Swimmers ready to dive in to competition

In most sports every game or meet is scored the same way, played the same way, coached the same way. However, this is not the case for the Illinois swimming and diving team at this weekend’s Big Ten Quad Duals in Madison, Wis.

This meet, with events on Friday and Saturday, is not set up like other meets the Illini have competed in this year. The scoring system for the Quad Duals is a combination of a regular dual meet, in which two opponents square off head to head, and a multiple-team invitational, in which all teams compete against one another.

“There are four teams, and we all swim at the same time, but they’re still scored as separate meets (against each team),” said head coach Sue Novitsky. “It’s hard to know when you’re going through the events how you’re doing against the other teams.”

The three other teams in the meet — Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue — are all ranked in the top 25 and will be a good challenge before the Big Ten Championships.

“Minnesota is No. 10, Wisconsin No. 17, and Purdue is No. 22, so it’s good tough competition” said Novitsky. “It’s a good opportunity for us. It’s a good chance to see other people in the conference and not go into the Big Tens with too much confidence or feeling overwhelmed.”

The athletes also feel this meet will be a good warmup for the Big Tens.

“It’s a good rehearsal for the end-of-the-season championships and it will build some confidence for our team,” said junior swimmer Meghan Mason.

Going into to the last stretch of the season, Novitsky hopes that the Illini can build momentum with a strong performance this weekend.

“We want to race well,” Novitsky said. “Whether we win or not, we still want to swim good races and smart races.”

Novitsky believes the key to swimming well will be in how her team starts.

“As a team I don’t know if we’ve put together a full, solid meet yet,” Novitsky said. “We need to get off to a good start, get ourselves ready to go right from the start.”

Although performing well this weekend is important, Novitsky doesn’t want to overexert the athletes.

“We’re meeting with (the team) and going over how we’re going to reduce their volume and take some mornings off,” Novitsky said. “They’re excited about that.”

For the athletes the most difficult practices are over, and now they are instead focusing on the smaller details.

“We’ve done all the grinding and hard work, now it’s just fine tuning,” said Mason.

Last weekend’s win over Illinois State was the final home meet of the season for the Illini, whose remaining meets are in Madison, Wisc., Minneapolis, Minn., and West Lafayette, Ind.

“All the training we’ve done this season has prepared us for the traveling,” said senior swimmer Kristen Kloeckener.

Staying focused throughout entire meets has been a consistent problem for the Illini this season.

“Its’ something we’ll hit on before the competition,” Novitsky said. “This will be a good test to see if we can maintain focus.”