Illini Set for Big Ten Championships
Feb. 19, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team (2-7) returns to action this week for the 2013 Big Ten Championships, hosted by defending champion Minnesota, Feb. 20-23 in Minneapolis. Action begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. CT, and the final three days of competition feature both morning and night sessions.
"The team has done a nice job with its preparation heading into the Big Ten Championships," Illini head coach Sue Novitsky said. "The athletes have their race plans and have been using the meets as well as practice to continue to refine each part of the plan to make it as automatic as possible. Each day provides a chance to get better, and I feel that we have done a good job of taking advantage of those opportunities. The team has put in a lot of work, and now the girls are earning their rest and allowing their bodies and minds to recover and rebuild for the Big Ten Championships."
The Illini are set to compete against seven nationally ranked teams, including No. 13 Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota, which are tied for 16th, No. 19 Wisconsin, No. 21 Ohio State, No. 24 Penn State and No. 25 Purdue. The Illini secured a victory over Michigan State earlier this season but were defeated by Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern, Iowa and Nebraska.
Sophomore Alison Meng leads the Orange and Blue with nine individual wins this season, including six in the 100 back. Senior Kathleen Knight and junior Erica Lynn are tied for second on the team with eight individual first-place finishes apiece. In diving, senior Darragh McDermott leads the Illini with seven top-three finishes, including two wins in the one-meter dive.
Despite finishing 10th at last year's Big Ten Championships, several Illini induced changes to the school record book. Senior Erin Rodriguez set a school record in the 200 fly (2:01.72), while Meng broke the school record in the 50 back (25.88). The team of Meng, junior Courtney Pope and former Illini swimmers April McKee and Brittany McGowan also set a school record after clocking a 1:41.94 in the 200 medley relay.
"The Big Ten is one of the top swimming and diving conferences in the country," Novitsky said. "It is an exciting and tremendous opportunity to be able to compete against some of the best athletes. I believe that competing against the best can bring out breakthrough performances. Each person at the meet still has to step up and perform on that given day, and that just opens the door for some courageous battles to get to the finals."