P.K. Yonge state champion Lillie Nesty signs with Texas

P.K. Yonge's Lillie Nesty (center) with dad, Anthony (left) and mom, Deanne (right) at her college signing on Thursday.
P.K. Yonge's Lillie Nesty (center) with dad, Anthony (left) and mom, Deanne (right) at her college signing on Thursday.
Photo by Mike Ridaught

It’s been quite the week for P.K. Yonge girls swimmer Lillie Nesty.

Last Saturday, Nesty won two individual Class 1A state swimming titles at the FHSAA Swimming and Diving State Championships in Ocala.

On Thursday, she signed her letter of intent to swim at the University of Texas.

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She is headed to a program that has won nine national championships.

“I was a little bit nervous before it because this is one of the biggest things that I’ve ever wanted,” she said. “I’m just really excited.”

Nesty is the daughter of University of Florida swimming coach Anthony Nesty.

“It’s exciting, sad in a good way because it’s her senior year,” he said. “It’s a big day for her obviously, but when you have one of your kids that’s a senior, that means last year at home and heading to college, but we’re very proud of her. We’re very happy for her.”

Her dad became just the second Gator to win an SEC championship as both a coach and student-athlete. Among his many highlights was being a three-time NCAA Champion in the 100-yard fly (1990-92).

Her mom, Deanne, who was also at the signing, was a swimmer at the University of Minnesota.

“Both of my parents, they’ve always been in the sport of swimming so I naturally became a part of the sport also but I played other sports,” said Lillie, who played volleyball until her freshman year when she made the decision to focus on swimming.

P.K. Yonge swimming coach Kara Dawson said that she is a once-in-a-generation swimmer.

“She’s going to Texas, one of the number one swimming programs in the country, she missed the state record by less than half a second, and she would have placed in the boys 500 in the fastest classification and would have been in the consolation final for the boys and we have the fastest classification in the state,” she said. “It’s going to be a long time before anyone breaks her school record, let’s put it that way.”

The University of Texas will be entering the SEC in the fall of 2024, which means the Longhorns and the Gators will go head-to-head.

“I don’t know what mom is going to wear,” her dad said. “It’s going to be fun. We’re excited for her.”

Lillie repeated as Class 1A state champion in the 200 freestyle on Saturday with a time of 1 minute, 44.86 seconds. That was good for fifth all-time behind Isabel Ivey of Buchholz (1:44.68 in 2017).

“The 200 was really fun,” Lillie said. “It was the time I wanted for about a year now and I knew I could do it, but the 500 was really a surprise to me because I don’t consider myself a distance swimmer and I dropped a lot, so that was really awesome.”

She also competed in the 500 free for the first time at state and won a state title with a time of 4:43.12, which placed her in the top 15 all-time.

Both times were Automatic All-American times.

Nesty, who was named the Athlete of the Week following her two state titles, was also a part of the 400-yard relay team which finished with a season best time of 3:37.45 (10th place) and the 200-yard relay team, which finished with a season best time of 1:40.00 (12th place) as the Lady Blue Wave finished eighth overall.

Nesty, who has been swimming since she was 6 or 7 years old, won her first state title last year, which opened the door to the possibilities of swimming at the next level.

“When I placed first at states, I realized that, ‘you know what, I can do this,’ and I’m really excited,” she said.

Her coach at Gator Swim Club, John Hulvey, has been working with her for the past 2½ years. He said her decision to focus on just swimming has helped her develop into a next level swimmer.

“It was really her dedication to being a single sport athlete after being a dual sport athlete so she was making a lot more practices than in past years,” he said. “She’s going to be a weapon with relays, and with her individual events obviously. They have a great team. I know that makes her excited to be on a team that’s really putting forth a championship run, and I know that will be kind of exciting to probably have to go head-to-head with her dad and I’m sure there will be some fun conversations via phone and at the dinner table.”

Other P.K. Yonge swimmers who signed with Division-I schools in the past include Gwen Shahboz (Tulane) and her older sister Lain (Florida), Trevor McGovern (Auburn/Florida), Nick Eunice (Florida), Abby Austin (Boston College) and Gabriella Reeves (UNF).

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