Pool shark



By Meghan Montemurro

Leadership. Gamesmanship. Active participation outside the pool. Believing in the idea of team.

To Illinois women’s swimming and diving head coach Sue Novitsky, these words embody what the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award is all about. Caroline Moore possesses all these qualities.

“(Moore) tries to make decisions that benefit the team and not just herself because she is very selfless,” Novitsky said. “She encompasses that selfless team player that every coach wants to have on their team.”

Moore, a senior captain for the squad, was nominated by Novitsky to represent Illinois and the team for the award. Each Big Ten team nominates one swimming or diving athlete from the school.

After four years at Illinois, each filled with their ups and downs, Moore struggled to keep her emotions in check when describing what the nomination by her coach meant to her. Moore said she cried when she first found out about the nomination at the Big Ten Championship meet.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“It meant a lot, more than I ever could express,” Moore said. “I never saw myself getting to this point and having an impact on the team like (Novitsky) saw.”

Swimming has always been a part of Moore’s life. She received inspiration from watching Olympian Jenny Thompson and taking cues from her older sister, Megan. At the age of five, Moore first began to take swim lessons, following in the steps of her sister. By age seven, Moore was already swimming competitively.

Despite playing soccer, basketball, and track and field throughout her teenage years, Moore stayed on course with swimming because she said she was just better at it. It didn’t hurt having her sister Megan swimming at the collegiate level at the University of Minnesota.

“My sister was the one who got me into the water, and ever since then Megan has been my inspiration,” Moore said.

With a strong family core, consisting of her parents Joseph and Marilyn, brothers Joey, 28, and Matthew, 18, and Megan, 25, Moore had plenty of support in her pursuit to swim. Moore would need the support of her family after she began to experience problems with her shoulders.

The problems first arose when she was only nine years old. Moore consulted a doctor and was told the pain was due to wear and tear from overuse.

Her family decided to take Moore to get an MRI on her right shoulder, and the doctors discovered she had a partial tear in her right rotator cuff, as well as tendonitis, which eventually became very painful her junior and senior years of high school.

Moore’s high school swim coach suggested X-rays and a chiropractor. It was then discovered that Moore actually had two vertebrae in her neck fused together. Moore said she knew then that this problem would stay with her for the rest of her swimming career and life.

Moore carried the pain and problems with the fused vertebrae to Illinois. In her freshman and sophomore year, Moore said that though the pain did exist, it was manageable.

During her junior campaign, however, the pain became more extreme. Moore recalled one practice where her right arm even went numb. The pain, she found, was due to pressure placed on her nerves.

“Junior year was the worst year pain-wise, and I questioned if it was worth it to go through with it for another year,” Moore said.

The discomfort was so severe, Moore contemplated quitting, but the support of her mother and Novitsky kept her swimming throughout the season.

“(Novitsky) was completely supportive and that is something that I owe her for,” Moore said. “She never gave up on me and was willing to work with me and curtail practices for me.”

Junior Meghan Bradley said she looks up to Moore since she has had to overcome her own problems the past few years.

“She is just amazing because she has also had a big trial in front of her, and she just kept swimming even if she’s in a lot of pain,” Bradley said. “She just breaks through it, and I think of her and I’m like ‘I can do this because she did it.'”

Moore said she is happy with her decision to stick with swimming and finish her career at Illinois, even though at times she thought it wasn’t worth going through the pain.

“I don’t regret it at all,” Moore said. “I’m glad I was able to finish, though I never wanted to actually quit.”

Being aware of the shoulder problems affected the way she practiced, especially junior year, and Moore said it was the most difficult year of her career. Novitsky decided Moore wouldn’t swim the freestyle junior year, deciding to have Moore focus on the backstroke. Moore said the news was tough to swallow, considering freestyle was the event she was recruited for in high school.

With the thought of her swimming career over, Moore said she was close to a mental breakdown.

“In practice I feel like I was scared to push it, so I would hold back to a certain extent,” Moore said.

But the pain of junior year was eclipsed by Moore’s senior season. When looking back at that final season as an Illini swimmer, Moore said she has two moments which stand out.

“My two favorite moments are when I found out that I could be on the 800 free relays at the Big Tens and that I made it back to the 200 free in the finals,” Moore said.

As Moore reflected on the mark she left on the Illinois program, she said the most important thing she hopes she left behind was the idea that at Illinois the team comes first.

“Everything you do should be for the team, never for yourself,” Moore said. “Obviously be happy about your accomplishments, but it’s supposed to be for the team.”

Novitsky said that after putting aside her personal doubts, Moore has brought a lot to the table for Illinois and the team, especially during her senior season.

“She’s a very hard worker in the pool,” Novitsky said. “She set the great example by dedication and determination.”

Moore said she accomplished the goals she set when she first arrived at Illinois and also said it’s often the case that the performance of women swimmers decline by their junior and senior seasons. However, this wasn’t the case for Moore.

“Never in a million years did I think I would swim best times like the way Sue (Novitsky) has been able to get me to do,” Moore said. “I feel like my expectations were definitely surpassed.”

The Big Ten Sportsmanship Award represents the full circle in the swim career of Moore. The senior said this award validates her role as a good teammate.

“I just never saw myself getting to this point, but then having an impact on the team like she (Novitsky) saw,” Moore said. “It just means a lot to me.”

If Novitsky had to describe Moore in one word, it would be “persistent,” because of the fight she has inside her and the challenges she has faced. For Moore, the struggles during her four years taught her life lessons. She leaves Illinois knowing she has the drive and determination within herself to achieve her dreams.