No tower erases high hopes for Illinois diving

By Drake Pena

The University of Illinois diving team has helped Illinois
aquatics start the season off with a 7-1 record, the team’s best start since 2010-2011.
The Illini managed to do this, even with the lack of a diving platform, a
near essential for most diving teams.

“The (divers) who do tower, I take to (practice diving at) Purdue at the moment,” said diving coach Chris Waters.

Since traveling to Purdue every day is not realistic, Waters
relies on other methods and techniques to keep his team ready to go. These
involve video monitoring systems that allow the divers to watch their form and
technique and a harness system that, with the help of a trampoline, helps
simulate real-time diving.

Waters said he believes that having a tower at the ARC would make a
huge difference, especially in the recruiting of future Illini.

“It would make a huge difference, especially in recruiting,”
Waters said. “People who want to dive tower would know they can train more than
once a week. It might help me draw some kids in who I’m not able to get right now.”

Stratford becoming
face of the team

Sophomore Samantha Stratford has been off to a sensational start
so far this season.

On the year, Stratford has recorded 13 first place finishes
in her 15 individual events of the season. In addition to this, Stratford has
set several pool records, and brought home one Big-Ten Co-Swimmer of
the week award.

“I just keep practicing really hard, focusing on small
details during practice, and taking it one race at a time,” Stratford said. “We
all work really hard, and we all push each other during practice, and everyone
feeds off of it.”

Stratford entered this season with high expectations,
following her stellar freshman year which included swimming four individual
performances that rank on the school’s all-time top-10 and being part of two
school-record relays. The departure of Illinois’ great Alison Meng did
nothing to temper the already high hopes for Stratford.

Illinois gets some
SEC competition

The swimming and diving team will face some unfamiliar foes
this season. The divers will head to Athens, Georgia for a diving meet versus the
University of Georgia Jan. 3.

Then on Jan. 30, both the swimming and diving teams will head
to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for their regular season finale versus the University
of Arkansas. Besides being SEC competition, which provides for solid out of
conference completion, the Arkansas meet will prove beneficial for another
reason as well: both teams are women’s-only programs.

“Arkansas is a woman’s-only program as well, and sometimes
it can be challenging for us to get some meets,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “So
to be able to compete against somebody in the SEC is a good level of competition
for us, and it’s an opportunity we want to take advantage of.”

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