Illinois swim and dive starts strong in season opener against Indiana State


Cameron Krasucki

Senior Emily Bolger does the breaststroke at the Orange and Blue meet Oct. 9. Illini swim and dive started off their season strong against Indiana State on Friday.

By Jonathan Alday, Contributing Writer

The Illinois swimming and diving team kicked off its 2021-2022 season on the road against the Indiana State Sycamores in Terre Haute, Indiana, a location familiar to many seniors on the team.

“It’s funny because our first meet as freshmen was at Indiana State, and it has come full circle with our last first meet being here as well,” said senior Lauren Partridge.

Though the Illini’s first taste of competition came on Homecoming weekend with the annual intrasquad Blue and Orange meet, on October 9th, the team was anxious to start competing.

“I think they’re excited,” said head coach Sue Novitsky. “It’s a combination of nervous energy and that excitement. They’re ready to race somebody different besides themselves.” 

After last year’s frantic, messy and shortened season, Novitsky saw a positive opportunity in the season for improvements.

“Everything was going to be different, so it was important for us to use that time to be productive,” Novitsky said. “It allowed us to reset. We asked the team this year, ‘When we go to compete against somebody, how do you want that opposing team to characterize you?’ The top three words that they came up with were competitive, confident, and united and that’s what we’ve been trying to hone in on as a team.”

That competitiveness, confidence and unity was tested immediately as Indiana State squeaked by with a 0.04-second win to start the meet in the 100-yard backstroke. The Illini showed their resilience, however, with junior Kaleigh Haworth’s win in the 100-yard breaststroke. 

“We stay together as a team, we fight for each other, we pull each other up if we have to,” Novitsky said. 

And that’s what the Illini did.

After starting off 1-2 in the first three events, Illinois won 11 out of next 12 events, going on a seven-event win streak, followed soon after by a four-event win streak. 

“The team brought a lot of energy from start to finish,” said freshman Molly Yetter. “It was one of the big things we stressed after the Orange and Blue meet last week. I think everyone got up for every event and raced as hard as they could, raced the person next to them.”

The Illini handedly defeated Indiana State, 184.5-98.5, to start the young season off 1-0, with the team, fueled by first-place wins by freshman Sydney Stoll in the 1000-yard freestyle, senior Abby Cabush’s dominant win in the 500-yard freestyle and strong performances by Yetter in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle. 

The win was further supported by the diving team, filling the top three spots for both their events and a heart-pounding final event win by Cabush, sophomores Laurel Bludgen and Lily Olson and Yetter in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Throughout the meet, as the Illini would stumble on an event, the seasoned upperclassmen would go out and bring the contest back in Illinois’ favor.

“Our senior class is doing a really nice job of guiding the team,” Novitsky said. “They’re the ones that people are going to be looking at.”

The Illini will hit the road again, heading to Evanston, Illinois, for a tri-meet against the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern on Oct. 23 at 11 a.m..



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