Clapp makes waves at ARC

Senior Illini swimmer Marissa Clapp speeds down her lane in the 100 yard breaststroke. Clapp won three races at the Illini home opener meet against Nebraska and broke a pool record in the 200 yard individual medley. Erica Magda

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Senior Illini swimmer Marissa Clapp speeds down her lane in the 100 yard breaststroke. Clapp won three races at the Illini home opener meet against Nebraska and broke a pool record in the 200 yard individual medley. Erica Magda

By Jessica Glade

With swimming and diving meets returning to the Activities and Recreation Center pool, the matchup against Nebraska on Friday was a record-breaking event. For the first time in four years, a new facility record was added to the board by senior Marissa Clapp. She won the 200-yard individual medley with a new record time of two minutes and 5.6 seconds.

For Clapp, this record was a long time in the making.

“I think it started when my parents signed me up for swimming lessons,” Clapp said. “I was watching the Olympics, I think I was six, and I just remember watching the swimmers and then trying to do the motions.”

Apparently, trying to copy those moves paid off. Not only did Clapp set the new facility record, but she also won her other two events: the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke.

But don’t expect Clapp to stop there. She knows the season just started and doesn’t plan to become complacent with just one record.

“I wanted to set a goal this year in breaking an IM record, and doing that in the first meet is just great,” Clapp said. “I want to keep lowering this one (time).”

Head coach Sue Novitsky knows Clapp is capable of doing just that.

“Yeah, it’s great for her to swim that fast, but she’s swam that fast before in the seasons,” Novitsky said. “So, hopefully we’ll get a chance to see her make some breakthroughs and see her break some more.”

Last season, Clapp earned 15 first-place finishes and won seven out of eight races in the 200-yard breaststroke events. In the 200-yard IM, her best time was 2:03.26 at the 2008 Big Ten Championships, good enough for fifth best in school history.

Though she has an impressive list of achievements on her college swimming resume thus far, Novitsky knows this year is going to be no different.

“She’s a hard worker,” Novitsky said. “Every year, day in and day out in practice I expect from her that she’s gonna come in and she’s gonna give me her 100 percent. She swims really fast in practice, and she’s gotten a lot better in the weight room and her dry land work and working hard to lead by example when she’s at practice.”

Clapp had one word to describe her motivation to continue to swim well: competition.

And she knows something about competition.

In high school, she was a three-sport athlete, competing in cross country, track and field and swimming. During her senior year, she was a state qualifier in both track and field and swimming.

Now, in college, she’s continuing to use competition to keep pushing her to do well.

“Competition definitely keeps me going,” Clapp said. “Especially with your teammates cheering you on and almost everyone’s parents there. I think it’s really going to help push myself.”