(ISN) – CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Illinois swimming and diving team will be back in action at the Big Ten Championships after nearly three weeks since its last competition. The championships, hosted by Ohio State, begin Wednesday, Feb. 18 and run through Saturday, Feb. 21. The first day of action begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio.
“We have stayed pretty healthy since our last competition, and the girls are well rested and have recovered pretty well both mentally and physically from all the work we put in,” said head coach Sue Novitsky. “This rest period should help us this week after having a lot of races over three weeks in January.”
The Illini will face six nationally ranked teams at this year’s championships, including No. 14 Minnesota, No. 15 Indiana, No. 17 Michigan, No. 21 Purdue, No. 22 Ohio State and No. 24 Wisconsin. Illinois did not compete against any of those squads in the regular season, but did finish with dual wins against Nebraska and Michigan State.
“The Big Ten has always been a deep conference,” Novitsky stated. “The championships should be a pretty fast meet so we are going to have to compete well in the morning to get our opportunities to perform for points at night.”
Alison Meng, Gabbie Stecker and Sam Stratford have led the way for the Illini this season. Meng has set new school records in the 100 back and 100 fly, while Stecker established new Illini bests in the 500 free and 200 fly. Stratford has had a stellar freshman season, cracking the all-time top 10 in four events. Nelly Casas (500 free), Kayla Dlugopolski (1650 free), Hollie Smith (100 breast), Jennifer Coady (200 breast) and Sarah Sykstus (100 fly & 200 IM) have all put their names on Illinois’ top-10 individuals lists, as well. Divers Raquel Corniuk and Olivia Kassouni have also joined the top-10 list in platform diving.
At last season’s Big Ten Championships, the Illini set five school records en route to a 12th-place finish. Illinois will be looking for even more strong performances to move up in the standings this year.