Illinois swimming and diving prepares for Big Ten action

Trevor Greene The Daily Illini Illinois Brittany McGowan competes in the 100 yard freestyle during the meet in the ARC pool against Illinois State University on Saturday, January 24th. Illinois beat Illinois state 219 to 81.

Trevor Greene The Daily Illini Illinois’ Brittany McGowan competes in the 100 yard freestyle during the meet in the ARC pool against Illinois State University on Saturday, January 24th. Illinois beat Illinois state 219 to 81.

By Jessica Glade

Before the Illinois swimming and diving team competes in the long-awaited Big Ten Championships in three weeks, it has one more obstacle to face.

Actually, make that three obstacles to face.

On Friday, the Illini head to Minneapolis, Minn., to compete in the Big Ten Quad Duals to compete against Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue.

“It’s an opportunity to race against some of the other schools in the Big Ten Conference, and there’s some really good competition,” head coach Sue Novitsky said.

No. 9 Minnesota will bring a 5-0 dual-meet record and sophomore star Jillian Tyler to the pool. Tyler has already qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 58.80 seconds, best in the nation, and also in the 200-yard breaststroke. The Gophers have three other swimmers who have provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships as well.

At No. 17, Wisconsin is also undefeated in dual meets with a record of 6-0. The Badgers dominated their last meet, winning all 11 events. They also sport some impressive individuals. Freshman Beckie Thompson holds the eighth fastest time in the country in the 50-yard freestyle and Wisconsin boasts the fourth fastest 200-yard freestyle relay team in the country. The Badgers also have history on their side; Wisconsin has gone undefeated in its last 45 conference dual meets, a streak dating to the 1999-2000 season. Since a loss to Purdue and Minnesota at the Big Ten Quad Duals that season, the Badgers have gone 25-0 in the event.

Purdue is 3-5 in dual meets this season but has been swimming strong lately, having turned in four season-best times against Indiana in its last meet.

With all the tough competition, the Illini view this meet as an opportunity. This is the team’s last chance to swim competitively before they head off for Big Ten Championships and the last chance for the coaches to see how their swimmers have improved during the season.

“One thing we want to see is how they do swimming against some of the top swimmers in the conference and how they keep their composure and making sure they see how competitive they are,” Novitsky said. “There are going to be some great matchups and see how they do in those situations.”

Although Illinois is facing Big Ten opponents this weekend, the meet will not define where the Illini stand come Big Ten Championships time but instead will serve as a learning opportunity.

“It’s all pretty much up in the air,” Novitsky said. “A dual meet versus a three-day invitational is really quite different. But again, you get an opportunity to see people race each other and that sort of helps us when we go to pick some final event lists for some of our athletes coming into the championships. But you can’t worry about what other people are doing or how they’re swimming. We just try to have our guys peak as best as we can and see where they stand.”