IU swim Coach Ray Looze has made his program one of the most innovative in the nation when it comes to training.
It's been a reason why professionals across the country have flocked to train in Bloomington, and kept alumni in town.
“The programs at IU have made us so good,” Cody Miller said. “They’ve put me on an Olympic team, won me national championships and I set American records training here so why would I leave?”
Miller graduated from IU in 2014 with a long list of accomplishments in the pool and a degree in business management. Academics were important to Miller, but they were not his primary motive for choosing IU. It was all about the swimming, the chance to make a name for himself in a successful and historic program that would springboard him to a bronze and gold medal at the 2016 Olympics.
Now, Miller spends much of his time with the Hoosier swim team and Looze’s staff.
“I have a good working relationship with Ray and because I’ve been doing it for so long I can give him a lot of feedback that he respects and understands,” Miller said.
Miller breaks down workout routines in the efforts of making Looze’s drills less daunting for the freshman. He can be seen singing karaoke on the pool deck, and doing the swimming with weighed pulleys on his popular vlog while boosting team morale through every step of the training process as early as 6 a.m.
Senior Lilly King has consistently been one of Miller’s vlog features. Although King was one of the fastest swimmers in the country out of high school, Miller took her under his wing while she was a freshman and from there, a sibling-like bond formed.
“We’re both pretty headstrong and will definitely give someone the middle finger and be like, ‘I’m gonna beat you,’” Miller said. “Lilly is probably the most mentally tough person on the team and in that sense, we jive like a brother-sister kind of thing.”
King reciprocated similar feelings about Miller.
“Cody is like my big brother, that’s as close as I can say it,” King said. “We swim almost every practice together, and he’s been there for all the big moments. It’s a really special friendship.”
On top of providing career advice to King, Miller gives the other swimmers tips on how to manage their time wisely. Miller acknowledges the plethora of opportunities available at IU, with the most frequent being partying late into the night.
“The biggest thing I say is sleep because that’s the number one killer,” Miller said. “You are so much more fatigued and broken down from 26 hours of exercise that normal students do not have. I lost an event I should have easily won my senior year.”
Miller won every single breaststroke event at the Big Ten championships until his senior year. Hindered by an inadequate diet and a mismanagement of sleep from an excess amount of late nights with friends, Miller lost the 100 breaststroke in the 2014 Big Ten championships.
To Miller, having the opportunity to share this regretful experience with students is his way of teaching the younger swimmers.
“Part of my role is trying to get people to buy into the fact that they have to make sacrifices like dieting and proper sleep,” Miller said. “Not to knock on the dorm food, but it’s not ideal for athletes. You can’t train on pizza and burritos.”
While Miller is the longest tenured member of the professional group training in Bloomington, Blake Pieroni is the newest.
“Blake is one of, if not the best, relay swimmers in the world and no one would argue against that,” Miller said. “He’s a really good captain and leader, someone to just look to and say, ‘I’m going to do what that dude does.’"
Pieroni boasts a decorated résumé including a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics and at the 2017 FINA World Championships. Pieroni also set the fastest time in history for the 200 freestyle at the 2018 NCAA championships.
According to Pieroni, his trainor Mike Westphal is everything he could have ever asked for. Westphal and the coaching staff have been there to test his limits and encourage him to conquer his challenges in and out of the pool.
“IU has allowed me to do a lot of things in my life and it’s been a very rewarding process,” he said. “Someone that’s considering training for IU better come in ready to be passionate about the sport because four years in this program is tough.”
Now a graduate, Pieroni has been able to step back this season and help the underclassmen by preparing them upcoming tournaments.
“The sooner that you can learn what everything is about, the easier it is and the better you get quicker,” he said. “If I had understood the process before my junior year where I got really good I think I would have been better earlier."
Pieroni said the midway point of the year brings fatigue and soreness to the swimmer’s body. Despite not having a way to avoid pain throughout the typical season, Pieroni tells the underclassmen how to best take care of their bodies.
“There’s no tricks you can do but it’s more like, ‘This is going to happen, expect it,’” he said. “It can be frustrating but if you’re expecting it then you’re a lot better mentally.”
Miller, Pieroni and some of the other athletes will will continue to mentor the incoming students for the foreseeable future and train in Bloomington for future Olympic competitions.
“Cody, Blake and the others really push me to keep reinventing and not rolling out the same thing,” Looze said. “Having elite level record holders here is a big reason why we are attracting better recruits.”