Optimism surrounds upcoming season for Illinois women’s swimming and diving team

By Meghan Montemurro

The Illinois women’s swimming and diving team is preparing for the start of a potentially grueling season. This year all of their meets take place on the road. The tough schedule should help the Illini in the long run though, as it presents them with a challenge and can help prepare them for the championship meets.

With 14 newcomers to the squad, the Illini will be looking to their seniors for leadership.

“We have eight seniors and they are a very dynamic class,” said Head Coach Sue Novitsky. “We’re looking to the entire class to add that leadership for the rest of the team because we have such a young team.”

The newcomers will have the opportunity to step into some key roles and be able to contribute to the team right away.

In the offseason the Illini added Chris Waters as the diving coach. Waters, who previously held a position at Tulane University, has already helped the divers by challenging them and making them work hard in practice.

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With quality depth and versatile athletes, this Illinois squad is one of the most balanced swim teams that Novitsky has seen in the past few years.

One date that stands out for Novitsky, who is entering her sixth season as head coach, is the Texas A&M; Reveille Invitational which takes place in the fall.

“That’s our last competition in the fall before we head into the spring semester,” Novitsky said. “There’s going to be some high-level teams at that meet and it’s a good time to get some good, fast swimming in.”

One goal the Illini hope to achieve is to have a winning duel meet record while continuing to improve their standing in the Big Ten.

The Illini hope to gain national attention, which Novitsky believes is possible with the athletes and team that they have.

The Illini will be looking to some key returnees to help led the way, including seniors Barbie Viney-who broke the school records for the 50- and 100-meter freestyle last year-and Meghan Farrell, who was a part of the school record-breaking 400-meter relay team. Sophomore Marissa Clapp is poised to have a breakout year following a very good freshman season while fellow sophomores Ali Keehn and Katie Theissen will look to use their year of experience to step up and contribute.

Illinois’ first meet is against Oakland in Rochester, Mich., on Oct. 20. The team is eager to show people what they can do.

“They want to be the best team there,” Novitsky said. “They want to win the competition, but they also want to be loud and want everyone to know that Illinois is on the deck.”