Senior star Farrell not ready to leave pool

Senior star Farrell not ready to leave pool

By Megan Montemurro

Feisty. That was the word head coach Sue Novitsky used to describe senior swimmer Meghan Farrell.

Novitsky said that Farrell challenges everyone, even the coaches.

“She is definitely one of the great ones when it comes to competing in that she is ready to go against anyone,” her coach said.

For Farrell, swimming has been a part of her life since she was only four years old, though she didn’t start to swim competitively until she was seven. She played softball for almost as many years as swimming, but gave it up for water polo in order to reduce injury and stay with the water element. Despite being a quiet, humble person, Farrell has become one of the best relay swimmers in Illinois swimming history. Regardless of the school records she holds, Farrell never thought she would make it as a swimmer in college.

“I’ve never thought of myself as that outstanding swimmer that gets top in state or that is racing with the faster people,” Farrell said. “I just always thought that I was doing it for fun, not for racing.”

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Swimming competititively for her high school team, Farrell never thought about continuing through college.

It wasn’t until the University of Illinois contacted her that Farrell thought she could make it at the college level. Assistant head coach Steve Farnau said one of the first things he noticed about Farrell was the amount of natural speed she possessed. Her recruiting visit to Illinois, however, made her feel like she fit in with both the coaches and the other swimmers.

This season Farrell races in the 50- and 100-meter free and 100-meter backstroke as well as the 200- and 400-meter free relay and the 200-meter medley. With the early 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. practices followed by class and school work, Farrell takes advantage of her free time, using it to make scrapbooks – one for each year of her college career – as well as quilts and other craft-like activities.

With swimming being a year-round sport, Farrell will have plenty of free time after she graduates this spring. Farrell is a speech and hearing science major, and plans on continuing her education by attending graduate school, hopefully somewhere near Chicago. Her ultimate career goal is to become a speech pathologist in a hospital. Farrell hopes her success and leadership in the swimming pool will transfer into her career.

As a freshman, Farrell was a quiet person who made her noise in the pool. What she lacked in confidence, she made up for in raw talent and speed.

“People know at meets that she is a big time race swimmer, when it’s time to go fast, she’s ready,” Farnau said. “She’s one of the best relay swimmers in the country.”

When it comes to swimming, Meghan Farrell and consistency go hand-in-hand. Novitsky said Farrell is one of the few people whose performance she can truly count on every meet. Farnau said her teammates are confident in her, which helps contribute to Farrell’s overall swimming success.

For Farrell, family has continued to hold an important spot in her life. When she started out in swimming, her parents, John and Gale, never forced it on her and always made sure she knew that if she didn’t enjoy swimming, she could stop.

“They have been to every single meet so far except for training trip meets,” Farrell said. “They are always there, always telling me that if you are not enjoying it you can step out at any time.”

Farrell’s 23-year-old brother, Sean, has also always given his support, making sure to call her after meets to see how she did. Despite being only two years apart in age, the siblings don’t have a lot of the same interests. Still, Sean keeps a vested interest in his sister and her swimming. Not only has her family impacted her life and swimming career, but Farnau has as well.

“He can tell when I can push it just a little bit farther,” Farrell said. “He knows the right things to say at the right time to get me motivated and keep me going.”

For Farrell and her four years at the University of Illinois, it has been a time of progression. Coming in freshman year Farrell was a soft-spoken girl, but now as a senior she is a confident and energetic swimmer who will leave a bold mark on the Illinois swimming program.

“It’s just a natural progression; it’s just a combination of that and confidence building over time from her performances,” Farnau said.

With her senior season not quite over, Farrell hopes to still accomplish her individual goal of making it to the NCAA Championships in her own individual race while she wants the team to place high at the Big Ten meet in February.

Farrell will go down as one of the best, if not the best, relay swimmer in Illinois history, Novitsky said.

“She puts up some relay splits that are what the fastest swimmers in the country have,” Novitsky said. “She has been a great asset and has been a great team player.”

Farnau has watched as Farrell has grown over the years and reached the point that she is at now.

“She is an invaluable part of our team right now because of her impact on relays, her ability to score at Big Tens and place in relays,” Farnau said. “She definitely is a huge part of our team; she is a critical key to what we are doing.”

Farrell said that when she looks back on her career at Illinois she will always remember and cherish having the opportunity to make it to the NCAA meet her junior year.

“Just being able to go there and seeing everyone and knowing that I’m swimming with some of the fastest people in the nation,” Farrell said. “It was very exciting.”

But Farrell isn’t satisfied with just one appearance. She wants to make it back again this year.