Stecker Highlights Day Two of Big Ten Championships
Feb. 20, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS - The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team fell to 12th place (36 points) Thursday at the Big Ten Championships, trailing 11th-place Northwestern by nine points. After day two a total of 14 Illini swimmers have posted career-best times.
Freshman Gabbie Stecker was the highlight for the Illini on day two as she swam a personal best and the second fastest time (4:58.53) in school history in the 500 free prelims, becoming the first Illini to qualify for a final event in the 2014 Big Ten Championship. Her swim also placed her second on the all-time fastest individuals list.
Stecker, who placed 18th in the prelims, was less then one second behind 16th place, which would've earned her a spot in the consolation finals and points for the Illini. The Betterndorf, Iowa native would go on to finish in 20th place after swimming a time of 4:49.82, good for the fourth fastest time in Illini history, in her second swim.
"We came back and had a much better day," head coach Sue Novitsky said. "The team was more relaxed and raced tough. Gabbie Stecker earned her first second swim at the championships and she handled it very well. I am very proud of her aggressiveness and willingness to take out her races strong and fight to the finish."
After seven events, Minnesota leads the standings with 258 points followed by Indiana (211), Penn State (157), Ohio State (151), Wisconsin (144), Purdue (138), Michigan (131), Nebraska (81), Iowa (81), Michigan State (47), Northwestern (45) and Illinois (36).
The 200 free relay group of Courtney Pope, Alison Meng, Jessica Holz and Megan Marchuk earned 12 points for the Illini with their 11th place finish. Their time of 1:32.66 was good for a season best time and the eighth fastest time in school history.
In the 500 free prelims, freshman Amelia Schilling became the fifth fastest individual all-time for the Illini and also swam the eighth fastest 500 free in school history with a time of 4:52.11.
In the 200 IM prelims, sophomore Lori Lynn also swam a season best time of 2:04.2, improving her seventh place standing on the all-time fastest individuals list.
Pope also swam a season best time (23.46) in the 50 free prelims.
On the boards, sophomore Jessica Clifford led the Illini with her one-meter dive score of 233.25.
Stecker was the only Illini to qualify for an event final on Thursday.
"We have a very strong day tomorrow with a lot of opportunities in a lot of events," Novitsky said. "The team is doing a great job of staying behind each other and we have really good energy and excitement."
The Orange and Blue will return to action tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. CT.