Illinois swim and dive start strong in season opener against Indiana State

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The Illinois Swim and Dive Team kicked off their 2021-2022 season on the road against the Indiana State Sycamores in Terre Haute, Indiana, a location familiar to many seniors from the team.

“It’s funny because our first meeting as a freshman was in Indiana State, and the circle has come full circle with our last first meeting here as well,” said Lauren Partridge.

Although the first taste of the Illini competition took place on Homecoming weekend with the annual Blue and Orange intra-team meet on October 9, the team was eager to start the competition.

“I think they’re excited,” said head coach Sue Novitsky. “It’s a combination of nervous energy and excitement. They are ready to face someone different from them.

After last year’s frenetic, messy and shortened season, Novitsky saw a positive opportunity in the season for improvements.

“Everything was going to be different, so it was important for us to use that time to be productive,” Novitsky said. “This allowed us to reset. We asked the team this year, “When we go up against someone, how do you want that opposing team to characterize you? The first three words they found were competitive, confident and united and that’s what we tried to perfect as a team.

That competitiveness, confidence and unity were put to the test immediately as Indiana State came out on top with a 0.04 second win to start the competition in the 100 backstroke. The Illini, however, showed their resilience with the victory of junior Kaleigh Haworth in the 100-yard breaststroke.

“We stay together as a team, we fight for each other, we make up for it if we have to,” Novitsky said.

And that’s what the Illini did.

After starting 1-2 in the first three events, Illinois won 11 of the following 12 events, starting a seven-game winning streak, followed shortly after by a four-game winning streak.

“The team brought a lot of energy from start to finish,” said rookie Molly Yetter. “That was one of the big things we insisted on after the Orange and Blue meeting last week. I think everyone stood up for every event and ran as hard as they could, a ran the person next to them.

The Illini defeated Indiana State, 184.5-98.5, to start the young season 1-0, with the team, fueled by Sydney Stoll’s first-place wins in the 1,000-yard freestyle, Abby Cabush’s dominant victory in the 500-yard free style and strong performances from Yetter in the 100 and 200 yard free styles.

The victory was also supported by the diving team, filling the top three spots for their two events and a thrilling final victory by Cabush, sophomores Laurel Bludgen and Lily Olson and Yetter in the 400-yard freestyle relay. .

Throughout the encounter, as the Illini stumbled upon an event, seasoned upper class students would step out and bring the contest back in favor of Illinois.

“Our senior class is doing a really good job of guiding the team,” Novitsky said. “These are the ones people are going to be looking at.”

The Illini will hit the road back to Evanston, Ill. For a triple game against the University of Illinois Chicago and Northwestern on Oct. 23 at 11 a.m.

@ JonathanAlday7

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