Swimming and diving success growing for Illini

By Drake Pena

After finishing the 2014-15 season with a 6-4 dual meet record, along with 42 changes to the individual record books, the 2015-2016 season looks to be a promising one for the Illini swim and dive team.

Sophomore Samantha Stratford will be a crucial part of any success Illinois will have in the pool this season.

Stratford was a big contributor in her freshman year with the Illini, swimming four individual performances that rank on the school’s all-time top-10. Stratford was also part of two school-record relays, the 800 freestyle relay (7:13.98) and the 400 medley relay (3:41.75). 

This sparkling performance looks to offset the loss of Alison Meng. Meng leaves Illinois with four individual school records, and is part of two school record relays. Adding to an already impressive list of accomplishments, Meng is also the fastest Illini in the 50 backstroke (25.02), 100 backstroke (53.92), 50 butterfly (25.23), and the 100 butterfly. 

Outside of Stratford, the Illini have a number of others who are ready to step in and make sure they record their third consecutive winning season. 

Two of those swimmers are juniors Gabbie Stecker and Amelia Schilling. Stecker set two school records and had multiple top-10 performances last season. Schilling swam her way onto four of Illinois’ top-10 fastest individual event lists. She also posted the fifth-best 200 freestyle time at last years’ Big Ten Championships.

The program adds a total of nine new faces this upcoming season. Head coach Sue Novitsky believes that the incoming recruits will yield positive results in and out of the pool.

“As a staff, we feel that we added to the talent level of the recruits that we signed in the fall,” Novitsky said. “They have had success at the high school, club, collegiate and national level. As a group, they are hard workers in the pool and in the classroom. Their work ethic and individual personalities will be assets to the team.”

Senior Jennifer Coady can’t wait to see if the teams’ summer of hard work will pay off. After two straight seasons that have resulted in a 12th-place finish in the Big Ten, the Illini can only go up.

“The summer is really great,” Coady said. “I’ve stayed every summer since the summer after my freshman year.  I really like it, it’s a smaller group of people so you’re able to pay attention to more details. We still practice two times each day, so we’re still practicing a lot, then we also swim one meet at the end of the summer at Purdue, so we’re excited to see how we do at that meet.”

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The team’s schedule has not been released as of Aug. 17