Illinois swim & dive places third at Iowa meet

The+Illinois+swim+and+dive+team+cheer+on+their+teammates+during+their+home+meet+against+Indiana+State+on+Oct.+8.+

Sydney Laput

The Illinois swim and dive team cheer on their teammates during their home meet against Indiana State on Oct. 8.

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

On Saturday in Iowa City, Illinois swim & dive finished up its first tournament with a third-place finish behind tournament winner Nebraska and runner-up Rutgers. The Illini have a lot to build on.  

On Thursday, the first day of the meet, Illinois came out of the gates strong. The Illini were in second, a mere 5.5 points behind Nebraska. 

“The first night, we went in really aggressively. Nebraska, Iowa and Rutgers are all teams that I think are definitely on our list on our team goals in order to beat at dual meets coming up this year,” Senior swimmer Kaleigh Haworth said. “So really, we went into it wanting to come out with a victory, like overall for the meet.”

As Thursday bled into Friday, weekday into weekend, the Illini fell behind. They finished Friday third, sitting on 491 points, trailing second place Rutgers by 4.5 points. Nebraska, whom Illinois had trailed by only 5.5 a day earlier, finished Friday on 635.5 points, massively increasing their lead.

“As the meet went on, Nebraska really showed up, so we wanted to, that last day, we were really gunning for Rutgers,” Haworth said.

But, on that final day, the Illini fell short. They couldn’t quite grit it out. 

“Thinking back to the last day at that meet, your body is so tired and broken down and everything kind of hurts,” Haworth said. “But you just have to tell yourself that you’re going to bounce back and trust in your training and what you’ve done with the coaches, that you’re going to be able to outcompete and outperform the other teams that last day.”

Illinois freshmen, as they have all season, showed out in a big way. Sara Jass swam a 2:13.32 200m backstroke, the second fastest in Illinois history. Alexis Wendel swam the fifth-fastest 200m butterfly in school history, finishing in 2:01.36. Liv Dorshorst finished the 1650 relay in 16:51.87, the seventh-best mark in Illinois history.   

“I’m really proud of the way that our freshmen showed up,” Haworth said. “We’ve got a small class of like five freshmen, and a lot of them had really great swims.”

The dive portion of Illinois swim & dive was somewhat less successful. Nobody broke any records. But, the Illini set four personal bests. 

Senior Erin Young set a personal best one-meter with a score of 254.95. Junior Taylor Michael with 283.6 on the three-meter. Freshman Abby Manos, also on the three meter, scored a 252.9, her personal best. Sophomore transfer Hannah Hong dove her personal best as well, scoring a 214.25.

“When we go to meet with platform diving, especially the third day, we don’t have platform diving at our pool,” Haworth said. “So for our divers, it’s a lot of learning, learning new dives the same day that they compete them. So I’m really proud of them for doing that. And that’s something that I think is gonna carry into other dual meets and then championships in the future.”

Overall, the Illini swam well individually, but still have ground to make up as a whole.   

“Swimming is an individual sport, so a lot of times, I think we had individual swims where people are still learning to be confident and go into races aggressively and trust their training,” Haworth said. 

Sue Novitsky, Illinois’ 22-year veteran coach retired last March, replaced by former South Carolina assistant Jeana Kempe. Now in her first season, things are changing around the program.

“We have like, super new training, and everyone’s a lot stronger. And overall, the environment is much more positive than it used to be,” Haworth said “But I feel like this is a team that is still learning to trust itself.”

 

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