When Lilly King saw a teary-eyed Jessica Parratto walk toward her, she began to cry as well. The two seniors shared a long embrace on the pool deck, as their last home meet came to a close.
Few athletes have meant more to a team over their careers than those two. In their final home meet, the two veteran Hoosiers finally accomplished a goal they had been working their whole careers to achieve: Winning the Big Ten.
“It’s not something I’ve ever felt before,” King said. “I’m overcome with emotion right now. It’s unbelievable, these are my best friends. Seeing them accomplish their goals and their dreams is so cool and in our pool. We’re here, we’re home.”
Michigan came into the week as the favorite to win. The Wolverines had won the title a year ago by over 300 points. They hadn’t lost a dual meet all season.
Before the meet, Coach Ray Looze said it was going to take mistakes from Michigan for IU to win. King, confident as always, didn’t have any doubt.
“For me, it was about a week ago,” King said. “I was sitting at Noodles & Company with my friends, and I was like, ‘We’re gonna do it.’”
When King’s final competitive swim in Bloomington finished, the Hoosiers pushed themselves out to a 150-point lead in the overall standings. Coach Ray Looze walked across the pool deck to the IU fans, thrusting his arms out in celebration. He could feel it. The fans could too.
When Jessica Parratto completed her final dive, clinching a win in the platform dive competition, Looze and the Hoosiers didn't just feel it. At that point, they knew it. A dream that seemed impossible had become reality. IU had beaten Michigan.
On Saturday night at the Counsilman Billingsley Aquatic Center, IU completed an upset of Michigan, finishing with 1,386.5 points to the Wolverines' 1,302.5. The title is the sixth in program history and the first since 2011.
“We won three of these in a row from 2009 to 2011, then we got second eight years. Honestly, it didn’t feel like we could ever get in there again,” Looze said. “Just such an unexpected title.”
King has a long list of accomplishments, but there are two things she’s never done.
First, King has never broken 56 seconds in the 100-yard breaststroke. No woman ever has for that matter.
In her final home meet, King checked that off her list.
Second, King has never won a team title of any kind with the Hoosiers.
In her final home meet, King checked that off her list too.
Though for King and IU to be in position to win the team title, no night was more important than the second.
IU didn’t have a top time in a single event on the second night of competition. It was night that also featured some of Michigan’s best events. In qualifying, IU didn’t post a top-seed time for any events.
IU won two of the five events that night anyway.
“I was really surprised,” Looze said of the team’s second night performance. “But pleasantly so. Then we extended it, and I was like, ‘Wow, this just might be possible.’”
Senior diver Jessica Parratto came into the meet as a three-time Big Ten champion, though all have come in the platform dive. In the 1-meter dive event, Parratto went up against the defending national champion, Minnesota’s Sarah Bacon.
“That was a big surprise for me,” Parratto said of winning the 1-meter dive. “To compete by her side was incredible, and just to go out on top was crazy.”
“We’ve known Jess can win any event that she’s in,” diving Coach Drew Johansen said. “She’s that talented. Her composure on the 1-meter was really spectacular on that first night. It led me to believe it was going to be a great week.”
Though for the Hoosiers, the surprise-filled second night didn’t end there.
Michigan came into the meet with the top time in the Big Ten in the 400-yard medley relay. The Wolverines also posted the fastest time in qualifying.
Though when King jumped in the pool for the second leg of the relay, Michigan didn’t have a response. King posted the fastest 100-yard split ever recorded in the 400-yard medley relay, a 55.66 second mark, propelling the Hoosiers out to a lead of about 60 points into the third day.
It was a lead the Hoosiers never relinquished.
On the third night of the championships, IU had a chance to extend its lead, with strong events for the team like the 100-yard breaststroke scheduled for that night.
It was on this night that King made history.
“I decided I wanted to go 55 in my pool,” King said. “Making history here, at my home, with all my parents, and my friends parents and everybody watching, I was meant to do it here.”
Without tapering, King dropped an American record time in the 100-yard breaststroke, finishing in 55.88. King became the first woman to ever break 56.
Behind King’s historic swim, the Hoosiers took a 111-point lead into the final night.
Michigan pushed IU all the way to the finish, getting to striking distance of IU on the final night. Though on the 200-yard breaststroke, the Hoosiers pulled away for good, and on the platform dive, they sealed it.
IU swimmers won seven individual Big Ten titles. King completed the career sweep of the breaststroke events as she won the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Jessica Parratto won her fourth Big Ten title in the platform dive and her first in the 1-meter dive. IU also won the 200-yard and 400-yard medley relays, finishing with NCAA A cuts for both events. Finally, senior Bailey Andison posted an NCAA A cut and personal best time as she won the 400-yard individual medley.
The Hoosiers ability to pick up points in B finals of the Wolverine's better events, and steal points wherever possible. Freshman Morgan Scott went up against Michigan’s top swimmers, and was able to outperform expectations night after night.
“I can’t even put it into words right now,” King said. “I’m just so proud of everybody. This is something I never imagined would happen.”