The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois swim & dive breaks records at Big Ten championships

Illinois swim and dive is returning from the Big Ten championship where, despite placing low as a team, they saw numerous broken records throughout the four-day competition. 

Starting strong on day one, the Illini broke an 18-year-old record in the 200-medley relay. Juniors Suvana Baskar and Logan Kuehne, senior Lily Olson and freshman Kylee Sessions swam an impressive 1:38.63 — Illinois’ fastest time in program history. Baskar, Kuehne, Olson and Sessions previously broke the school record at their mid-season meet in November. Their impressive time earned them a No. 7 finish, the program’s highest in the event at Big Ten championships since 2006. It also marked Illinois’ first time on the podium for a swimming event since 2016.

The Illini saw more impressive times on day one. The 800 freestyle relay, composed of senior Laurel Bludgen, freshman Martina Cibulkova, sophomore Sara Jass and junior Sydney Stoll, placed 11th overall with a time of 7:18.17, the fourth-fastest in program history. Stoll also earned Illinois’ best 200 freestyle time during the relay swimming (1:47.53). The Illini ended day one in ninth place with 78 points. 

Day two was also filled with broken records and high finishes. Kuehne swam 22.79 on the 50 freestyle and broke the school record during the time trials. Freshman Matilda Garcia also earned points for Illinois on day two, placing 20th with a score of 238.85 on the one-meter boards. Garcia was Illinois’ highest finish in four years, but the Illini were unfortunately in last place on day two with an overall score of 86.

Day three started with Stoll swimming a 54.00 on the 100 butterfly prelims, breaking her school record. Stoll went on to place 15th and qualify for the B finals. In the B finals, she placed seventh overall and earned 12 points for the Illini when she swam a 54.54. 

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Kuehne, Olson, junior Molly Yetter and Bludgen swam the second fastest time for the program for the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:31.05. They placed seventh in this relay. 

Sessions and freshman Gwen Bakker both went on to make it to the C finals in the 100 breaststroke. Bakker came in sixth place with her time of 1:03.00, which was also the 10th fastest time for the program. Sessions finished closely behind Bakker, swimming a 1:04.55 and placing eighth. For the 100 backstroke, Baskar’s impressive time of 54.27 earned her a fifth-place finish and four points for the Illini. Day three ended with the Illini in 12th place despite nearly doubling their points (152). 

The final day of the Big Ten championship once again included record-breaking times. The 400 freestyle relay composed of Kuehne, Stoll, Olson and Bludgen swam the program’s second fastest time and placed 10th on the day with a time of 3:21.15. Jass earned an impressive 16 points for the team with her performance in the 200 breaststroke, swimming 2:13.31 in the B finals and securing third place. 

On the diving board, freshman Bethany Mercer earned 189.60 points in the platform dive. Mercer was also the first diver since 2019 to score on the platform dive. 

Illinois ended the Big Ten championship in 12th place with an overall score of 204. 

Head coach Jeana Kempe shared her insight into how a team may not place in the top three, but there is always competition for the other spots. She added that the team members focus on what they can control and how they can be the best individually. 

“1-3 is usually pretty close, 4-6 is close, 7-11 is close,” Kempe said. “You’ve just got to shoot your shot, and you focus on what you can control.”

Illinois still had business to do in West Lafayette, Indiana, before heading home. The team competed at the Boilermaker Long Course Time Trials Sunday and swept the podium for the 50 LC meter freestyle. Olson finished third (26.88), Bludgen in second (26.85) and Kuehne in first (26.73). Baskar also saw a second-place finish in the 100 LC meter backstroke with a time of 1:05.95.

Illinois divers will compete next at the NCAA Diving Zones from March 14-16 in Louisville, Kentucky.


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