on putting up her best times for the national championships. Victories in the 100 and 200 yard breaststroke will be the eighth and ninth individual Big Ten titles for King, respectively.
Parratto, a sixth-year senior, will also be the favorite to take home the platform diving title, the fourth in her career. Parratto was the Big Ten platform diving champion in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
“Hopefully we’ll find another title or two,” diving head coach Drew Johansen said. “Mostly it’s just going to be Jessica being Jessica. She’s excited, she’s healthy, she’s in great shape.”
Johansen said that he is looking not just to see Parratto go out as a champion, but also to see the younger divers emerge, finding a new diver to lead the team in years to come.
Unless Looze gets his wish where his team can put pressure on Michigan, leading to mistakes, the Wolverines will control the week. IU has a couple heavy favorites to win individual titles, but a team title will be an uphill challenge.