Mt. Pleasant state champ Lily King named Tribune-Review Westmoreland Girls Athlete of the Year

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Saturday, July 1, 2023 | 6:47 PM


Expectations can change, even for someone as talented as Lily King.

“I went in expecting to swim the 50(-yard freestyle) and came out with a 200(-yard freestyle) time I never thought I’d be able to get,” said King, a rising junior swimmer at Mt. Pleasant. “I learned to really trust the process and especially my coach, Sandy (Felice).”

That goes to show how versatile she is. It shows why King is the queen of the pool.

King, a standout with legitimate Olympic aspirations, put together another dazzling season in the water. For her efforts, she is the Tribune-Review Westmoreland Girls Athlete of the Year.

It is rare for a one-sport athlete to win the award, but King is just that impressive.

Hempfield track and field thrower Liz Tapper, a Michigan recruit, also received strong consideration.

King, a sophomore, won PIAA championships in the 100 and 200 freestyles and earned two more state gold medals with relay teams. Her time of 49 seconds in her repeat 100 win set a state Class 2A record.

Her 200 time was 1:46.86.

She also won WPIAL titles in the 200 free (1:47.36) and 100 free (48.58) and chipped in on two relay wins.

Perhaps most importantly to King, though, was the part she played in Mt. Pleasant’s WPIAL and PIAA team championships.

“The ultimate (goal) was winning states as a team, and we did that, so I couldn’t happier with that,” King said. “And the fact I was able to share it with six other girls.”

Felice said King is a model of consistency — in practice as well as big meets.

She swims three to four times a week at the school pool (25 yards), usually starting before 6 a.m., and practices three more times each week in a 50-meter-long outdoor pool.

“She also does land training three times a week and weight training another three times a week,” Felice said. “She has set some big but attainable goals of getting two more Olympic Trials cut times in addition to the 50-meter freestyle cut time she made last December at the Toyota U.S. Open.”

A number of Division I college programs that covet a prospect of King’s ilk have contacted the rising senior. They could begin doing so June 15.

A college career at a power program appears imminent, but don’t forget she has two more years of high school to go — and a lot more time to prep and prune.

“She has learned from them the amount of practicing the college swimmers do — up to 10 swim practices per week,” Felice said, “and the comment she made that impressed me was, ‘Can we start adding more practices per week?’ ”

King continues to grind as she pushes her budding career forward.

Last week, she competed at the Phillips 66 International Team Trials in Indianapolis.

She swam the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles.

From July 31 to Aug. 4 she will compete at junior nationals in Irvine, Calif.

Even though this is her first time climbing the ranks of elite swimming, King believes she is on the right path.

“I feel that my career has progressed the way I hoped it would,” she said. “I have been able to reach goal times I set for myself and been able to qualify for meets that I had always wanted to go to. My coach is incredible, and when I sit down with her and tell her my visions for what I want to do, she always is very encouraging and figures out what we have to do to get there.”

Felice, a former swimmer herself, said with King’s skill and work ethic, “The sky is the limit.”

“She will continue chasing her dreams of being a four-time state champ in two events in her remaining high school career, a D-1 NCAA champion in college and make the junior national team, the national team,” Felice said, “and continue upwards from there.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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