Viney sets out to cap career at NCAA meet

By Meghan Montemurro

After four years of donning the swimsuit and orange swim cap with the words Illinois written across them, senior Barbie Viney will step into the pool and swim competitively for the last time. Viney won’t be leaving quietly, though, she will be competing on the grand stage in the NCAA Championships meet.

Viney will be racing in three events this weekend – 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and 200-meter freestyle, in which she is seeded 54th, 17th and 34th, respectively.

This is Viney’s third appearance at the NCAA Championships meet after making it her sophomore and junior seasons.

Illinois head coach Sue Novitsky said Viney has the best chance to finish near the top 16 in the 100-meter freestyle, Viney’s favorite event, because of her high seeding, and finish her senior year with a bang.

“The expectations are the same for every competition our athletes compete in,” Novitsky said. “I expect her (Viney) to go in and race with intensity and focus.”

Viney said she feels like she has the opportunity to finish in the top eight in the 100-meter freestyle race and looks to build on past times in the 50-meter and 200-meter freestyle events.

Associate head coach Steve Farnau said Viney has really progressed from her freshman year when she was first getting used to the transition from high school to college swimming, academics and being away from home.

“She was obviously very talented when she got here,” Farnau said. “Once she managed to get all of that stuff figured out, everything else with swimming just started to happen.”

Farnau said when Viney’s sophomore campaign began, huge leaps and strides were evident in her swimming from the year before, and the results have improved even more during this season. Farnau added that Viney has become very consistent, though she did face a setback last season after suffering a severe injury following the Big Ten Championships before heading to the NCAA Championships.

For her last meet as a member of the Illinois swim team, Farnau said he hopes Viney goes and swims her best races of the year to cap off a successful career and have the opportunity to be crowned All-American.

“I think she has the capability to set school records,” Farnau said. “I’d love to see her get a second swim and be able to swim in the finals at night.”

With the end in sight, Farnau said Viney has exceeded what coaches, friends and family thought her to be capable of as a collegiate athlete.

“She has definitely done a great job in maximizing her talent and ability,” Farnau said. “As she started to get better after her sophomore year, there was no reason to think she couldn’t win.”

Viney had success in high school, winning the state championship four times in Kentucky.

The transition to college swimming, in which the competition performs at a higher level, Farnau said Viney never failed to achieve and go beyond the level of expectation placed on her by the coaching staff.

Viney said she is pleased with her swim career at Illinois and how her times have continued to improve over her four years. Despite her tremendous success, Viney has remained humble and kept her victories in perspective.

“We’ve been very lucky to have her on the team,” Farnau said. “Not only is she very talented, but she has been an amazing teammate and has taken care of her team.”

Viney said she is excited and grateful for the chance to go back to the NCAA Championships and see how she can finish her career.

“It gives me the chance one more time to see what I have left and give it my all,” Viney said.

As Viney reflected on her career as an Illini swimmer, she said one of the moments out of four years that stood out for her was winning the 100-meter freestyle event at the Big Ten Championships her junior year.

Looking back at her senior season, Viney is pleased and said it has gone very well, considering the obstacles the team has had to overcome.

“Those obstacles had a chance to tear a team apart,” Viney said. “We came together closer and became a better team because of it.”

With the swimming chapter of her life coming to a close, Viney looks ahead to the future after the NCAA Championships. Viney will be staying on campus during the summer for an internship at the Hilton Garden Inn on Neil Street and plans to transition to the coaching side of swimming at Illinois in the fall.

“I’ll get to spend more time with Sue (Novitsky) and Steve (Farnau) and become an assistant coach with them,” Viney said.

For Viney, the results of the next four days will solidify her place in Illinois swimming history as a leader who silenced the doubters and became one of the best.