Illini to face tough competition this weekend
Feb. 19, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team (8-6-1) returns to action this week for the 2014 Big Ten Championships, hosted by defending champion Minnesota, Feb. 19-22 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 next couple of days are going to be very exciting and full of outstanding competition," head coach Sue Novitsky said. "As a team we have continued to mature and gain toughness through out the season. The team has been training well and they are ready to get back and race again."
The Illini are set to compete against seven nationally ranked teams, including No. 11 Indiana, Minnesota, which is tied for 13th, No. 16 Ohio State, No. 18 Purdue, No. 19 Penn State, No. 20 Michigan and No. 25 Wisconsin. The Illini secured a victory over Michigan State earlier this season but were defeated by Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska.
"I am looking for them to have that relaxed calm allowing themselves to do what they have trained for all year," Novistky said. "We have found ourselves in a lot of close meets this year and that experience will help us handle the environment at the meet."
Junior Alison Meng and senior Courtney Pope lead the Orange and Blue this season. Both swimmers have had career best seasons totaling of 10 individual event victories. Along with 16 individual event victories, Meng also broke the school and Arc pool record in the 100 back, while also swimming a NCAA B qualifying time in 100 back this season. Courtney Pope has totaled 11 individual event victories.
Despite finishing tied for 11th at last year's Big Ten Championships, the Illini broke four school records and induced several other changes to the all-time fastest individuals list. The Illini will look to make more changes to the Illinois record books this season with an improved team.