10 Standout Women Athletes We’ve Rooted for in Indiana

From the court to the pool, these sporting icons inspire
Tamika Catching playing basketball during a game

This article was originally published by Mirror Indy, and is republished through Indy Maven’s partnership with Free Press Indiana.

The Indiana Fever tweeted “Welcome to Basketball Country, Caitlin Clark” just seconds after making the Iowa Hawkeyes superstar the No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft on April 15. More than 17,000 fans had tickets to the watch party at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Clark will join a legacy of Hoosier athletes who’ve shaped women’s sports nationwide – and not just in basketball. Meet 10 women with Indiana connections who won college and pro championships, a pole position, Olympic gold medals and other accolades — and who still inspire us today.

Lilly King swimming in the Olympics
Lilly King competes in Budapest, Hungary, on July 24, 2017. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Lilly King, swimming 

King, who graduated from F.J. Reitz High School in Evansville, excelled at Indiana University, winning the NCAA Championship in the 100-meter breaststroke for four years (2015-2019).

At the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, she earned gold in the 1000-meter breaststroke and contributed to the 4×100-meter medley relay victory. King then claimed back-to-back 100-meter breaststroke world titles. In the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, she won bronze in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events. King continued her dominance by winning gold medals in the 100-meter breaststroke and 4×100-meter medley relay at the 2022 FINA World Swimming Championships in Melbourne.

Tamika Catchings, basketball 

Catchings was born in Stratford, N.J., attended high school in Texas and played college basketball at the University of Tennessee under coach Pat Summitt, winning the 1997 NCAA championship. As the Indiana Fever’s top player and a Hall of Fame member, Catchings led the team to the 2012 WNBA championship, breaking numerous records.
Catchings, who has had a hearing impairment since age three, mentors young athletes, especially girls and women in sports, and owns TEA’S ME CAFÉ in Indianapolis.

Tamika Catching playing basketball during a game
Tamika Catchings plays in Newark, New Jersey, on June 5, 2011. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Skylar Diggins-Smith playing basketball during a game
Skylar Diggins-Smith plays in Uncasville, Connecticut, on August 12, 2017. Credit: Chris Poss/Alamy Stock Photo
Skylar Diggins-Smith, basketball

While playing for Washington High School in South Bend, she was named the 2009 Indiana Miss Basketball. She continued her basketball career at Notre Dame University and later won a gold medal with the U.S. Women’s basketball team at the 2010 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Diggins-Smith was drafted by the Tulsa Shock of the WNBA in 2013. The six-time WNBA All-Star will play for the Seattle Storm in 2024.

Chloe Dygert, cycling

The 2015 Brownsburg High School graduate started cycling at Marian University and became a world champion and Olympian. From 2016 to 2020, she won eight World Championships gold medals and earned an Olympic silver medal.

After suffering a severe injury in 2020, she returned to win bronze in team pursuit at Tokyo. Dygert now aims for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.

Chloe Dygert cycling during the Olympics
Chloe Dygert rides in Stirling, Scotland, on August 10, 2023. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Anita DeFrantz standing in front of the Olympic rings
Anita DeFrantz, a former Olympian, on November 21, 2006, in Los Angeles, CA. Credit: Ringo Chiu/Alamy Stock Photo
Anita DeFrantz, rowing

The 1970 graduate of Shortridge High School discovered rowing in college despite the absence of girls’ sports in Indiana before Title IX. She won a bronze medal in rowing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

DeFrantz made history as the first woman and first Black member of the International Olympic Committee. Currently serving on the organizing committees for LA 2028, preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic games in Los Angeles, she continues to impact the sporting world. The Sporting News named her “the most powerful woman in sports.”

Lauren Cheney Holiday, soccer

A Ben Davis High School graduate, she showcased her collegiate soccer skills at UCLA as part of the Bruins team. She earned two gold medals in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics and won a FIFA Women’s World Cup championship. Professionally, Holiday competed for FC Kansas City in the National Women’s Soccer League and earlier for the Boston Breakers in the Women’s Professional Soccer.

Lauren Cheney playing soccer
Lauren Cheney plays in Offenback, Germany, on April 5, 2013. Credit: Thomas Eisenhuth/Alamy Stock Photo
Wilma Rudolph running a race
Wilma Rudolph races in Rome, Italy, on September 5, 1960. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Wilma Rudolph, track and field 

The Tennessee native overcame childhood polio to become an Olympic sprinting champion and sports icon. She won a bronze medal in the 4×100-meter relay at the 1956 Olympics and three golds (100-meter, 200-meter, and 4×100-meter relay) at the 1960 Olympics.

In 1987, she joined DePauw University and lit the cauldron at the Pan American Games in Indianapolis. At the time of her death in 1994, at age 54, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Her greatest accomplishment was the establishment in Indianapolis of the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to teaching underprivileged children that they could overcome obstacles.”

Maicel Malone-Wallace 

Malone-Wallace was one of the most accomplished athletes in Indiana high school track and field from 1984 to 1987 while on the girls’ track and field team at North Central High School.

While at Arizona State University, where she won four NCAA titles in the 400-meter dash—three indoors and one outdoors. Additionally, Malone played a pivotal role as a member of the 400-meter relay team that clinched a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Maicel Malone running a race
Maicel Malone races in Atlanta, Georgia on July 20, 1996. Credit: Chuck Muhlstock/Alamy Stock Photo
black and white photo of Janet Guthrie during a race
Janet Guthrie races in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 2, 1976. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Janet Guthrie, racing 

Guthrie began flying planes at 13 and made her first parachute jump at 16, driven by a passion for speed and adventure. She entered the male-dominated racing world, becoming the first woman to qualify and race in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 1977.

Guthrie also made history as the first woman to lead a lap in the NASCAR Winston-Cup Series. Her achievements paved the way for future female drivers like Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher and Pippa Mann.

Danica Patrick, racing

The Illinois native is a trailblazer in American open-wheel racing. She was the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race, at the 2008 Indy Japan 300, and had the highest finishes by a woman in the Indy 500 (third) and Daytona 500 (eighth).

In 2013, Patrick made history again by winning the pole position at the Daytona 500, the first woman to do so.

Danica Patrick during the Indy 500
Danica Patrick races in Indianapolis, Indiana, on May 15, 2018. Credit: Chris Owens/Alamy Stock Photo

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