Redbird Swimmers Finish 4th in First Day at Akron
Freshman Sammy Schuckles
Freshman Sammy Schuckles
The Illinois State swimming team starts off in 4th place with 305 points at the Zippy Invitational Friday night, to wrap up the first day of competition for the weekend. Freshman Samantha Schuckles broke the school record in the 100-yard backstroke (57.09), leading off for the 400-yard medley relay.

The 200-yard freestyle relay was the first event of finals Friday, with the relay team of junior Jeanette Nolte, senior Jessica McGee, and freshmen Kristin Horney and Katherine Nelson, coming close to the school record in the event Friday night with a time of 1:35.85, swimming to 4th place of 27, and putting up 52 points for the Redbirds. Head coach Steve Paska says starting off a meet in this fashion sets the pace for the rest of the meet.

"It was a great way to start out the session," Paska said. "It really gave us the momentum that carried the Redbirds through the three individual finals and the 400-yard medley relay."

Freshman Samantha Schuckles broke the school record in the 100-yard backstroke (57.09) as she was leading off for the 400-yard medley relay, the last event of the night. The previous record (57.62) was held by Molly Gomberg.

"Sammy has had a tremendous fall semester for us and is adjusting well to college athletics," Paska said. "What a great way to start the weekend for her. She practices with a lot of consistency, which really paid off tonight with her terrific accomplishment. It will be fun to see how she competes in the 100 and 200-yard backstroke in the next two days of competition."

Freshman Valerie Jones also led the Redbirds, earning a 4th place finish and a personal best time in the 500-yard freestyle (5:02.71). She wiped two seconds off her previous personal best time in the event, which she set in the preliminary heat at 9 a.m. Friday morning (5:04.19).

"Valerie is a very multi-talented and versatile swimmer," Paska said. "She had a consistent race, which gave her an outstanding time drop in the finals. She has a couple more events in the next two days, and I am looking forward to continue watching her compete."

The 500-yard freestyle preliminary race also marked personal best times for freshmen Cecilia Holmes (5:06.16) and Keely Hunt (5:13.16). Season best times in the event were put up by junior Tori Alland (5:01.07), junior Danielle Schumacher (5:01.72), and senior Michele Stoeppelman (5:07.87).

Freshman Katherine Nelson continued to lead the Redbirds, swimming to 5th place finish and a personal best time in the 50-yard freestyle finals (23.96), to put up another 25 points for the team.

"Katherine has had a fantastic start to her career here at Illinois State," Paska said. "She is an outstanding sprinter, as well as a very committed and passionate young lady. She really showed that in her performances tonight."

Many personal best swims were also recorded in the 50-yard freestyle, including Jessica McGee (24.12), Kristin Horney (24.27), junior Morgan Buechele (24.77) and freshman Emily Langlotz (25.47).

Other notable performances of the day came from Jeanette Nolte, who finished 14th place in the 200-yard IM (2:09.70), brushing off four-hundreths of a second from her preliminary swim early Friday morning. The 400-medley relay consisting of Samantha Schuckles, April Livingston, Jeanette Nolte and Katherine Nelson swam to 6th place with a season best time of 3:53.38.

"We had a terrific opening day, with numerous personal-best, season-best, and Illinois State school records," Paska said. "There is an electric atmosphere here, and I believe it is just going to get more exciting the next two days."

With two days left of competition, the Rebirds trail behind Ohio (519 points), Buffalo State (410.5 points) and Toledo (342 points). Competition resumes with preliminary events Saturday at 9 a.m. eastern, and the finals scheduled for 6 p.m.

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