Clapp earns Big Ten Women’s Swimmer of the Week award

By Jason Grodsky

The Illinois women’s swimming and diving team opened its season with a pair of victories over Oakland University and Michigan State last weekend in Rochester and East Lansing, Mich.

The Illini defeated Oakland 171.5-102.5 on Friday and captured its first Big Ten Conference win one day later with a 166-134 victory over Michigan State. Sophomore Marissa Clapp led the way for the Orange and Blue swimmers, finishing in first place in seven of her eight events over the weekend and earning the honor of Big Ten Women’s Swimmer of the Week.

“Overall I thought we performed pretty well,” Illini head coach Sue Novitsky said. “We were able to improve from the first day to the second day, and it was great to see them make those adjustments from day-to-day and come out and compete well.”

In the season opener at Oakland, Novitsky’s alma mater, the Illini finished with 12 first-place awards.

In her first meet as an Illini, freshman Jen Ivarson recorded the 10th-fastest time in school history in the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 2:04.17. Ivarson also picked up another first-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 57.74.

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The Illini took first and second place in the 400-meter medley relay as Ivarson teamed up with Clapp, fellow freshman Cece Marizu and senior Barbie Viney to take home first place, while the Illini’s 400-meter medley relay B team of sophomores Katie Theissen and Ali Keehn, and senior Leigh Ann Tracy took second.

Viney, Theissen, freshman Amy Forsberg and junior Kellie Stevens swept the 200 freestyle, finishing first through fourth respectively.

“Our underclassmen really stepped up and provided us with a big lift and that was terrific to see,” Novitsky said.

The Illini returned to the pool less than 24 hours later in East Lansing where three more first-place finishes by Clapp and a first-place finish in the 200-meter medley relay propelled the Illini to a 166-134 win over the Spartans.

Clapp, who swam the second leg of the 200-meter medley relay, took home first-place finishes in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke and 400-meter individual medley.

In total, the Danville native finished with a team-high five first-place finishes over the weekend and set a personal best time of 2:06.41 in the 200-meter butterfly, finishing second behind Ivarson.

“(Marisa) had a really good freshman season, but coming into this year, she’s already made a lot of improvements,” Novitsky said. “She’s a lot stronger and is already swimming close to times she had at the end of last season.”

Clapp is the first Illinois swimmer to win the Big Ten Women’s Swimmer of the Week award since Viney was awarded the honor for her performance during the week of Oct. 18, 2005.

“It came as a big surprise to me,” said Clapp about being given the honor. “I didn’t expect it at all considering that I didn’t start very well last year, so it was good to get off to a good start this season.”

Clapp and the rest of the Illini will return to the pool on Friday for the third meet of the season. The team will take on Illinois State at 5 p.m. in Bloomington, Ill.

“We’re going to be mixing up our lineup a little bit this weekend,” Novitsky said. “We’re going to be putting some people into situations where they are going to have to stand up and get the job done for us.”