Katie Theissen moved into fifth place on Illinois' all-time best times list in the 200 IM on Thursday.
Feb. 22, 2008
COLUMBUS, OHIO - The Illinois' swimming and diving team started off the 2008 Big Ten Championships with a bang during the first day of action at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, Thursday. Michigan leads with 182 points, while the Illini currently sit in eleventh place with two days of competition remaining.
On a day when three Big Ten records were broken, Illini swimmers proved they were up to the challenge. Fourteen swimmers finished with career best times in preliminary races. In total, eighteen Illinois athletes captured season best times in their events.
"I thought we executed the best we have all season," head coach Sue Novitsky said. "One of our team goals is to put the pieces together to have a complete meet, so we did a good job of starting out strong today."
Three Illini juniors: Marissa Clapp, Lindsey Shirley and Katie Theissen earned second swims in the night's finals session. In the 200 IM bonus final, Clapp swam to a second place finish, while Theissen took eighth. Shirley, too, nabbed eighth place in the 500 Free bonus final.
Theissen's time of 2:03.89 in prelims was almost two full seconds fasterthan her previous career best and moved her into fourth place on Illinois all-time best times list.
"I have a tendency to get really nervous for Big Tens," Theissen said. "Coach Farnau and I talked earlier this week about staying in my stroke. I followed his advice and was able put together a solid race."
Clapp rebounded from an uncharacteristic preliminary swim to end the day as the Orange and Blue's top finisher.
"I just decided to go out, relax and swim," Clapp said. "In the morning session, I was spinning my stroke too much and wore out quickly. Tonight, I just went out and swam with a clear head."
Opposite of Clapp, Shirley continued to improve her 500 Free time in the preliminary session. With her time of 4:55.53, she increased her eighth fastest all-time best time in school history, now just 4 one hundredths of a second away from seventh place. However, she knows she could go faster.
"I was hoping to go a lot faster today," Shirley said. "I have been a little under the weather, but need to stay mentally tough to be prepared for the rest of the meet."
Sophomore Kristen Kloeckener impressed fans in attendance with another strong Illini performance in the 500 Free. She swam a 4:59.14 in her 500 Free heat, a full seven seconds faster than her previous season best time.
"After our team meeting the other night, I felt really confident stepping up to the blocks," Kloeckener said. "Coach Novitsky has a ton of confidence in us and with her support I knew I could do it."
The depth and strength of the Big Ten Conference was on display with tight races throughout the day. With five top twenty-five teams competing the final two days of competition should be fierce.
"Every event today was significantly faster than any previous Big Ten Championship," Novitsky said. "This is a very intimidating environment and it's exciting for our team to face this level of competition."
Big Ten Championship action continues Friday with preliminaries starting at 10 a.m. and finals to follow at 5:30 p.m. Fans can keep track of the Illini throughout the day with Livestats at the following link 2008 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. FightingIllini.com will provide a full recap at the conclusion of the day's events.