Barbie Viney and Meghan Farrell look to revisit the medal stand at this year's Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis on Feb. 8-10.
Feb. 5, 2007
When the Fighting Illini women's swimming and diving team hits the water in the 2007 Big Ten Championships hosted by the University of Minnesota on Feb. 8-10, it will have been three weeks since Illinois closed its regular season with a victory in Iowa City.
Since the regular-season finale, the Orange and Blue have been working on balancing rest and practice and are prepared to make a spirited return to the event where the squad reached its peak one year ago.
"It's definitely good motivation, going into Big Tens on a high note," head coach Sue Novitsky said. "That's something that I really wanted to have happen with that - to finish off on a good note and carry that team success into our break, leading into the Big Ten Championships."
The team's current reduced load as far as total yardage gives the athletes a chance to physically and mentally replenish their bodies from the long hours of daily training. Until the conference championship starts, the team concentrates more on fitness and speed than on building endurance, which increased throughout the season.
"You can definitely tell they're resting because they start to get a little crazy this time of the year," Novitsky said. "They have a lot more energy so they're bouncing around, they're bouncing off the walls. It drives the coaches crazy, but it's always a good sign that they're starting to get rested and ready to go."
Led by a class of eight seniors, including Meghan Farrell and Barbie Viney, 18 UI swimmers and divers revisit the conference championships after tying or surpassing 12 marks in the Illinois record books at the 2006 Big Ten Championships.
Last year, Farrell's accolades included being part of a season-best time in the 200 medley relay, where her 26.69 split was the second-fastest in school history, and swimming on a school record-setting 400 free relay. The senior also placed fourth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 free at the Big Ten Championships with an NCAA `B' cut time last season.
Viney became the Orange and Blue's first conference champion since 1982 when she captured the 100 free title with a time of 49.12 and set another Illinois school record in the 200 free to make an NCAA `B' cut in 1:48.16.
"It helps out a lot having Barbie (Viney) and Meghan Farrell and our senior class," Novitsky said. "They've been through a lot, so they know what to expect. I know most of the freshmen have probably been peppering them with questions about what it's like. (The seniors) always get excited this time of year. They expect to swim fast at this time of year."
It is important to realize, however, that expectations are one thing. Getting results is another, and that takes constant focus and intensity.
"There are so many great athletes in this conference that you have to be able to put together six complete sessions," the head coach said. "What I'm looking for is taking one session at a time and being able to come back and recover from session to session with the same amount of intensity and focus that we bring to that very first one."
Whether a swimmer is the 100 free defending champion like Viney or looking to surpass last season's showing, one idea is certain - last year likely will have little bearing on 2007.
"You look at it and you can say, `Well, I did this last year,' but it's a new year," Novitsky said. "There's different freshmen in the conference, there's different people in the conference. I can't control what the other 10 teams do. I can only control how we're preparing."
Together, Viney and the rest of her teammates will put the preparation into action on Thursday.