Despite finishing strong, swimming loses first dual meet

By Jessica Glade

The Illinois swimming and diving team lost its first dual meet of the season, falling just short to Iowa on Saturday, 157-143. Despite a sluggish start, the Illini fought their way back to make it a close meet.

“If you look at the first third of the meet, we were getting our clocks cleaned and we were behind; we were down like 30 points,” head coach Sue Novitsky said.

The momentum changed for the Illini in the 200-yard butterfly, where they swept the top three spots. Junior Jen Ivarson led the way, taking first place with a time of 2 minutes, 6.92 seconds. Senior Ali Keehn and junior Ann Miller took second and third place with times of 2:07.36 and 2:09.20, respectively.

“That changed our momentum and we sort of got ourselves back on track, back in the meet a bit,” Novitsky said. “I was very happy to see them come back and fight with heart and claw themselves tooth and nail back into the meet.”

The momentum continued in the 200-yard backstroke, as junior CeCe Marizu and senior Katie Theissen took the top two spots. Marizu finished in first at 2:03.71 and Theissen was close behind at 2:05.59. Illinois took another first in the next event where senior Marissa Clapp won the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:18.95, allowing the Illini to close the gap on the big deficit.

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“I feel pretty good about how I swam,” Marizu said. “My legs are a little tired, but I swam relaxed. My 100 back, I was just getting into the meet, then the 200 back, I swam it fast and relaxed; I just wanted to beat Iowa in that race.”

The Orange and Blue pulled ahead 123-122 for a short period of time after taking the top three spots in the 100-yard butterfly. Keehn took first at a time of 57.78, followed closely by freshman Brittany McGowan and Ivarson with times of 58.31 and 58.76, respectively.

“I think we really stepped up,” freshman Kristen Manias said. “There’s a lot of pressure since this is the second Big Ten team we’re racing (in dual meets), and we knew they were going to come in strong, and it was a change for all of us to step up and do what we need to do and I think that’s why it was really close.”

Despite the slow start, the meet came down to the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, as Iowa held a slim 144-139 lead. It was the Hawkeyes who came up big in the end as they edged out Illinois with a time of 3:29.49 to secure the meet.

“It came down to the last event; it doesn’t get more exciting than that,” Novitsky said. “Iowa was a little bit better than us today. There are little things we need to keep working on, but it showed a lot of character of the team and a lot of heart and strength and as a group that was great to see.”

The Illini are still looking forward after their first dual meet loss.

“Obviously you’re in to win, you want to win,” Novitsky said. “But sometimes you can learn more from a loss, and I think we’re going to take away a lot of good stuff from this meet. We’re going to see them again, and both teams will be rested when we see each other again. (We’re) just working on cleaning up the details, fine-tuning, sharpening our skills and trying to race tight so that everything is clean and ready to go.”