Marizu sweeps backstroke events, adds to list of achievements

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Kyle Diller

CeCe Marizu has been a dominant force on the women’s swimming and diving team this year. But her times in the pool don’t tell the whole story. The junior backstroker’s drive, virtues and leadership have molded her into the athlete she is today.

On the way to Illinois’ third consecutive victory, a win against Iowa State on Saturday, Marizu swept the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events – only her most recent achievement in a long history in the pool. The Illini defeated the Cyclones 169.5 to 130.5.

Marizu, a Reno, Nev. native, started swimming at the age of six, when her dad signed her up for lessons. From that point on, chlorine has been in her blood. When she entered the fourth grade, Marizu joined the Reno Aquatic Club and continued there until her senior year of high school.

Now on the women’s swimming and diving team, Marizu has set some outstanding goals for herself. For a swimmer who has already experienced a great deal of success, Marizu remains grounded while aiming for better times in the pool.

“I always look at the record board, which is Jessica Aveyard, who was the best backstroker in U of I history,” Marizu said. “I kind of look at it every day, going, ‘If I work hard enough, I could eventually achieve that.'”

Head coach Sue Novitsky believes Marizu could be destined to take over the spots on the Illinois record board that she covets so much.

“I see her as being able to go down as one of the best backstrokers we’ve ever had, which is saying a lot; we’ve had a lot of good backstrokers in the program in recent years.” Novitsky said. “She’s very determined to get up there. She’s set a lot of good goals for herself, and she’s capable of doing those.”

But it isn’t just her feats in the pool that make her such a valued asset to the team. Marizu also stands out as a leader. Her coach appointed her to the Leadership Academy, a selective program where she learns to better lead her team.

She is also a member of the Students Athletic Advisory Committee, meant to bring athletes together with support, as well as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, citing her faith as a key to her success in swimming.

“First of all, she’s just a good leader,” Novitsky said. “She’s a good leader by example. She brings her effort every day; she’s always encouraging her teammates to bring up their performance. She’s where she needs to be.”

As the Illini venture deeper into the season, Marizu knows the possibilities for her in the pool are endless.

“With my races now, I go in thinking I have confidence because I know I’ve put the work into the water that I should have,” Marizu said. “It’s not ‘I don’t know if I’m going to swim fast’ anymore, it’s, like, ‘I know I can swim fast.'”

Editor’s Note: The Daily Illini sports desk sits down on Sunday nights and decides which Illinois athlete is our Illini of the Week. Student-athletes are evaluated by individual performance, contribution to team success and personal achievement.

Honorable Mention

Amber StackCross Country

The Freshman was named Big Ten Runner of the Week on Tuesday after earning the individual title at the Illini Open on Friday. Stack paced the team with a 5K time of 18:44, beating her previous personal best by more than a minute.

Ashley Edinger Volleyball

The junior libero moved to within 28 digs of the Illinois school record last week after leading the team to victories against No. 18 Purdue and Michigan State. Edinger was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Monday and now has 1,398 digs in her collegiate career.