Swimming, diving still getting in sync

Barbie Viney swims the 400-yard freestyle relay against Indiana at the Intramural and Physical Education Building Pool on Dec. 4, 2004. Daily Illini File Photo

Scott Bort

Barbie Viney swims the 400-yard freestyle relay against Indiana at the Intramural and Physical Education Building Pool on Dec. 4, 2004. Daily Illini File Photo

By Courtney Linehan

After a stretch of rest and recovery, Illinois swimming and diving was back on the road this weekend. The Illini faced Miami of Ohio on Friday, then traveled to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers on Saturday. While the team is still struggling with sickness and soreness from workouts, head coach Sue Novitsky said she was not disappointed with the weekend’s results.

“I thought we were a little all over the place this weekend,” Novitsky said. “We were pretty tired, pretty sick, beat up as a group.”

On Friday, the Illini competed in a tri-meet against the Red Hawks and Marshall. Illinois topped Marshall 185-103, but fell 169-125 to undefeated Ohio State.

In Saturday’s competition, Illinois fell 168-121 to conference foe Indiana. The Illini picked up eight second-place finishes, including one from freshman diver Marina Mendoza.

Diving coach Billy McGowan said Mendoza has struggled with the transition from high school to the NCAA’s most competitive diving conference, but that he’s happy with the determination she’s shown.

“The best thing about Marina is that she’s hanging on,” McGowan said. “She’s very determined to make things work. She’s got the right attitude.”

Junior Barbie Viney picked up two first-place finishes Friday, taking the 50-free in 23.75 seconds and the 100 in 51.58. Viney also contributed to the first-place 400-free relay, which also included junior Meghan Farrell and seniors Britta Jansson and Christina Brunka.

“She raced really well,” Novitsky said of Viney. “She stepped in there and put up some numbers like she typically does.”

Freshman Marissa Clapp had a standout weekend, setting a personal-best time Friday with a 2:20.59 finish in the 200 breast. Clapp then shaved nearly a second off that time, picking up another first-place finish as she finished the same race in 2:19.74 Saturday.

“She trains very hard. I think she just likes to get out there and compete,” Novitsky said. “Having a good training environment and group of teammates around her has pushed her a little more.”

Illinois’ diving showed strength in both weekend meets. Junior Jackie Bain scored a season-high 241.45 in the 1-meter against Miami of Ohio and Marshall – which was 20 points shy of qualifying for nationals and was good enough for third – and picked up sixth place in the 3-meter. Bain picked up second place in the 1-meter against Indiana and grabbed third in the 3-meter.

“Jackie, in almost every aspect, has stepped it up this year. It’s kind of like she’s putting it all together,” McGowan said. “At Miami she had one of her career meets.”

Novitsky said the weekend was a good test for the Illini, as the back-to-back meets are good preparation for the Big Ten and NCAA meets, which Novitsky said are longer competitions and tests of endurance.

The Illini started their season with a pair of losses to Kentucky and Louisville, but rebounded to top Oakland and Toledo in a tri-meet in Michigan. Illinois came in second of a five-team field at the Northwestern Relays on Oct. 23.

“Overall, I’m happy with where we’re at as a team,” Novitsky said. “It’s still a matter of incorporating the freshmen, really finding our personality as a team.”

At this point in the season, Novitsky said she is still worried about shaving seconds and conditioning the athletes. She said the team is always worried about the details, but that there is still room for improvement in terms of raw times.

“We’re having spots of greatness, but we need to keep working on our consistency as a team.”