Illinois swimming bags its 1st two victories of season

By Daniel Collins

Horton Pool became a pool for firsts on Saturday.

Competing against in-state opponents Southern Illinois and host Illinois State, the Illinois swimming and diving team notched its first two victories of the year, defeating the Redbirds, 197-102 and the Salukis, 207.5-91.5. Five pool records were set in the process.

The first two records were broken during the 200 yard medley relay by the team of Alison Meng, Samantha Stratford, Sarah Sykstus and Gabrielle Bethke. Meng broke the record for the 50 yard backstroke during her leg of the relay.

Meng also swam a season best 2:03.95 in the 200 back and was also victorious in the 100 butterfly, swimming the race in:56.79. 

“We executed really well on the goals we set,” said senior Meng. “We stayed focused knowing the atmosphere and pool we were coming into.”

From that point on, the Illini rolled through the meet, winning 11 of 14 swimming events.

“One of the things we wanted to do was get off to a quick start, set the tone early and get the momentum and never let it go,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “I think we did a great job with that.”

Finishing first in the 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley, Stratford continued an impressive start to her freshman campaign. 

Her efforts in the 100 butterfly and in the 200 IM set pool records.

The double-dual meet was the first of Stratford’s collegiate career.

“It’s a good stepping stone for future meets,” Stratford said of her records. “It was a really good learning experience. I got to race in a new situation and I swam in more events than I usually do.”

The fifth pool record was recorded by sophomore Gabbie Stecker in the 500 freestyle. Stecker also recorded a victory in the 200 butterfly.

Adding to a day of firsts, freshmen Nelly Casas and Bethke picked up their first individual collegiate wins, with Casas winning the 1000 freestyle and Bethke emerging victorious the 50 free.

“It’s good to see some freshmen getting in there and getting their hands to the wall first,” Novitsky said.

In the three swim events they were not victorious in, the Illini finished second.

“It was a group effort today and that was great to see because it was one of our focuses going into the meet,” Novitsky said.

The Illini will return to action on Nov. 8 when the head to Lawrence, Kansas, to take on the Kansas Jayhawks.

The Jayhawks are on a three meet winning streak, recently defeating North Dakota and Texas Christian in a double-dual meet over the weekend.

Daniel can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @chisports2.