Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Megan Marchuk of the University of Illinois

Another one of the senior-heavy teams in the Big Ten comes in the form of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini, with 8 seniors headlining the team’s roster. Amongst these 8 individuals, one of the most impressive in terms of pure raw improvement is Megan Marchuk out of Winnetka, Illinois, and she has the potential to be one of many Illini who come away with new team records and a flurry of points at this year’s Big Ten Championships.

Marchuk has been one of the steadiest and most consistent swimmers on the Illini’s roster over the last four years, with progressive time drops being virtually guaranteed every time she steps up during championship season. During her freshman year, she swam to personal bests in the 50 free (24.24, 75th), 200 free (1:52.00, 46th), and the 100 free (52.62, 72nd). Notably, she was the second fastest swimmer from her school in the 200, only behind Courtney Pope who took 33rd with a 1:49.88.

She would continue to improve through her sophomore year, this time competing in the 500 free individually instead of the 50 free. Marchuk recorded finishes of 35th in the 200 free (1:50.23), 52nd in the 100 free (51.58), and 42nd in the 500 free (4:57.09), while also contributing legs to the 800 yard free relay (7:20.87. 11th), 200 free relay (1:32.13, 12th), 400 yard medley relay (3:43.73, 12th), and the 400 free relay (3:22.01). As the lead-off on the 800 free relay, Marchuk broke 1:50 for the first time with a 1:49.63 split, second fastest on the team once again.

After two stellar years with the Illini, Marchuk stayed hot in her third stab at the Big Ten Championships. Though she was slightly off in her 200 free (1:51.60, 52nd), she set new career bests in the 100 free (51.39, 52nd) and the 50 free (23.98, 71st), and she remained an instrumental part of the Illini’s relays with her legs in the 200 medley relay (1:41.90, 11th), 800 free relay (7:18.82, 11th), 200 free relay (1:32.66, 11th), and the 400 free relay (3:23.36, 10th).

Outside of the pool, Megan is a 2014 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and is also a multiple-time All-Big Ten honoree.

With the first session of Big Tens just a couple days away, the University of Illinois will turn to their seniors to lead them into battle in the largest field in conference history. Megan Marchuk has proven year in and year out that she is capable of swimming big at the end of the season, and if the Illini can see her drop time once more, she may find herself in a scoring heat individually in more than one event. Look for the senior to be as instrumental as ever in the Orange and Blue’s relays and do not be surprised to see her compete individually at night.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
50 Free: 23.98/27.73
100 Free: 51.39/59.28
200 Free: 1:49.63/2:06.17
500 Free: 4:57.09/4:34.57
100 Fly: 58.07/1:07.10
800 Free Relay: 7:19.05*
200 Medley Relay: 1:41.90*

*Denotes school record

School Major/Degree: Industrial Engineering
Favorite Event: 200 Freestyle
Favorite Hobby/Hidden Talent: I love baking and cooking
Favorite Movie: The Proposal
Role Model Growing Up/ Person You’d Like to Meet: My mom/Beyoncé
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: Before a meet I like to eat salad, chicken and pasta.

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

Ever since I was little I loved playing in the water and in the summers I would spend a lot of time with my sisters at the pool. When I was 7 years old I started summer club swimming with my sisters. Both of my parents were on swim teams when they were younger and they thought since we all loved the water so much we should give it a try. After a few years of really liking summer club swimming I decided to swim year round with New Trier Swim Club.

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why?

Its really hard to pick a favorite memory since I’ve had so many great times since I’ve been at Illinois. We’ve had some really close dual meets in the past against Michigan State and Nebraska, which are always really exciting. One moment that stands out in particular was when we were headed back to school after our mid-season invite this year. I had a dance off with both of my coaches on the bus and everyone was just having a blast. Being able to have fun with my teammates and coaches like that is something that I’ll always remember.

Would you be willing to share some of your goals for your last championship season with the Illini?

It’s definitely bittersweet knowing this will be my last Big Tens, but I’m very excited for the meet. I really want to break the school record in the 200 freestyle along with some of the relay records. Overall, I just want to go best times and have fun with my teammates.

You have a sister, Stephanie, who swims for the Indiana Hoosiers. Naturally, having a sibling to compete against within the same conference can create both a very fun and challenging dynamic. Can you describe what it’s like to compete against a younger sister, and do you feel like having each other in the Big 10 is a mutually beneficial relationship? 

I love the fact that she’s in the Big Ten. My mom and my older sister both rowed for Wisconsin so we are definitely a Big Ten family. Stephanie and I are really close so it’s nice to have someone outside my team who I can talk to about swimming since she understands what I’m going through. We talk a lot about our practices and meets and are very supportive of one another. That being said we are also very competitive. She will tell me about a really hard practice she had and that makes me want to work even harder at my practice. I think we both benefit from this since we always push each other even though we may not be on the same team.

It’s also really fun seeing her at Big Tens. The only event we both swim is the 200 Freestyle so I always get excited for that race. It’s also nice that I am able to cheer her on and watch all her races and she can do the same for me. We’ve both gotten to know each other’s teammates as well and it’s really fun because both the Illinois and Indiana girls will cheer for both of us. It’s a really unique experience to have a sister in the Big Ten and I’m glad she’s been able to be with me throughout my whole swimming career.

What/who do you think has been the single most important catalyst to your swimming career?

High school swimming was definitely huge for me. I swam for New Trier High School, which has some great swimming traditions. Swimming in such a competitive environment really helped me take my swimming to the next level and gave me more confidence in my abilities as a swimmer. Bruce Woodbury and Bob Kizer, who were my high school and club coaches, were also very important in my swimming career. They always pushed me to reach my full potential and were never afraid to challenge me.

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

After graduation I’ll be working for Epic Systems in Madison, WI as a Technical Services Analyst. I also plan to continue swimming and possibly start doing triathlons.

 What should we look forward to from Illinois as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

I think we are ready to surprise a lot of people at Big Tens this year. We have a great freshman class who has been working hard all year and they are ready to make an impact at Big Tens. All the returning swimmers and divers have made great improvements from last year and are ready to lead the way. Our relays are going to be very competitive and we are going to have quite a few individuals who will be making it back to finals this year. As a whole we are ready to race and compete to our fullest potential. We’ve really been working on sharpening up our details in practice and I think this will make the difference for us at Big Tens since all the races will be extremely close.

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Lydia Marchuk

Megan, I am so impressed with your swimming achievements! What a lovely article. Wishing you all the best at the Big Tens this year! Lots of love, Lydia

About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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