Swimming finishes last despite breaking 6 school records

The Illinois swimming team broke six school records and recorded two NCAA B standards as it finished in 12th place at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis. 

“The team as a whole competed strong with 38 total lifetime best times over the course of the championship,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “As a team we were looking to move up in the standings, so we will go to work to keep improving.”

Both senior Erica Lynn and junior Alison Meng recorded NCAA B qualifying times in their respective events, which could earn them invitations to the NCAA Championships in late March. Lynn recorded a time of 2 minutes, 14.38 seconds in the 200 breaststroke preliminaries. Meng finished 10th in the 100 back (53.94) and also broke the school’s record.

Meng also wrote herself into the record books on the first day of competition, breaking her own school record in the 50 back (25.02), which she set at last year’s championships. 

Gabbie Stecker continued to build upon an impressive freshman season, as she was the first to qualify for final event for the Illini. Her preliminary time of 2:00.50 in the 200 butterfly broke the school record by over one second. She earned second swim opportunities in the 200 fly, 200 free and 500 free.

“It was great to see Alison break out and score in her first individual event of her career at Big Tens,” Novitsky said. “Gabbie earned her first second swim at the championships and she handled it very well. I am very proud of her aggressiveness and willingness to take out her races strong and fight to the finish.”

Heading into the weekend, Novistky expected her relay teams would break a few school records. Her team did not disappoint, as three relay squads set school records. The 200 medley relay team of Meng, Isabella Schamber, Lori Lynn and Megan Marchuk clocked in a time 1:41.90 and erased the record set in 2012. The 800 freestyle relay team of Courtney Pope, Stecker, Mary Beth Howard and Marchuk set the new school record at 7:18.82. The 400 medley relay team of Meng, Pope, Erica Lynn and Lori Lynn swam record-breaking time of 3:42.21.

The Illini finished with 79 points, eight points behind 11th-place Michigan State. Minnesota won its third consecutive Big Ten title with 760 points. Indiana placed second with 649 points. 

The Big Tens marked the last full-team competition of the season for the Illini. Individual swimmers will now try to join Erica Lynn and Meng and qualify for the NCAA Championships. They will get an opportunity to qualify this Saturday at the Last Chance Meet at West Lafayette, Ind. 

Michal can be reached at [email protected] and @bennythebull94.