Illinois swimming and diving tests the waters in first meet of the season

By Drake Pena

The Illinois swimming and diving team began the season with its annual Orange and Blue intra-squad meet Oct. 2 at the ARC swimming pool.SO

With both teams evenly split up with a mixture of upperclassman and freshman, the Blue team left the pool victorious with a 121-98 win.

The event not only brought much-needed competition but also a chance to shake off the rust before the team’s first official meet against Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, and Olivet Nazarene on October 16 at the ARC pool. It also gives the team some time to prepare for its first Big Ten and away meet against Michigan State on October 23.

Head coach Sue Novitsky said she was pleased with her team’s performance and with the records a few of her young swimmers were able to break.

“I thought we had some really strong races,” Novitsky said. “We broke three or four meet records and two pool records, which at this time of the year is really outstanding to see.”

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The teams set three meet records, including two pool records. Senior co-captain Lori Lynn of the Blue team broke the 200 individual medley record in event four with a time of 55.44 seconds, narrowly edging out the previous record of 55.81. The event’s record was previously held by Illini great Allison Meng.

The Novitsky-led Blue team took seven of the 12 total events in the meet, including the 200 medley relay, 200 free, 50 free, 200Im, 3-meter dive, 100 free, and the 500 free.

Samantha Stratford competed for the Orange team and broke her own pool record in the 200 IM with a time of 2:04.31. Stratford also set a meet record in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 1:05.30.

Feeling pressured, the Orange team, led by assistant coach Alec Hayden, attempted a mini-comeback towards the end of the meet and won the final three events. Senior Jessica Clifford won the 1-meter dive with 200.60 points, and the relay team of freshman Gabriele Serniute, junior Audrey Rodawig, freshman Megan Vuong and Stratford won the 200 free relay in 1:37.08.

The last-minute comeback wasn’t enough to snatch victory from the Blue team and prevented the Illini to repeat as intra-squad champions.

Novitsky said she knows how difficult it can be to be pitted against your own teammates, but she said she believes that the positives greatly outweigh the negatives when it comes down to it.

“It’s hard to race against your teammates, but it does give (the team) the chance to get the initial nerves out of the way,” she said. “To be able to race in a safe environment adds to that effect, so that two weeks from now when we are up on the blocks against three other teams, we have to be ready to put together some really good races.”SO

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