Illinois swimming and diving to open season at home

By Drake Pena

The Illinois swimming and diving team will face its first test of the season on Friday after its intra-squad exhibition meet last weekbr.

The Illini will compete against a trio of teams from Illinois — Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Olivet Nazarenebr.

Head coach Sue Novitsky believes her team is physically and mentally ready for the meetbr.

“We’re in pretty good shape right now,” Novitsky said. “We’ve been working hard, and I know they’re pretty sore but they’re ready to compete against some outside teams. It’s going to be a long day of racing which is what I want. Every swimmer that’s competing is swimming six races throughout the day, so it’s good practice for us to stay tough and stay focused.”

Two of her swimmers are in good form. Senior co-captain Lori Lynn and sophomore Samantha Stratford come into Friday having each broken a pool record at the intra-squad meetbr.

Lynn hopes that her laid-back, focused style of swimming will continue throughout the season.

“It felt really good,” Lynn said of her record-breaking performance last week. “I was kind of surprised when I looked up and saw that. I do the best when I don’t think about the outcome.”

Stratford comes into the season with perhaps the highest amount expectations on her shoulders after a standout freshman year.

”It wasn’t really a goal I thought about,” Stratford said. “I didn’t think it was going to happen at the intra-squad meet. It was a good start to the season and it should only get better from there.”

The meet is one of the two meets that Illinois has at home this season. That being the case, Novitsky plans to eventually get her team in the mindset needed to consistently compete on the road.

“They have no choice but to adapt,” Novitsky said. “For us as coaches, it’s about watching and managing recovery with the travel as well as possible. That’s one of the biggest challenges for the trips on the road. Other than that, I’m looking forward to competing against some different teams throughout the season.”

Stratford understands the schedule can be tough, as the team has meets ranging from California to Floridabr. However, she is hopeful that the tight-knit bond formed between her and her teammates will provide a home away from home.

“I think it will be tough traveling so much,” Stratford said. “But us being such a close team it will help being away so much from school and from family.”

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