Swimming/Diving

2014-15 Fighting Illinois Swimming & Diving Season in Review

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Champaign, Ill. – After posting an 8-6-1 record during the 2013-14 season, the Fighting Illini swimming and diving team finished 2014-15 with a dual meet record of 6-4, giving the program back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.  Individually, the squad prompted 42 changes to the all-time fastest individuals/top dives lists.

The Orange and Blue got off to a .500 start, alternating wins and losses in their first six dual meets. The season began with a 160-140 loss to in-state rival Northwestern but Illinois rebounded with wins over Illinois State (197-102) and Southern Illinois (207.5-91.5) in a double-dual in Normal, Illinois. The Illini then traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, for another double-dual with Kansas and Tabor College, splitting with the two schools. Kansas earned a 154-146 victory over the Orange and Blue in the last event of the dual, while the Illini cruised by Tabor, 254-29. Illinois closed out the first half of its dual meet season with a 157-143 loss at Notre Dame.

Next on the schedule for the Orange and Blue was the Missouri Invitational, in which the Illini finished fourth in the nine-team field. The Illini scored 506 points, falling to Missouri (1,118), Florida International (586) and Nebraska (513) but upending Drury University (424), West Virginia (382), New Mexico (227), Northern Colorado (104) and UNLV (38).

Following a winter training trip to Barbados that featured Kaitlyn Joyce and Samantha Stratford finishing first and second in an open-water race, Illinois returned to the friendly confines of the ARC Pool for the entire month of January, finishing with a 3-1 dual meet record over three weekends of competition.

At the Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships, the Orange and Blue set four new school records en route to a 12th-place finish. In addition to the school records, the Illini had 11 season-best event performances and registered 14 times/dives that finished the season on the all-time fastest individual/top dives lists.

HOME POOL ADVANTAGE

January was a busy month of action at the ARC Pool. Illinois hosted four dual meets over three weekends, coming away with a 3-1 record in its home pool. The Illini defeated Iowa State (168-132), Nebraska (171-129) and Michigan State (190-110) in the friendly confines of the ARC Pool. The Orange and Blue’s only home loss of the season came against No. 21 Iowa on January 17 by a score of 165-135.

RECORDS FALL IN 2014-15

Illini swimmers broke seven school records during season and senior Alison Meng and sophomore Gabbie Stecker were the catalyst of each of them.  Meng took down her own 100 backstroke record at the Missouri Invitational from November 20-22. Her time of 53.92 just edged her previous mark of 53.92. Meng also took down the 100 butterfly school record at the Missouri Invitational. Meng’s time of 54.47 eclipsed the previous mark of 54.58 set by Brittany McGowan in 2011. 

Stecker also took down two individual records at the Missouri Invitational, conquering the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly. In the 500 freestyle, Stecker swam 4:46.99, bettering the previous mark of 4:47.71 set by Jessica Aveyard in 2002. In the 200 butterfly, Stecker bested her own mark of 2:00.50 that she swam last year, clocking 2:00.21.

Meng and Stecker also contributed to three new school records in relay events at the Big Ten Championships. The 800 freestyle relay of Stecker, Amelia Schilling, Stratford and Megan Marchuk finished eighth in the Big Ten with a new school record time of 7:13.98, eclipsing the previous record by nearly five seconds. The 200 medley relay of Meng, Isabella Schamber, Lori Lynn and Gabrielle Bethke swam 1:39.81 to erase the old record of 1:41.90 by over two seconds. The final school record fell in the 400 medley relay, as Meng, Stratford Lynn and Sarah Sykstus edged the previous school record of 3:42.21 by swimming 3:41.75.

In addition to the school records, the Illini set three new ARC Pool records. Meng accounted for two of the new facility records, downing the 100 backstroke (55.42) and 100 butterfly (55.81) records. Stratford took down the other record, swimming 2:04.31 in the 200 IM.

MENG ENDS MARVELOUS CAREER

The magnificent career of Alison Meng came to a conclusion at the end of the 2014-15 season. As she leaves Illinois, Meng owns four individual school records, is part of two school record relays and is among the top 10 fastest individuals in four other events. She is the all-time fastest Illini in the 50 backstroke (25.02), 100 backstroke (53.92), 50 butterfly (25.23) and 100 butterfly (54.47). She is also a member of Illinois’ fastest 200 medley (1:39.81) and 400 medley (3:41.75) relay teams. Meng also ranks in the top 10 in the 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay.

STRATFORD MAKES SPLASH AS FRESHMAN

It can be tough for freshman to make an immediate impact in college athletics these days but that is exactly what Samantha Stratford did in her first season with the Orange and Blue. Stratford put her name all over the Illinois record books this year, swimming four individual performances that rank on the school’s all-time top-10 and was part of two school-record relays. She was part of the school record 800 freestyle relay (7:13.98) and the 400 medley relay (3:41.75) and ranks in the top-10 of the all-time fastest individuals list in 100 breaststroke (third), 200 breaststroke (fifth), 200 IM (third) and 400 IM (fifth).

Stratford also became Illinois’ first-ever Big Ten Freshman of the Week when she received the award on November 18. She contributed to one relay win and had three individual runner-up performances against Notre Dame to earn the award.

Stratford capped her fantastic freshman season by competing in the Canadian Swimming Trials from April 1-4. Stratford competed in five events over the course of the four-day event, finishing 21st in the 200 IM (2:21.32), 22nd in the 400 IM (5:03.68), 30th in the 50 butterfly (28.21), 30th in the 200 fly (2:23.12) and 34th in 100 fly (1:02.91).

OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMERS

In addition to Meng and Stratford, the Orange and Blue had a number of other strong individual performers. Gabbie Stecker set two new school records and had top-10 performances in three other events. Stecker broke the 500 freestyle (4:46.99) and 200 butterfly (2:00.21) school records at the Missouri Invite. She also swam the eighth-best 200 freestyle (1:49.28) and 200 backstroke (2:01.59) at the same meet. At the Purdue Last Chance Meet, Stecker swam the ninth-best 50 backstroke (27.00).

Amelia Schilling swam her way onto four of Illinois’ to-10 fastest individuals event lists this season. She posted the fifth-best 200 freestyle (1:49.10) at the Big Ten Championships, as well as the fourth-best 500 freestyle (4:51.15) and third-best 1650 freestyle (16:47.63). Against Northwestern, she swam the sixth-fastest 1000 freestyle (10:10.11), giving her four top-10 freestyle performances for the year.

Lori Lynn and Jennifer Coady also made her way onto multiple all-time fastest individual lists this season. Lynn put together the second-fastest 50 backstroke (25.93) and 200 butterfly (2:00.46) this year. Lynn also ranks third in the 100 butterfly (54.84). Coady swam the sixth-best 200 breaststroke (2:17.09) at the Missouri Invitational and posted the seventh-fastest 200 backstroke (1:04.05) at the Big Ten Championships.

Six other Illini also found their way onto the school’s all-time fastest individuals lists. Sloane McDermott jumped to sixth in the 200 backstroke (2:00.65), Sarah Sykstus now sits in sixth in the 200 IM (2:03.28), Nelly Casas ranks ninth in the 500 freestyle (4:54.15), Kayla Dlugopolski is ninth in the 1650 freestyle (16:55.60), Hailey Booth holds the ninth-best 200 butterfly (2:02.48) and Ashley Aegerter is 10th in the 200 breaststroke (2:17.96).

ON THE BOARDS

Junior Erika Murphy, sophomore Olivia Kassouni and freshman Raquel Corniuk each qualified for the NCAA Zone Diving Championships. Kassouni led the Illini in the three-meter dive with a score of 254.40, while Murphy was Illinois’ top performer in the one-meter dive, scoring 241.45 points. Corniuk had the best performance of the competition, finishing 10th in the platform diving competition with a score of 452.80 points, just two places out of qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

CONTINUED ACADEMIC SUCCESS

In the classroom, the Illini swimmers and divers continued the program’s tradition of excellence, as the squad earned the Fall 2014 Scholar All-America Team recognition from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA), tying for the 33rd highest GPA (3.44) amongst women’s Division I swimming and diving teams. The Illini also earned Spring 2015 Scholar All-America Team recognition with the 35th highest GPA (3.47) amongst women’s Division I swimming and diving teams.

Three Illini athletes were also awarded individually for their success in the classroom, as Alison Meng, Erika Murphy and Gabbie Stecker earned honorable mention Scholar All-America recognition. In addition, the Illini earned 19 Academic All-Big Ten Selections.