Illinois swimming tops Nebraska at seventh annual splash bash


Illinois’ Samantha Stratford swims the 100-yard butterfly event during the meet against Nebraska at the ARC on Saturday. The Illini won 171-129.

By Daniel Collins

The Illinois swimming and diving team sent the fans in attendance of the seventh annual Splash Bash home happy, defeating Nebraska 171-129 at the ARC.

Illinois started the meet with a victory in the 200 medley relay event. The event was won by the quartet of senior Alison Meng, freshman Samantha Stratford, junior Lori Lynn and senior Megan Marchuk. That combination in the relay has provided the Illini with many points throughout the season and came 0.14 seconds away of setting the ARC pool record against Nebraska.

The remainder of the meet was led by Meng and Stratford.

In both individual events she competed in, the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly, Meng set the pool record with times of 55.42 and 55.81, respectively.

During her time competing for Illinois, Meng has seen her name atop the leaderboard many times. Against Michigan State this weekend, she’ll have one more dual meet to add to her accomplishments.

“I get excited every time,” Meng said of her record-breaking accomplishments. “I just want to give my all to this team and I’m for the last meet next weekend. (The seniors) are going to give it their all.”

Stratford won the 200 fly, breaststroke and individual medley. Finding her name consistently among the top finishers is something that Stratford has now become more accustomed to. Knowing that her finishes help provide the team with needed points is part of what helps calm her nerves.

“In my first race I was very nervous, so winning it was really exciting because I wasn’t expecting to win,” Stratford said. “Now winning races is still really exciting, but it’s also a team sport, so I’m doing it for the team — not so much myself.”

The Splash Bash brought in the highest attendance of the Illini’s three home meets. Those in attendance were given free snacks and the opportunity to make posters and donate art supplies to the Illinois Children’s Hospital.

Head coach Sue Novitsky applauded her team’s ability to remain composed in front of its home crowd.

“We talked a lot this week about maintaining our energy and keeping our focus all the way through the meet, especially coming off a very emotional weekend with the two meets against Iowa State and Iowa,” Novitsky said. “They raced tough from start to finish.”

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