University of Northern Iowa swimmer Lily Ernst died on Wednesday. She was 20 years old. The school did not release a cause of death, referring to it as a “sudden passing.”
Ernst, a native of Iowa City, swam two seasons at Northern Iowa. In the spring, she broke the school record in the 200 fly, finishing in 3rd place at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships. In 2021, as a freshman, she placed 2nd in that same event at the MVC Championships.
As a sophomore, she was named to the MVC Scholar-Athlete Team.
“UNI has lost a beloved member of the Panther family with the sudden passing of Lily Ernst,” Director of Athletics David Harris said. “This loss is heartbreaking for our swimming and diving team, our athletic department and the entire UNI campus. We offer our deepest condolences to Lily’s family, teammates and friends.”
“Our team is incredibly saddened by the loss of Lily,” head swimming and diving coach Nick Lakin said. “Lily was so filled with kindness and compassion for other people. She was a ferocious competitor in the pool and classroom, but for those that knew her best she was extremely empathetic and cared deeply about everyone in her life. We will all miss her immensely and are praying for everyone that knew her.”
Ernst raced at last weekend’s Iowa Long Course Championships in her hometown of Iowa City.
Ernst was majoring in social work with a minor in mental health at Northern Iowa.