2013-14 Season In Review
July 23, 2014
The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team put together the most wins in a season since the 1999-2000 season, finishing with a dual meet record of 8-6-1. Individually, the squad prompted 17 changes to the all-time fastest individuals list.
The Orange and Blue got off to a solid start, defeating five of its first seven dual opponents. During that stretch the Illini took care of Eastern Michigan, Michigan State, Liberty, Illinois State and Kansas while dropping meets to Northwestern and Oakland on the road.
Illinois' success was not limited to dual meets, however, as the Illini finished second of eight in the Miami (OH) Invitational and claimed at 16-team tournament victory in Puerto Rico during winter training in the 10ma Copa Coqui Invitational.
The Illini continued to ride that momentum on Senior Day when they tied Rutgers (150-150), by rallying to take the top two spots in the final event, the 400 free relay, to remain unbeaten at home. A week later the Illini would secure another dual victory on the road over Iowa State.
The early-season success hit a bump in the road at the Iowa Triple Dual Meet, where the Illini fell to then-No. 21 Missouri, No. 11 Indiana and Iowa. Next, the Illini earned two more home victories over Olivet Nazarene and Southern Illinois before dropping a road meet to Nebraska to round out their dual meet season.
Despite finishing 12th at the Big Ten Championships, the Orange and Blue qualified swimmers to seven event finals, recorded two NCAA B standards and broke six school records.
HOME POOL ADVANTAGE
With dominating wins over Olivet Nazarene (245-50) and Southern Illinois (199.50-96.50) in the last home meet of the season, the Illini secured an impressive unbeaten record at home finishing 4-0-1 in the ARC Pool. Illinois also took care of Illinois State (206-94) and Kansas (186-114), while tying Rutgers.
The Illini dominated in the swimming events at home, claiming victory in 44 of the 56 (.785) events.
RECORDS FALL IN 2013
Illini swimmers broke numerous school records this season and junior Alison Meng had a hand in many of them. Meng's first record this season came at home against Kansas where she swam an ARC Pool record fastest 100 backstroke (55.79). Meng also broke the school record in the 50 back (25.02) and 100 back (53.94) at the Big Ten Championships. The Lodi, Wisconsin native's performance in the 100 back was also a NCAA B qualifying time.
Freshman Gabbie Stecker was the other Illini to take down an individual school record. Stecker's prelim time of 2:00.50 in the 200 butterfly beat the previous record set by Erin Rodriguez (2:01.72) in 2012.
The Orange and Blue also recorded three school records in relay events at the Big Ten Championships. The 200 medley relay team of Meng, Isabella Schamber, Lori Lynn and Megan Marchuk clocked an all-time best (1:41.90). Meng also swam a leg in the 400 medley relay group, along with Erica Lynn, Lori Lynn and Courtney Pope, who achieved a program best (3:42.21). In the 800 freestyle relay, Pope, Stecker, Mary Beth Howard and Marchuk swam an all-time best time of 7:18.82, besting the previous mark by over two seconds.
FRESHMEN STAND OUT
Talented freshmen Gabbie Stecker and Amelia Schilling made a big splash in their first collegiate season. The two combined to claim 13 event victories over the course of the season. Stecker saw her first individual collegiate win come at Michigan State in the 500 free. Stecker would go on to swim the fastest 200 butterfly (2:00.50), 500 (4.48.53) and 1000 (10:10.11) freestyles for the Illini this season. The Bettendorf, Iowa native was rewarded for her success by winning the Newcomer of the Year team award.
Stecker also excelled in her first Big Ten Championships, earning second swim opportunities in the 200 fly, 200 and 500 free. Stecker earned her first points in a Big Ten Championship final with her 15th place finish (2:01.19) in the 200 fly, while her time of 4:48.53 in the 500 free placed her second on Illinois' all-time fastest individuals list.
After three second-place finishes in the first three meets, Schilling earned her first and second collegiate victories against Illinois State in the 1000 and 500 free. Schilling led the Illini with the fastest 200 (1:49.18) and 1650 (16:53.20) freestyles this season. The Shorewood, Minn., native qualified for her first Big Ten championships finals event in the 200 free going on to swim the sixth fastest time (1:49.18) in school history.
Erica Lynn and Courtney Pope both finished off their collegiate careers with strong senior seasons. Lynn earned points at Big Tens with an 11th place finish (2:14.71) in the 200 breaststroke, while her 2:14.38 performance in the prelims moved her third on the all-time fastest individuals list and was a NCAA B qualifying time. Lynn swam the fastest 100 (1:03.46) and 200 (2:14.38) breaststrokes for the Illini this season.
Pope totaled a career best 11 individual event victories, which was the second most by an Illini this season behind Meng (16). Pope also contributed to nearly every top relay performances on the year, including the school record 400 medley and 800 freestyle relays. She also swam a leg in the season-best 200 free relay (1:32.66) and 400 free relay (3:23.36) performances.
The senior duo's accomplishments were later recognized when they each earned the Athlete of the Year team award.
Along with her several record-breaking performances (mentioned above), Meng became the first Illini to earn points in an individual event of the 2014 Big Ten Championships with her 10th place finish in the 100 back (53.94). It was the first points Meng has earned individually at the Big Ten Championships in her collegiate career. Meng, the Most Valuable Swimmer of the Year team award winner, led the Illini with fastest times of the season in the 100 free (50.81), 100 fly (54.69) and the 100 back (53.94).
Other notable swimmers who led the Illini with fastest times this season include Jessica Holz in the 50 free (23.66) and 200 back (2:00.21), Lori Lynn in the 200 IM (2:04.21) and Sarah Sykstus in the 400 IM (4:27.58).
ON THE BOARDS
Freshmen Olivia Kassouni led the Illini with the top three-meter dive with a score of 283.87, while junior Erika Murphy led with the top one-meter dive (276.30). Kassouni's platform dive score of 176.90 placed her third on the all-time top dives list.
CONTINUED ACADEMIC SUCCESS
In the classroom, the Illini swimmers and divers continued the program's tradition of excellence, as the squad earned the Spring 2014 Scholar All-America Team Award and tied the 27th highest GPA (3.47) amongst women's Division I swimming and diving teams.
Four Illini athletes were also awarded individually for their success in the classroom, as Emily Fung, Erica Lynn, Alison Meng and Erika Murphy earned honorable mention Scholar All-America recognition. In addition, the Illini earned 20 2014 Winter Academic All-Big Ten Selections.