Illini swimming and diving start season strongly

By Jessica Glade

Excited about their season opener, the Illinois swimming and diving team made a big splash in their season by defeating Nebraska 171-129, winning nine out of the 16 events.

“Nebraska is such a good match for us, to come out on top is so good for us,” said junior swimmer Anna Johnson.

Though even before the meet began, the excitement of the match up to come was floating through the air at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) pool. All of the hype of the new facility and the first home meet in four years was culminated into one single meet.

“We came in here so pumped,” said sophomore swimmer Meghan Mason. “It’s been a big anticipation, even since last year. We’ve been looking forward to this day for so long.”

The Illini were not the only ones looking forward to the meet; their fans were just as eager. As the meet was ready to start the ARC pool was filled with eager fans as well as the echoes of their loud cheers.

“It was crazy. We’ve never had that before,” said junior swimmer CeCe Marizu. “You dream about that as a swimmer because you never think you’re going to have that. When you see those big fans and hear those fans you’re like ‘Is this really Illinois swimming and diving they’re here for?’ We’re just excited that they were here, it gave us the chills and made us excited and I’m glad we won today.”

The Illini simply fed off that excitement and pushed themselves to a victory over Nebraska. And as predicted the match was a close call with Nebraska nipping at the Illini’s heels all the way.

“There were a bunch of close ones,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “I thought overall they competed well, and final times may not have been where everyone wanted them to be,” Novitsky said. “But it’s the first meet of the season and that’s why it’s the first meet of the season. But they stayed calm, they stayed in the moment. I told them Thursday that my expectation was to see everyone in there competing hard to the end, and I was very pleased.”

And Novitsky had several reasons to be very pleased with the meet results. In the 100 yard backstroke the Illini swept the top four spots. Freshman Laura Adrian took the win with a time of 57.65, but her three teammates were not far behind. Marizu came in second at 58.23, senior Katie Theissen in third at 59.52 and junior Anna Johnson in a close fourth at 59.83.

Another outstanding performance came from senior Marissa Clapp. Clapp, who was expected to be a force in the breaststroke and individual medley (IM) races, took first place in all three of her events: the 100 yard and 200 yard breaststroke and the 200 yard IM.

“Marissa Clapp set a new pool record in the individual medley, which is terrific for her and all the work she’s put in so far,” Novitsky said.

Clapp now holds the facility record in the 200 yard IM with a time of 2:05.60, a whole 4.82 seconds ahead of second place finisher and teammate Theissen.

Along with Clapp other outstanding individual performances were put out by senior Ali Keehn who won three out of her four events. Keehn was a part of the winning 200 yard medley relay team, along with Marizu, Mason, and sophomore Corey Kasten who turned in a time of 1:47.20. Keehn went on to also win the 200 yard fly event in 2:05.65 and the 100 yard fly event in 56.85 seconds.

Along with the win in the 200 yard medley relay and the second place in the 100 yard backstroke, Marizu also added to the team’s success by bringing a first place finish in the 200 yard backstroke.

“I think I did pretty good. For the first meet I’ll take anything I can get,” Marizu said. “I tried to relax but few times were a little forced, but I have great teammates that pushed me in and out of the water. I think that’s what helped me today get through my races.”

Marizu wasn’t the only person who felt it was that strong sense of team solidarity that helped push the team to success.

“We have our team goals and one of them to have a winning team duel record,” Johnson said.

Though the Illini are excited about winning the meet, all eyes are focused on the future.

“I feel pretty good. I think as a team we did great,” Mason said. “We really came out and raced well. For right now for the first meet of the season I’m content with where I am. Obviously you always want to be better and always improve. But right for right now I’ll take it and it’s the first step in a long road ahead. And really, I’m not concerned with how I swim today but how I swim in five months from now.”

The Illini will swim again on Thursday, October 16 against Michigan State.