Nov. 20, 2000
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois women's swimming and diving head coach Sue Novitsky announced today that three of the state's top swimmers have signed national letters of intent to compete for the Fighting Illini starting in the fall of 2001. This is Novitsky's first recruiting class as the head coach of the Illinois program.
Amy Downing is a freestyle and backstroke specialist from Guilford High School in Rockford, Ill. She has qualified for the state meet in the 200 freestyle all four years of high school. She earned All-State honors in 1999 after finishing fifth in the event at the state championships. She competed in four events at the recent high school state championships finishing ninth in the 200 free, eighth in the 500 free, 11th in the 200 free relay and seventh in the 400 free relay. Downing is ranked No. 1 in her class and would like to be a doctor. Both of her parents, Scott and Cathy, are UI graduates.
"I am very excited about the opportunity to work with Amy, and I feel that she is going to come in and help us right away," Novitsky said. "Amy will add quality to the middle distance freestyle group. Her relay splits are consistently a lot faster than her flat start times. We are working on getting athletes who love to swim on relays. She loves to compete, and that is a quality that I look for in athletes. She needs to develop more strength to go with her height (6')."
Kirsten Koepcke was the MVP of her DeKalb High School team her sophomore year. The DeKalb native set school records in the 200 and 500 freestyle her junior year en route to a second consecutive MVP Award. In the recent state meet she finish 17th in the 200 free and ninth in the 500 free. She also competed for a YMCA squad placing in both the long and short course championships in 2000. Kirsten is interested in studying journalism and is currently the photo editor of her school paper.
"Kirsten will also have an immediate impact on the freestyle group. She is a very aggressive racer who does not like to lose," Novitsky said. "Kirsten will swim the 200 freestyle on up to the 1650. She likes to train hard and get the work done. Kirsten has also started to develop in the past few years, dropping 17 seconds off of her 500 free time from her sophomore to her junior year. I feel that she has a lot more to give and is not even close to reaching her full potential in competition."
Mary Catherine Nowak swam two career-best times at the recent state meet. She finished 15th in the 200 freestyle with a career best of 1:56.26. She took 11th in the 500 freestyle in a time of 5:09.67. Her squad also recorded sixth and eighth place finishes in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. The 2000 Waubonsie Valley High School team captain has been a state qualifier and an All-Conference honoree since her sophomore year. Mary Catherine, a native of Aurora, Ill., is in the top 3 % of her class and is interested in studying chemistry, chemical engineering or biochemistry.
"Mary has only been swimming for a short period of time (four years) and that will be to her advantage," Novitsky said. "She has come a long way in a short period of time. Mary is not afraid to go out after the race and is very tenacious coming home to the finish."
As a whole, Novitsky is confident about the qualities the recruits will bring to the program. "To have a good team you need a quality freestyle group. These three athletes fit that bill. All three love to race and compete and most important do not like to lose. That is a very special quality to find in athletes. All three have the opportunity to come in and earn spots on our relays."