Illinois swimming and diving prepares for Miami Invitational



By Jessica Glade

After a monthlong break from competition, the Illinois swimming and diving team is ready to get back in the water at the Miami Invitational.

“We had a break over Thanksgiving to be with family and we’re coming back well-rested and ready to go,” said freshman Kelly Kunkel. “We’re definitely focused more.”

The three-day tournament starts on Thursday, and the Illini will face Denison, Emory, Florida Gulf Coast, Marshall, Miami, Cincinnati, Oakland and Wright State.

“It’s a pretty big meet,” junior Kristen Kloeckener said. “It should be tough but good.”

The Illini have competed only in dual meets this season. The Miami Invitational is the team’s first tournament, bringing new challenges.

“The biggest thing is how they maintain their focus,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “There are five sessions overall and we need to make sure we are coming in prepared. The prelim-finals setting is an entirely different atmosphere. Races are in the morning and you have to come in ready to race if you want to get to the finals. It’s another step to learn.”

Though the team loves to compete, Coach Novitsky recognizes the break was what the team needed.

“You have to get good training in and work with the calendar,” Novitsky said. “This was a good time to get work in. We got to see what they learned and work on the details.”

Spending the time away from competition and focusing in on training just may give the Illini an edge in the tournament.

“Definitely, all the detail work has helped,” Kloeckener said. “We’ve had a lot of good training and we’re coming in to this meet with a lot of positive energy.”

Not only does Illinois have a positive energy coming from being well-rested and its eager-to-compete attitude, but also from its 4-0 record. While the team admits its undefeated record is something to be proud of, Illinois isn’t going to let it get to them.

“We’re all hyped about our 4-0 record, but we can’t get too overwhelmed with that,” Kunkel said. “We still have to go in and compete our hardest.”

Kloeckener agreed.

“I think it’s an added excitement, but I think we’re more focused on swimming well in the morning and getting to the finals and doing well,” Kloeckener said.

Though Novitsky is happy with her team’s performance so far in the season, she knows they still have a ways to go in the season and this is just another step toward future success.

“I hope they learn they can face different competition and come in and race, not over-thinking it.”