Illini Conclude Big Ten Championships
Feb. 19, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team ended the final day of the Big Ten Championships in 10th place (84 points). Sophomore Jessica Holz and junior Erin Rodriguez each earned second swims for the Orange and Blue and climbed Illinois' all-time fastest performance list, while the 400 free relay team broke the school record to earn 10th place overall for the Illini.
"We had a pretty good day today," head coach Sue Novitsky said. "We have a flair for the dramatic. Nebraska pulled ahead after platform diving, so we were behind going into the final relay. We knew we had to beat Nebraska to tie or pull ahead of them. It was an exciting relay, and both teams swam really well. Breaking two school records was very exciting for the team, and it just shows that when we put a good team together and get everyone working toward the same thing, we can achieve our goals."
Minnesota won its first Big Ten Championship since 2008 with 680.5 points. Indiana finished second (651), followed by Ohio State (560), Wisconsin (411), Penn State (379.5), Purdue (285), Northwestern (258), Michigan (241), Iowa (201), Illinois (84), Nebraska (82) and Michigan State (65).
Holz started off the final day of action with a personal best (2:00.14) in the 200 back, earning a second swim and improving her time as the fifth-fastest Illini to swim the event in school history. Holz placed 23rd in the finals, swimming the second-fastest time (2:00.72) of the season for the Illini.
Rodriguez swam a personal-best 2:01.72 in the 200 fly, earning a spot in the finals with the fastest 200 fly performance in school history. In the finals, Rodriguez also finished 23rd with a time of 2:03.17.
Sophomore Courtney Pope, senior Kristen Manias, Holz and senior Brittany McGowan swam the fastest 400 free relay in school history with a time of 3:21.83, earning the only points of the day for the Illini. Pope highlighted the relay with a leadoff split of 50.46, making her the third-fastest Illini to swim the event all-time.
In prelims, McGowan led the Illini with a personal best in the 100 free (50.64), becoming the fourth-fastest individual to swim the event in school history. Freshman Megan Marchuk (52.62) also swam a personal best, while Manias (51.46), senior Kelly Kunkel (52.46) and junior Kim Kalenda (52.65) recorded season bests in the event.
In the 200 back prelims, freshman Alison Meng became the eighth-fastest individual to swim the event in school history with a personal-best time of 2:02.71, while classmates Mary Beth Howard (2:05.06) and Alexa Chavez (2:06.05) also recorded personal bests, and senior Torrey Loper swam a season-best 2:05.02.
Junior Sarah Coady led the Illini in the 200 breast prelims, becoming the 10th-fastest individual to swim the event in Illini history with a personal-best time of 2:19.87, which also leads the team this season. Meanwhile, senior Rachel Japp Joyce earned a personal best (2:21.32) and classmate April McKee swam a season best (2:21.32) in that event.
In the 200 fly prelims, junior Kathleen Knight swam a personal-best 2:02.70, making her the sixth-fastest Illini to swim the event all-time, while sophomore Emma Williams (2:06.69) and freshman Hailey Booth (2:05.51) each recorded personal bests in the event.
During the evening session, freshman Kayla Dlugopolski led the Illini in the 1650 free, swimming a personal-best 17:11.73.
"We had a lot of positives throughout the course of the weekend," Novitsky said. "There are always things that we know we need to work on, but I think as an overall performance, it was good. As a group, they were very determined to move up in the standings and improve in the Big Ten, so I think this is a step in the right direction for us. We made a lot of big strides this weekend, with changes all over the record books, so that's always a good thing."
The Big Ten Championships marked the final full-team competition of the season for the Orange and Blue. Individual swimmers will return to action next weekend at the Last Chance Meet, hosted by Purdue on Saturday, Feb. 25.