Strong performances push Illini past Cornhuskers for first win of season

Senior+Jimena+Martinez+swims+freestyle+during+the+meet+against+Nebraska+on+Saturday.

Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Senior Jimena Martinez swims freestyle during the meet against Nebraska on Saturday.

By Renato Arteaga, Staff Writer

The Illini women’s swimming and diving team defeated Nebraska, 164-136, their first victory over the Cornhuskers in nearly six years.

The Illini started off strong in the first event of the meet, the 200m medley relay race, where sophomore Athena Salafatinos, junior Abby Cabush and freshmen Emily Bolger and Laurel Bludgen immediately took the lead for the Illini in their first-place finish with a time of 1:46.20.

This first win was a huge momentum booster and helped set the tone for the meet, according to Cabush.

“That relay in the past has been able to set that whole tone of the meet, and this is one of the first times I’ve been a part of this relay, so that was a lot of fun,” Cabush said. “I know our coach really hyped us beforehand and the whole team followed suit. After that relay everyone knew we did really well, so the individuals could do well as well.”

Freshmen Cara Bognar and Lily Olson earned a few first-place victories in their individual events and provided crucial points that helped the Illini gain the victory.

Bognar finished first in the 200-yard butterfly, 500-yard freestyle and 400-yard individual medley with times of 2:03.62, 4:59.26 and 4:27.75, respectively. Olson also finished first in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly with times of 24.36 and 57.05 seconds, respectively.

Bludgen added on a second-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.41 seconds and a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 53.29 seconds.

Head coach Sue Notvitsky mentioned how exciting it will be to coach these younger freshmen that stepped up this meet because of how much better they know they can be.

“It’s exciting. They’re working hard,” she said. “They’re battling and doing their thing and not getting knocked around by what everyone else is doing in their race.”

Cabush also added on a couple first-place victories in the 200-yard and 100-yard freestyle races with times of 1:52.11 and 51.91, respectively.

Cabush’s performance today helped add 40 points toward the Illini’s total score, and she recognised that the team’s practice really helped her prepare for these races.

“These past couple of weeks we’ve had double practices everyday and that’s been a big part in helping us practicing and recovering for races,” Cabush said. “I think it’s just swimming for the team, knowing that even if you’re halfway done with your races that day that you have two more and those points still matter and the other team is still working hard.”

Toward the end of the meet Nebraska was on the verge of taking the lead after the fourteenth event where the Illini led 136-128 with only two races remaining.

The 400-yard freestyle relay team consisting of Olson, Cabush, Bludgen and sophomore Isabella Guerra helped seal the deal for the Illini with their first-place finish with a time of 3:30.85.

The Illini will have a week off from competitions before heading to Madison, Wisconsin, for their next duel meet, meaning they will have a week full of training and adjustments for all of the athletes that resume school again.

“I keep reminding them that every week we have to do something to make sure we’re getting better each week,” Cabush said. “We’re going to focus on the little details that we’re a lot better today but can still be even better and make sure we’re maintaining our training at the level that it needs to be at.”

Illinois will face Wisconsin and Northwestern on Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. central time.

 

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