Illinois swimming and diving team still standing tall after third-place finish

By Jessica Glade

The Illinois swimming and diving team’s perfect record took a hit as the Orange and Blue took third place in the Miami Invitational last weekend. The team finished with 1300.5 points, behind Florida Gulf Coast University with 1497.5 points and Miami University with 2400.5 points.

Despite a third-place finish, head coach Sue Novitsky and the team are optimistic of what these results mean for the remainder of the season.

“It’s not like it’s a dual meet. One of our team goals was to be a top-three team, so we accomplished that,” Novitsky said. “One of our main goals was to get second swims, second opportunities to compete, and we were able to do that. It gives them the experience of competing tired as well as competing in a prelim-final format and learning how to come back for a final swim and try to make some adjustments and see if they can get faster.”

With the third-place finish out of eight teams, they are content with their results. The team came in against tough competition. Miami, who won the event, was an impressive 6-1 and Florida Gulf was 3-0 heading into the weekend.

“I think we did really good,” senior Ali Keehn said. “We were up against teams that were rested and in fast suits and we were able compete and to keep them. I think we competed well, we had season-best times, lifetime-best times, and I think we did really well for a three-day meet, our first meet like that against this kind of competition.”

Despite knowing the meet was going to be difficult, the Illini saw it as a way to test their strenghth as a team.

“It was definitely challenging,” senior Katie Theissen said. “On the last day Coach Novitsky came up to us and said, ‘This is the last day, you know it’s going to be hard, you know it’s going to be challenging, give everything you have.’ It was a real testimony of our strength and endurance. I think actually the third day was our best day as a team.”

While the other teams came in at full-strength, the Illini kept the awaiting Big Ten season in the back of their minds.

“It’s that time of the year where certain teams make decisions for their season plan – are they going to rest, try to peak for a meet this time of the year, or are they going to train through,” Novitsky said. “With the timeline that we have it’s more beneficial for us just to rest for Big Ten, so we were competing against teams that were fully rested and had championship suits on. We were just focusing on ourselves. I thought the team did a great job competing against competition that was peaked and ready to go. I thought they got stronger and kept swimming better as the meet went on.”

Illinois is now at the midpoint of their season and the team is pleased with where it stands.

“I think it’s going really well so far,” Theissen said. “In my four years, this has been the best year for our team as a whole. We’ve had great team chemistry and I think that everyone is performing really well at practices and I think that when it comes to the end of the season everyone will have their races ready.”