Illinois swim and dive team breaks records at Big Ten Championship


Jessica Jutzi

Illini’s Samantha Stratford swims the butterfly against Nebraska on Jan. 21st in the ARC pool.

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

The Illinois swim and dive team shattered several school records but placed 12th at the Big Ten Championship this past week in West Lafayette, Indiana.

On the first day of competition, the relay team of seniors  —Amelia Schilling, Gabbie Stecker, Audrey Rodawig and junior Samantha Stratford — set a new school record in the 800-yard freestyle with a time of 7:12.50.

After the day concluded, the Illini were tied for ninth overall with 74 points.

Day two was not as successful for the Illini, who dropped to 12th in the standings after a rough start, but the team eventually recovered.

“We were a bit tight starting out of the preliminary session,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “It took us a while to relax, and that hurt us. We rebounded well and finished with another school record.”

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The school record came from the relay team comprised of Stecker, Stratford, Rodawig and sophomore Megan Vuong in the 400-yard medley relay that touched the wall at 3:41.73.

Stecker continued to shine on Day Two. Her time of 26.69 seconds was the second-fastest lead-off individual time in the 100-yard backstroke event.

The Illini recorded similar results on Day Three, struggling in their morning events and then bouncing back with strong times later in the day.

Rodawig’s time of 55.42 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly moved her to sixth on the school’s fastest individuals list while freshman Jamie Kolar got herself fifth on the list with a time of 55.71 in the 100-yard backstroke event.

Stratford also ended the day strong for the Illini, earning a place in the final round of the 400-yard individual medley where she registered a time of 4:15.94.

After the third day, Novitsky said she was looking for more from her team going into the last day of competition. She said she wanted the team to be “relentless, tough and energetic.”

Stecker, Stratford and junior Ashley Aegerter made NCAA B standard times on the last day. Achieving B standard times allows for the athletes to make their way into the NCAA Championship as individual alternates.

To go along with their B standard times, Stecker’s time of 1:59.12 in the 200-yard butterfly event was a school record, while Aegerter moved up to fourth on the all-time fastest individual’s list with a time of 2:16.18 in the 200-yard breaststroke event.

When everything was completed, the Illini finished in 12th place with a point total of 197. Michigan won the tournament.

Even though Novitsky and her squad didn’t see an improvement from last year’s standing at the Big Ten Championship, Novitsky was still proud of her team for the way it performed.

“The team stood up and performed with a toughness that we had been looking for the previous two days,” Novitsky said. “I am proud of their resilience and continuing to fight.”

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