Swimmers start conference meets

By Brian Wiencek

Everything the NIU swimming and diving teams have gone through this year will finally be tested this week at the Mid-Continent and North Star Conference meets at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

The meets are held over a four-day period. It starts today with the diving finals and ends on Saturday. Five events will be held on Thursday, seven events will take place on Friday and six on Saturday.

The Huskies have had a long season competing against such teams as Illinois State and Notre Dame. However, the men’s record of 5-5 and the women’s record of 3-7 hasn’t really reflected the type of season that the Huskies have had.

“We did swim a lot better than our record,” said NIU swimming coach Jeanne Fleck. “What I’m really happy about is that we made progress throughout the season. Our goal is our conference meet.”

“Our schedule has been very competitive all year,” NIU diving coach Jeff Symons added.

Many swimmers and divers who have basked in the spotlight during the regular season will have to come through at Chicago if the Huskies are to contend. It seems as if every member of the team has excelled at one point or another.

Mark Oostman, Art Sanchez, Kristin Scholz, Jeanne Kuipers, Bryan Hanania, Matt Mersman, Amy Inselburger, Jennifer Horoky and Pam Jackson are among the many that have glowed during the regular season.

The women will be paced by Jackson, Scholz and Kuipers. The men’s squad will be led by Sanchez, Oostman, Steve Beck and Eric Beck, while the combination of Jarrod Schroeder and Craig Hammett will give NIU an uncommon edge in the backstroke events.

The diving team will also be a major factor this week at UIC.

“We’re going to be really tough,” Symons said. “Bryan Hanania and Matt Mersman are very good one-meter divers. Bryan has been a very consistent performer. Matt Mersman has also been doing a very good job. Joe Sippage (of UIC) will be our top competition in the three-meter dive.”

Freshmen Amy Inselburger and Jen Horoky will lead the women’s team. Both have qualified for the NCAA Zone C Meet in March.

“Amy has been doing a very good job at practice,” Symons continued. “She has risen to the occasion all year.”

Some of the swimmers our happy that the conference meets and the end of the season are finally here, and some have set their sights on relaxation when it’s over.

“It’s very draining,” said Symons. “It’s very difficult to stay focused all year. I think they’re definitely ready, and they’re really excited about it.”

“I’m really nervous and excited,” admitted first-year NIU coach Fleck.