Feb. 15, 2000
It comes down to three days of competition for the University of Illinois swimming and diving in Indianapolis, Ind. this week.
The Big Ten Championships get underway on Thursday and run through Saturday with Illinois looking to better its sixth-place finish from a year ago. The Fighting Illini, now 8-5 on the year and 3-1 in the conference, scored all but one of the team's best times at the league championships last year, where Minnesota ended Michigan's 12-year dominance by winning the title. The schedule of events includes preliminaries at 11 a.m., diving at 1 p.m. and finals at 7 p.m. each day.
"I think we have to perform at a higher level than last year, and we will need 12 to 15 individuals to score," Head Coach Jim Lutz said. "To move up from sixth and not fall any spots, it will take a total team effort."
The Illini found success over two Big Ten schools in their last meet, the Big Ten Quad in Minneapolis, Minn., Jan. 28-29. After struggling on the first day, Illinois responded to defeat No. 13 Wisconsin 176-174 and Purdue 202-150. The Illini took a 224-128 loss to Minnesota.
"We had people step up and compete in that meet," Lutz said. "We combined both aspects of racing very well and that taught us a very good lesson, which will serve us well this week in the prelims and finals."
The veterans of the Illini are pacing the squad going into the championships. Anna Christiansen, who qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympic Trials in the 400 individual medley, set a personal best in the event with a time of 4:18.47. The junior placed fourth in the 200 breaststroke and seventh in the 400 IM at last year's meet. Senior Traci Bollinger recorded a personal best this season in the 100 freestyle, in 50.42, and also owns the team's best time in the 50 free at 23.54.
Senior Emily Wang and sophomore Jessica Aveyard rank first and second for the Illini in the 200 free, in 1:50.48 and 1:50.61, respectively. Aveyard clocked her best time in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:00.06.
The relays are always strong for the Illini at the championships, setting three school records last year. Bollinger and Wang teamed with juniors Molly Busch and Colleen Farrell to set the 200 free relay with a time of 1:34.16. Bollinger and Busch swam a 1:44.23 with senior Betsy Nagel and junior Darcy Adler to establish the 200 medley relay mark. Adler, Bollinger and Wang are remains from last year's 400 medley relay team, who set the school record in 3:46.38.