CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Fighting Illini Swimming and Diving team kicked off its season with the annual Orange and Blue Intra-Squad exhibition Friday at the ARC Pool. The Blue team edged the Orange team, 121-98, reclaiming bragging rights after a 28-point defeat a year ago. The Illini set three meet records on the night, including two pool records.
“I thought we had some really strong races,” said head coach Sue Novitsky. “We broke three or four meet records and two pool records, which at this time of the year is really outstanding to see.”
The Blue Team started off strong, winning the first three events and eventually taking seven out of the 12 events. In the opening event, sophomore Kaitlyn Joyce, senior Isabella Schamber, senior Lori Lynn and senior Kirsten Zborek set the tone with a win in the 200 medley relay (1:45.82).
Gabbie Stecker and Gabrielle Bethke also earned first place finishes in the 200 free (1:51.83) and 50 free (:24.55), respectively. In event four, Lynn set the meet and pool record in the 200 IM (:55.44), which was previously held by Alison Meng (:55.81).
Other first place finishers for the Blue Team were Olivia Kassouni in the 3-meter dive (216.30), Bethke in the 100 free (:52.57) and Stecker in the 500 free (5:02.72).
The Orange Team’s performance was highlighted by Samantha Stratford, who broke her own pool record in the 200 IM (2:04.31). Stratford also set a meet record in the 200 breast (1:05.30).
The Orange Team finished the competition strong, winning the last three events, including victories by Jessica Clifford in the 1-meter dive (200.60) and the relay team of freshman Gabriele Serniute, junior Audrey Rodawig, freshman Megan Vuong and sophomore Stratford in the 200 free relay (1:37.08).
“It’s hard to race against your teammates, but it does give (the team) the chance to get the initial nerves out of the way,” Novitsky said. “To be able to race in a safe environment adds to that effect, so that two weeks from now when we are up on the blocks against three other teams, we have to be ready to put together some really good races.”
The Illini will open their regular season against Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Olivet Nazarene on Friday, October 16, at the ARC Pool.
Swimming news courtesy of Illinois Swimming & Diving.