Juniors grab second-place finishes

By Courtney Linehan

Illinois swimming and diving faced tough competition from two top-25 teams this weekend, as the Illini took on No. 24 Notre Dame and No. 15 Michigan in the Michigan Invitational on Friday and Saturday.

Illinois finished third in the meet, scoring 840 points. Top finishers for the Illini included juniors Barbie Viney, who took second in the 100 free (50.87) and 200 free (1:51.79), and Marissa Clapp, who finished second in the 200 breast (2:21.00) and senior Kathryn Easey, who finished third in the 100 breast (1:08.04).

“The Michigan Invite, which we’ve done for a couple years now, is always a good indicator for me to see how actually tired they are,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “I thought we got better as the meet went along.”

While the Illini failed to capture first in any race, Novitsky was pleased with the level of success she saw coming off a winter break training trip to Curacao.

“I think we pulled off amazing swims,” Viney said. “There were tons of us that had really strong swims that encouraged us, that training was over and we were ready to go into Big Tens.”

In Curacao, the Illini focused on improving their conditioning, as they completed twice-a-day sessions in the pool. They also got an aerobic test, as they adjusted to the less frequent rests of swimming in a 50-meter pool.

“It did a lot of good for all of us, definitely the distance swimmers,” Viney said. “I wasn’t able to swim for the week that we were at home, so being able to get in there and get that yardage in really helped me get back into the shape that I should have been in.”

The trip also offered the Illini a chance to relax as a team. They filled the hours between practice sessions with team building activities and trips to the beach.

“New Years Eve we were able to get the entire group at a beach and they had food and a bonfire,” Viney said. “That was a lot of fun, celebrating New Years Eve all together.”

While the swimmers were soaking up the sun in Curacao, the divers traveled to Hawaii for their training trip. While the athletes worked on their diving, coach Billy McGowan decided to work on his mountain climbing – and wound up stuck on the side of a cliff.

“I told the fireman I just needed a rope, then three minutes later there’s helicopters, scuba divers,” McGowan said. “They brought the entire Hawaii 5-0.”

“There were three other diving teams there, all watching this take place, not to mention the million other beach-goers looking at me like I was a tourist attraction.”

When McGowan got off the mountain and the team arrived back on the mainland, freshman diver Marina Mendoza and junior Jackie Bain took sixth and seventh place, respectively, at the Michigan Invitational.

“I was really happy,” Bain said. “The goal of the meet was takeoffs, and I was really happy with all my takeoffs, and Marina had a really good meet.”