Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Haley Lips of Indiana University

While Minnesota has had a stranglehold on the top spot in the Big Ten for four years in a row now, the Indiana Hoosiers have been keeping the Golden Gophers honest each and every year with big end of the year swims in both individuals and in relays. After having been the top team in the Big Ten for three consecutive years before Minnesota began its current streak, the Hoosiers have assembled very deep squads on an annual basis, and have led an absolute assault on the record boards. One of the most explosive swimmers for IU over the course of her NCAA career has been Haley Lips out of Greer, South Carolina, and she will be an invaluable assault for her school over the next month.

A household name during her time in the YMCA swimming scene, Lips excelled as a member of the Y-Spartaquatics Swim Club (Middle Tyger YMCA). She held multiple individual YMCA national records both in short course and long course swimming, and to this day holds the LCM YMCA record as a member of her club’s 400 free relay (3:51.98) from 2012. Additionally, she still holds nine South Carolina short course state records and fifteen long course records as of 2016.

Her massive swims in the 100 and 200 butterflies at national level meets qualified her for the 2011-12 Junior National Team, and the following year, she would make the team again thanks to her performance in the 200 free at the 2012 Olympic Trials (2:01.63, 35th). Additionally, she also competed in the 100 fly (1:01.41, 66th), 200 fly (2:15.07, 41st), and the 400 free (4:18.17, 45th) in Omaha.

As a member of Riverside High School’s team, Lips would also be a force in South Carolina’s High School scene. She was a five-time South Carolina state champion with victories in the 200 free (2011), 500 free (2010, 2011), and the 100 fly (2009, 2010).

Upon joining the Hoosiers in 2012, Haley wasted no time in making a statement in a BIG way on the conference scene. At the 2013 Big Ten Championships, Lips shone individually, securing finishes of 5th in the 200 fly (1:58.30, 1:57.11 in prelims), 5th in the 500 free (4:41.48), and 14th in the preliminaries of the 400 IM (scratched finals, 4:18.30). Both the fly swim in prelims and the free swim in finals were lifetime bests in the process.

Although her individual results were very impressive, Lips got to be a part of something extremely special while competing on Indiana’s 800 free relay. Contributing the third leg on the Hoosiers’ relay in finals, Lips crushed a monster 1:44.33 split to help IU (Lindsay VroomanCynthia Pammett, and Brooklyn Snodgrass being the other three members) win the event title with a 6:59.48, the fastest time and also the first sub-7:00 performance in conference history. It is also worthwhile to mention that Lips’ split was the fastest split of the entire field that night.

The following month, Haley would receive the opportunity to swim at the NCAA Championships, and she would turn in a 43rd place finish in the 200 fly with a 1:59.42. Additionally, as a member of the 800 free relay, she would earn Honorable Mention All-American honors while helping the Hoosiers take 12th overall (7:05.32).

Returning for her sophomore season with IU, Lips would continue to play a major role in her team’s scoring efforts at Big Tens. Individually, she would turn in finishes of 9th in the 200 free (1:46.61), 7th in the 1650 (16:18.51), and 8th in the 500 free (4:48.62). She would also provide the lead-off leg (1:45.94) on Indiana’s 800 free relay (7:03.08, 2nd). Notably, Lips owned season-best times of 4:42.86 in the 500 free and 1:58.94 in the 200 fly from the AT&T Winter Nationals in December of 2013. Unfortunately, she would not swim at the 2014 NCAA meet as she suffered from a medical injury before the date of the national meet.

Ready to make a return trip to NCAAs, Lips came back stronger than ever for her third stab at the Conference Championships. She would grab 2nd in the 500 free (4:38.27), 2nd in the 200 free (1:44.68), and 5th in the 1650 (16:06.85), with the 500 free and 1650 setting new personal bests in the process. In relay action, Lips channeled her freshman self to power the Hoosiers (Lips, Kennedy Goss, Grace Vertigans, and Snodgrass) to a new conference record in the 800 free relay (6:59.10), and her 1:44.16 lead-off leg was a new career best as well. It is worthwhile to mention that her split was also the second-fastest split in the event, with her teammate Goss being the sole swimmer to post a faster leg (1:43.18). Finally, Lips provided a 49.43 split on IU’s 400 free relay (3:15.75) to help the team take 3rd overall while setting a new school record.

Not content with only swimming fast at Big Tens, Lips stayed red hot at last year’s NCAA Championships. She would record finishes of 14th in the 200 free (1:44.41, 1:44.06 career best in prelims), 19th in the 500 free (4:42.09), and 18th in the 1650 (16:10.15). Her 200 free swim in prelims was good for 2nd all-time in Indiana’s history, and also earned her Honorable Mention All-American Honors in the process. As a member of Indiana’s relays, she contributed legs on Indiana’s 400 free relay (3:17.67, 24th) and 800 free relay (7:02.61, 6th), with the 800 free relay earning her All-American Honors for the first time in her career.

Perhaps what is most exciting about our featured senior is that she may be ready to have her biggest Championship season yet. At the 2015 Hoosierland Invite, Lips posted times of 49.56 in the 100 free, 1:45.42 in the 200 free, 4:39.24 in the 500 free, and 16:11.59 in the 1650 free. She would also perform admirably in that meet’s long course sessions, with top times of 2:01.67 in the 200 free and 4:20.10 in the 400 free.

Finishing only 27 points behind Minnesota in last year’s team race, the Hoosiers will be the Powder Keg of the conference this week, with only one or two solid swims to start off the meet needed to possibly igniting a team-wide effort to claim the Big Ten throne once again. As the 800 free relay is on the first night of the meet, the Hoosiers know that this is one event that they are the class of the field in, and with the entire relay from last year’s record-setting performance returning for this year’s edition of the Conference meet, the record book may be re-written a few times more in 2016. Regardless of how she performs over the course of the next month, Haley Lips will go down as one of the most reliable swimmers in program history, and a champion through and through.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
100 Free: 49.43/57.58
200 Free: 1:44.06/1:59.79
500 Free/400 Free: 4:38.27/4:11.26
1000 Free/800 Free: 9:49.38/8:50.80
1650 Free/1500 Free: 16:06.85/17:01.23
100 Fly: 53.28/59.83
200 Fly: 1:57.11/2:11.63
200 IM: 2:05.19/2:19.52
400 IM: 4:16.19/4:50.22
200 Free Relay (LCM): 1:46.41*
400 Free Relay: 3:15.75*/3:49.26*
800 Free Relay: 6:59.10**/8:07.24*
200 Medley Relay (LCM): 1:57.26*

*Denotes school record
**Denotes Big Ten record

School Major/Degree:  Gender Studies
Favorite Event:  500 Free
Favorite Hobby:  Playing with puppies at the mall
Favorite Movie:  Rent
Person You’d Like to Meet Growing Up:  Johnny Depp
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: Pizza!

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

Around 8 years old is when I started swimming for a club team. My mom took me to try out and ever since then I’ve loved being in the water.

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why? 

My favorite memory is from my freshman year at Big Tens on the 800 free relay when we broke the 7:00 minute barrier for the first time in Big Ten history. There was so much energy from everyone on deck and the four of us on that relay were all super shocked and happy that we won and broke a record. I was so excited that I had become part of such a motivated, hard working team.

As a freshman, you provided a crucial leg on a historic 800 free relay at the conference championships that became the first team in Big Ten history to crack the 7:00 barrier. You would also lead off the relay that re-set that record at last year’s Big Ten Championships as well. Can you describe what it was like to be a part of those two historic relays during your NCAA career?

Those two relays were insane. It was so much fun to be part of a record breaking relay. I went faster in both of those relays than I ever had before which caught me by surprise but also reinforced how hard I am able to train with my team. Although the swimmers on each relay were different, we all shared the same desire to swim as fast as we could.

Before joining the Hoosiers as a freshman, you gained some valuable international experience while representing the U.S. National Junior team. Having competed in big events at competitions in Europe, South America, and in Canada, do you feel like getting some big race exposure on the international stage has helped you develop into such a successful swimmer in the collegiate scene? Or do you feel like college swimming is a different challenge altogether?

Having background at large meets on an international stage prepared me for the size of meets like the Big Ten championships and NCAAs. However, college swimming is a whole different world. Getting used to how fast people were able to swim in season at dual meets was something that I had to learn. Once I caught on to swimming fast in season I was able to swim faster at than I ever had at big time meets.

Having competed at the NCAA Championships twice in your three seasons at Indiana, you must be quite accustomed to preparing for the “big meet” in March by now. Do you feel like it gets a little easier every year to prepare for NCAAs when it comes to Championship season?

After my freshman year big meets became like any other meet. Thinking about NCAAs as if it is any other meet takes the pressure away and allows me to just have fun while competing. I think having fun is one of the most important things an athlete can do while competing, which in a way makes it easier to prepare for NCAAs.

What/who do you think has been the single most important catalyst to your swimming career?

The team. I decided on Indiana because of how much like a family the team was and still is. They are supportive of everyone and genuinely want everyone to swim to their best ability. Without them my college career would have been a much tougher road. They are wonderful. 

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

I hope to be accepted to grad school for school counseling.

What should we look forward to from Indiana as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

A ton of fast swimming. This group of girls is so tough and so driven. They want to succeed for themselves and each other. We have such a strong freshman class this year that just adds to the depth of our wonderful team. I can’t wait to race with these ladies at Big Tens

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6 years ago


About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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