CHICAGO, Ill. - Heading into the 2016-17 season, the Illinois Tech women's swimming and diving team knew it was trending up. Today, one can tell the Scarlet Hawks proved just that, as the team had its strongest finish at the Liberal Arts Championships since 2010 (placing third out of 11 teams), scoring over 100 points more than last season (461.5), and having one of the best percentages of point scorers in program history (15-of-17).
"I am essentially speechless when thinking about the success of our season," said Head Coach Kyllian Griffin. "I am so incredibly proud of the way these women swam throughout the entire year, and their record-breaking performance(s) as a team at the Liberal Arts Championship was a great way to wrap-up our season."
At the LAC Championships, the Hawks had five swimmers finish in the top three and earn All-LAC Championship honors. Two swimmers were conference champions, one of which was program veteran Brigitte Temple. The junior and California native broke a 10-year old school record in the 200 Yard Breaststroke with a time of 2:23.65 to earn a first-place finish at the Championships. She also was crowned conference champion in the 400 Yard Individual Medley, placed top three in the 200 Yard Medley Relay, and was a part of Tech's 400 Yard Medley Relay (4:00.14) team that weekend. Katherine Lydon, Kristin Wills, Temple, and Briana Tyler placed in the top three of the event and broke the Illinois Tech record by more than three seconds.
"Brigitte's 200 breaststroke was one of the best races I've ever seen, and easily the best of her collegiate career," said Griffin. "She has had a huge influence on the progression of the women's program and is an outstanding leader. Brigitte earned every bit of success this season, and we've got one more to go. She's not done yet!"
One of Temple's teammates in the 400 Medley Relay, Lydon, capped off an outstanding freshman season with a conference championship in the 200 Yard Freestyle and top three finishes in the 500 Yard Freestyle, 1650 Yard Freestyle, and 400 Yard Freestyle Relay. She set four school records over the course of the season: shattering the 200 Yard Freestyle (1:55.36), 1000 Yard Freestyle (10:40.42), and 1650 Yard Freestyle (17:45.01) marks at the LAC Championships and the 500 Yard Freestyle (5:05.74) mark at the University of Chicago Phoenix Invite in November. The records for the 200, 500, and 1000 Yard Freestyle swims were previously held for nearly a decade.
"It was fun to watch Katy shine at the Liberal Arts Championships this year," Griffin said. "I know she expects more of herself in the distance events, and we have already started to plan how we can improve to add a few more individual championships next season."
In addition to the conference championship swims, Tech's depth proved to be a major strength at the LAC meet and throughout the season. Jasmine Duke, Tyler, and Wills were all parts of several relays placing in the top three on championship weekend, with Tyler and Wills both finishing in the top three in the 200 Yard Butterfly. Wills also placed top three in the 400 Yard Individual Medley.
It is absolutely remarkable to see the progress we've made in just three years," Griffin said. "The team has grown a great deal both in numbers and in talent, and we are so excited for the future of women's swimming and diving at Illinois Tech."
The Hawks finished the season with a record of 4-2-1 in dual meets, placed sixth of 14 at the Phoenix Fall Classic, and finished first out of five teams at the Ted Erikson Invite. Tech collected numerous accolades, earning two D3 Independents Student-Athlete of the Month awards (Lydon in October, Temple in February), three Collegeswimming.com Player of the Week awards (Duke once, Lydon twice), and four LAC Player of the Week awards (Lydon twice, Elly Shin and Paige Mass once). In addition, the Scarlet Hawks saw success outside of the pool, earning Academic All-American status from the College Swimming Coaches' Association of America. The team also had five student-athletes named All-Academic by the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (Tyler, Temple, Madeline Lane, Ava Obenaus, and Christian Jones).
"It's incredibly tough to be a student-athlete in college, let alone at a rigorous school like Illinois Tech," Griffin explained. "Academic success is by far the most important piece of the college experience, and I am very proud that this team puts in the time and effort to be successful academically and athletically."
With all kinds of momentum in place, the Illinois Tech women's swimming and diving program is already eager to begin training for the 2017-18 season.
"The energy that surrounded this team leading into our off-season is unlike any other I've experienced," Griffin added. "Though we will dearly miss our lone senior, we are returning a very talented group of swimmers and divers and have our sights set on great things for 2018."