Two Illini head to swimming nationals

By Courtney Linehan

A month after the Big Ten meet that capped off Illinois swimming’s season, two Illini will be competing this week at the U.S. National Championships.

Freshman Marissa Clapp and senior Katherine Easey are competing in Federal Way, Wash. at the USA Swimming Spring Championships.

Clapp is competing in the 200 meter breaststroke and 400 meter individual medley. Easey is swimming in the 100 meter and 200 meter breaststroke.

Clapp and Easey did not qualify for the NCAA championships, which were held two weeks ago. Both athletes did, however, score times that earned them spots at this week’s competition.

“NCAA’s is just college,” Illinois coach Sue Novitsky said. “US swimming nationals, as long as you made the cut, you can go. There will be 13-year-olds there all the way up through people in their 30s. It’s similar because there’s a time cut you have to have.”

Part of the challenge of competing after the NCAA season’s completion is the lack of a team atmosphere in practice. While they sometimes practiced with the Illini who competed at NCAAs, Clapp and Easey had to train alone during spring break, just days before heading to Washington state.

One of the toughest adjustments will be getting used to the long course pool, where the athletes compete in 50-meter pools instead of the usual 25 yards. But Novitsky said competing with some of the nation’s best athletes makes it a great experience.

“It’s the same kind of thing as NCAAs, a chance for them to get more national-level experience,” Novitsky said. “It’s an opportunity to make Olympic trial cuts and just get some more racing with some of the best swimmers in the country.”