Illinois swimmers and divers fine tuning before Big Tens

Usually when a team prepares for a game or meet it knows who exactly its going to be facing and will have more than likely done a little scouting to learn more about them. This, for multiple reasons, is not at all the case for the Illinois swimming and diving team at the Minnesota Challenge, in Minneapolis, Minn., this weekend.

“Other than Minnesota I don’t really know all the teams that are going to be in it,” head coach Sue Novitsky said.

Much like last week at the Big Ten Quad Duals, the format of the meet is completely different from anything the Illini have seen this season. Instead of being about how well the team as a whole does, the scoring system is entirely individual based.

“There are no team scores,” Novitsky said. “There are only timed finals (for the individuals). Competing one-on-one with the people you’re swimming against allows people to get their best times and results.”

The Illini will only be taking five swimmers — seniors Courtney Spivak and Morgan Gillman, junior Lauren Frendreis and Sarah Stoneburg, and freshman Paige Wachhloz — and five divers — senior Nikki Spillone, sophomore Britni Fisher, and freshmen Darragh McDermott, Keri Eberhart, and Tessa Adams.

“This is an opportunity for them to put together some good smart races and try reach their season goals,” Novitsky said.

For the five divers competing this weekend, this meet will be a final chance before the end-of-the-season tournaments to fine-tune their dives.

“It’s another chance for them to work on their consistency,” Novitsky said. “It’s another opportunity to go through their list of dives and learn how to get yourself and calm yourself back down.”

Because the majority of the Illini will not be competing in Minnesota, they are starting to take more time off in preparation for the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Championship meets.

“They’re resting more, taking some mornings off and some days not having (two practices),” Novitsky said. “During a normal day they would be in the weight room for an hour, swim for an hour, take a break, then swim 7,000 yards. But now they may lift for 15 minutes, or not lift at all, and then swim only 5,000 yards.”

Even the swimmers and divers who are going this weekend are getting a reduced workload.

“It’s nice, but I like the hard work,” Gillman said. “Overall, it’s nice to get more rest and relax.”

Last weekend the Illini competed against nationally ranked Minnesota, losing 235-95. After losing by such a wide margin, the team had to find a way to remotivate itself for this weekend’s meet.

“Usually we bounce back pretty well,” Spivak said. “We’re a pretty close team. We sat down and highlighted the positives.”

Although it won’t be the entire team competing this weekend, seeing Minnesota and more competition this close to the Big Ten Championships will help the team as a whole.

“It always helps being up there,” Novitsky said. “We’ll definitely know there are a lot of good swimmers.”