Swimmers end on high note heading into Big Ten Championships

Regardless of the sport, every athlete’s dream is to go out on top, to end their career with a peak performance. At this weekend’s Minnesota Challenge, Illini senior swimmer Courtney Spivak couldn’t have ended her career any better, setting lifetime bests in the 200 fly (2:14.38) and 200 free (2:00.30).

“It was kind of nerve-racking going in knowing it was my last meet,” Spivak said. “But because it was my last time, it helped me relax and stay calm. There was no pressure, so I could just have fun. It was extremely rewarding.”

Spivak wasn’t the only Illini to have a big day. Senior Morgan Gilman was the top Illini in three different events — the 100 fly, 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke.

Not to be outdone, the divers also performed well. Sophomore Britni Fisher won the three-meter dive with a score of 297.60, moving her up to third on the all-time list, and freshman diver Tessa Adams finished in second place in the one-meter dive, scoring 249.20.

“(Diving coach Chris Waters) was happy with how they performed,” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “They kept their composure. It’s good to get as much experience as possible heading into the Big Ten Championships.”

Going into the meet, Novitsky wasn’t sure of which or how many teams were going to be there, and even after the meet, she still was unsure about which schools were there.

“We were still trying to figure that out,” Novitsky said. “There were about 15, all varying sizes. Minnesota and some smaller Minnesota schools — Wisconsin schools too. There were a lot of people.”

Last weekend, the Illini faced Minnesota, losing 235-95. Coming back to compete against the Gophers again this weekend required the team to pull together.

“As a team we did really well and just came together — everybody was cheering each other on,” senior diver Nikki Spillone said.

Along with banding together, the Illini also had to work on maintaining their focus throughout the meet. For this weekend’s meet, the team only took five swimmers and five divers, which in turn limited the number of distractions for the athletes.

“We had to keep our focus, which has been one of our problems, and knowing that going in really helped our girls,” Spivak said.

This was the second week in a row the Illini have traveled out of state for a meet. And while this may possibly have an effect on the younger athletes, the older swimmers feel they are much more adept at handling the travel.

“It doesn’t really affect us,” Spivak said. “We’ve done long bus trips before. We’ve gotten used to it because of all those years with no home pool.”

Novitsky also believes that the travel shouldn’t affect the team.

“Sitting on a bus is tiring, but (the athletes) make sure they do get ample recovery time and just be smart about their schedule,” Novitsky said.

After having meets nearly every weekend for more than a month, the Illini now have a two-week break before the start of Big Ten and NCAA championship meets.

“We set up the spring semester so we have a lot of races and meets, having some time to recover physically and mentally and amp up before the Big Tens,” Novitsky said.