Illinois swimming and diving ready to take on Illinois State

Senior Ali Keehn of the Illini swimming team races down the pool in the 100-yard butterfly race on Oct. 10, 2008. Keehn won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.85 seconds and has been one of the leading swimmers for the Illini this season. Erica Magda

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Senior Ali Keehn of the Illini swimming team races down the pool in the 100-yard butterfly race on Oct. 10, 2008. Keehn won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.85 seconds and has been one of the leading swimmers for the Illini this season. Erica Magda

By Jessica Glade

The Illinois swimming and diving team will host its final home meet of the season against Illinois State on Saturday, when they aim to build on their 4-1 dual meet record.

“Illinois State has some talented athletes and I am looking for us to sharpen up our details and eliminate some mistakes that we had against Iowa,” head coach Sue Novitsky said.

While the Illini are still recovering from their first dual-meet loss of the season, a close loss to Iowa last weekend, the team is eager to get another chance at competition. Illinois visited Normal, Ill., in November and bested the Redbirds, 194-106. The Illini dominated the meet, winning 13 out of 16 events, including setting two pool records. But the team is at the point in the season where training is the most strenuous, and after the past two meets, the team has admitted to fatigue.

“We’re right in the middle of our training, and it’s probably the toughest part, and we’re kind of broken down a little bit, but we should just be getting faster,” freshman Kristen Manias said.

Despite the strain of training, Illinois sees this meet as an opportunity to fine tune things before the Big Ten Championships later this season.

Unlike the Illini, Illinois State is coming into the competition after a bit of a break. The Redbird’s last meet was supposed to be Jan. 17 against Ball State, but it was canceled because of inclement weather. The team hasn’t swum competitively since Jan. 3 at the Florida Atlantic University Swimming and Diving Invitational, where it finished last out of six teams. In dual meet competition, Illinois State is 6-1, with its only loss coming against Illinois.

“We’ve already swam Illinois State, it was at their place so I think it will be good to have it at our place,” Manias said. “We’ve beaten them before and I think we’ll be able to beat them again. It will be another good chance for competition.”

Saturday is also the team’s Senior Day, where the Illini will honor their three seniors: Marissa Clapp, Ali Keehn and Katie Theissen. All three seniors have been swimming strong this season and their performances have been a key factor in the team’s success so far.

“We are looking forward to our last home competition of the season and the opportunity to honor our senior athletes,” Novitsky said. “Having another chance to compete this week will allow us to keep assessing our progress in practice and how the athletes are handling the training.”