BY AARON BREWINGTON
While Indiana University swimmer Ian Finnerty might emulate other swimmers like Olympic medal record-holder Michael Phelps in the pool, he gets much of his inspiration from land-based athletes like runner Steve Prefontaine. “He thought you should go all-out in the beginning,” Finnerty, 22, says. “He was quoted as saying, ‘If someone is going to beat me, he will have to bleed to do it.’ I live by that. Leave it all in the pool even if I have to crawl to the end.”
That strategy has worked well for the Bloomington native, who in his junior season at IU won the NCAA Championship in the 100-yard breaststroke, breaking 50 seconds with a 49.69, the fastest time in history.
The 50-second barrier represented a long-time obsession for Finnerty. “I want to say I talked it into existence,” he says. “I told everybody, ‘I’m going to go 49.’ I said it so much, I had to do it.”
Finnerty also won an NCAA Championship in the 200-yard breaststroke and another as a member of the 400-yard medley relay team, setting Big Ten records in both events. For his achievements, he was named a 2017–18 IU Athlete of the Year, along with swimmer Lilly King and soccer player Grant Lillard.
Scheduled to graduate in 2019, Finnerty hopes to join the ranks of IU Olympic swimmers by qualifying for the 2020 Summer Games where he would likely face off against one of his idols—Great Britain’s Adam Peaty. “He’s the greatest breaststroker to ever live,” Finnerty says.
Before finding success at IU, Finnerty garnered attention at Bloomington High School South, bringing home a pair of IHSAA Championships his senior season in 2015, winning the 200-yard individual medley and setting a state record of 53.19 in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Making the decision to come to IU was easy for Finnerty, whose mother, Dina Adkins, works in the Office of the Bursar. “My biggest thing was finding a campus where I would be happy even when I wasn’t swimming,” Finnerty says. “I always loved IU. I could see myself walking on campus because I already had.”