Illinois swim & dive unable to secure win over Nebraska on Senior Day


Logan Hodson

Illinois swim & dive Meghan Ziziolek swims backstroke during the meet against Nebraska. The Illini lose their final home meet against the Cornhuskers 178-122.

By Jonathan Alday, Staff Writer

Illinois hosted the Nebraska Cornhuskers in its final home meet of the season at the ARC Pool.

The Illini also celebrated the final home meet for the senior class with each member of the class receiving a gift and a flower as they walked down the deck, their parents in the viewing decks above. 

“They’ve come in through the program, and they’ve worked hard,” said head coach Sue Novitsky. “They’ve competed hard for us for four years in the pool but also in the classroom. I’ve always been able to rely on them and ask them to step up for the team, and I appreciate them for that.”

With a final score of 178-122 in favor of Nebraska, Illinois fell to 5-3 on the season and 1-2 in conference meets.

The meet began with a bang as the Illini took first place in the 200-yard medley relay on the backs of juniors Athena Salafatinos and Mariclaire Lynch, freshman Logan Kuehne and sophomore Lauren Bludgen.

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After that was the 1,650-yard freestyle, arguably the hardest event in terms of mental and physical endurance.

While the 1,650-yard freestyle was back and forth between sophomore Cara Bognar and Nebraska’s Audrey Coffey, Coffey broke away from Bognar, handing the Cornhuskers their first win of the meet.

Their momentum would be short-lived as the Illini faithful erupted as senior Abby Cabush blew through the competition in the 200-yard freestyle, setting a new pool record at 1:48.68.

Nebraska responded, though, sweeping the podium in the 100-yard backstroke followed by a first- and second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke.

In the 200 butterfly, Bognar came just two seconds short of winning the event, only barely giving Illinois a second-place finish.

In the 50-yard freestyle, Bludgen and freshman Molly Yetter handily outswam the competition, stopping Nebraska’s run.

While the swimmers caught their breath, the diving teams got to work with the 3-meter dive.

While the divers had great performances, it just wasn’t enough to outscore the Cornhusker diving team led by Sara Troyer, one of the best divers in the country.

In the 100-yard freestyle, Cabush continued her dominance in the freestyle, placing first while Bludgen took third.

The next event, the 200-yard backstroke, Nebraska swept the podium once again. And while junior Kaleigh Haworth was able to stop the bleeding temporarily, the Illini got swept in the 500-yard freestyle, a devastating blow for the Illini if they had any plans to get back into the meet.

With two events left, all the Illini could do was close the gap as much as possible and finish the meet on a high note.

Bognar handedly won the 400-yard individual medley and with the 200-yard freestyle relay left, Bludgen, Yetter, Kuehne and Cabush gave the Illini the win to end the meet. 

While the Illini were able to stay competitive in the freestyle events, they simply couldn’t match the speed of the Cornhuskers in the breaststroke and backstroke events.

“I don’t define ourselves by win or loss,” Novitsky said. “There’s a lot of good things that happened throughout the meet, lots of improvements. It’s all defined success.”

The Illini will look to shake off the loss as they prepare to head to West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in the swim team’s last regular season meet.

See the official scores here.



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