Swimming and diving finishes last at Big Tens

After a season of build-up, the Illinois swimming and diving team’s expectations going into the Big Ten Championships last weekend were somewhat high.

However, the Illini, who finished 11th at last year’s meet, scored just 51 points en route to another 11th-place finish.

“As a coach, I don’t know if you ever really meet the expectations you set (for the team),” head coach Sue Novitsky said. “We were a little bit up-and-down throughout the course of the meet. I think we could’ve been a little bit better.”

Some of the older swimmers agreed that the team as a whole didn’t compete as well as it expected.

“I think we always want to be able to perform better,” said senior swimmer Kristen Kloeckener. “You just have to have no regrets, that’s all you can do.”

The Illini finished in last place with 51 points, while Big Ten champion Indiana won with a total of 758 in a meet held in West Lafayette, Ind.

The team did, however, have a few bright spots.

Sophomore diver Britni Fisher became the first diver in more than 10 years to score points for the Illini in the Big Ten Championships, and senior Jen Ivarson tied the school record in the 200 butterfly.

Sophomore Brittany McGowan had a career week, swimming three lifetime bests and setting a school record in the 50 butterfly.

“This year was probably the hardest working year I’ve had, so I was expecting to get my best times,” McGowan said.

All season long, the Illini have had trouble staying focused throughout entire meets, and with the Big Tens being their largest and by far most important meet of the season, maintaining their focus was challenging but critical.

“They know what they were there for,” Novitsky said. “They had to stay in the meet and get themselves ready to swim each of their races. From where we were at the beginning of the season to now, (our focus) has improved a lot.”

Because this meet was the focal point of the season, the atmosphere surrounding it was unlike anything the team has seen this season.

“It definitely affects them, especially the freshmen,” Novitsky said.

“They have to experience a very emotionally charged event. It can be very exhausting. It’s all about learning how to control and conserve energy. Like everything else, it just takes practice,” she said.

The atmosphere of the meet can also attributed to the athletes being a little anxious before it started.

“Oh yeah, they were very nervous,” Novitsky said. “It comes with the environment and wanting to do so well. It’s part of being an athlete and learning to use that to help you perform better.”

Over the past few weeks, the coaches have been gradually reducing the team’s workload to get ready for the Big Tens and give the team an added energy boost.

“It definitely helps the body recover,” Novitsky said. “We can take a couple days and see how we need to fine tune.”