Illinois swim & dive readies for Big Ten meet against Iowa

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

On Oct. 29, the Illinois swim & dive team opened Big Ten competition in Evanston, Ill., facing the Northwestern Wildcats, who they lost to. The meet finished 203-92, a resounding loss. But on the same day, also in Evanston, Illinois beat their sister state school — UIC — by an overall score of 223-76. A resounding victory. 

In the last month, Illinois competed in one meet, against Florida International University. Another victory, on the road no less, all the way in Miami — a hotbed for water and water-related activities. A two-day meet, they trailed after the first 117.5-106.5 and, after a second, led, finishing with a final of 229.5-218.5.

This week, things couldn’t be more different. The Illini head to Iowa City where they will face the Iowa Hawkeyes. There will be corn on the bus ride there, and fields, flat and desolate ones, forever stretching over the cold midwestern plain. In terms of water, Iowa City has a river, although it is likely inadvisable, especially at this time of year, to swim in it. There are also pools, but not many water-related activities. That’s where this swim meet comes in. It’s frigid. It’s time to swim inside.

“We’ve had a really good few meets after our competition against Northwestern,” head coach Jeana Kempe said. “And these four teams that we’re competing against, including ourselves, I think we all match up really well.”

To win in Iowa City, Illinois needs the best out of its individuals. One such individual, a freshman from Killdeer, Ill., in Liv Dorshorst, has taken a lead role for the Illini. In Miami, in that win against FIU, she finished first in the 1000-meter freestyle.

“Liv is a fantastic individual,” Kempe said. “And she brings energy on a daily basis. She has a great personality; she makes us all laugh. She keeps practice pretty lighthearted. And she’s willing to do the work that it takes to be a great distance swimmer.”

Illinois is 5-1, but the wins have come against smaller schools. The Illini finished 11th last year in Big Ten play. The name of the game is still improving despite the winning record. 

“We have really stayed pretty internally focused on ‘How do we be better than our previous meet?’” Kempe said. “How do we change our previous meet? What did we learn and how do we grow? And that goes on the diving side and the swimming side.”

In Iowa City, they focus on themselves, on what they’re doing. If the Illini do this, then what matters — the water-related activities — those take care of themselves. 

“When we focus internally and we stay in our Illinois bubble, that’s when we’ve been our best self,” Kempe said. 

 

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