UI backstroker continues move up school charts

By: Dave Wischnowsky

By: Dave Wischnowsky

By: Dave Wischnowsky

By: Dave Wischnowsky

CHAMPAIGN – When Erin Didde was 5-years-old, she had this little problem.

"I didn't like water," the Stephen Decatur High grad said.

That could have become quite a nuisance in the Didde household. You know, with baths and showers and all.

So, in order to prevent any future difficulties, Marilee Didde carted her daughter off to the Decatur Swim Club and introduced Erin to the pool.

Fifteen years later, you can hardly get her out of one.

Didde, 20, a junior backstroker on the University of Illinois' swim team, rolls out of bed each weekday at 5:30 a.m. to hit the pool for 1 1/2 hours.

Then, after a full day of classes, she's back in the water for 21/2 more. Add in four hours each Saturday and Didde churns more water than a whirlpool.

Those laps are paying off.

Last year, at the Big Ten Championships, Didde shattered three individual UI records in the 50- (26.76 seconds), 100- (56.44) and 200-yard (2:00.00) backstrokes. She also helped set school marks in the 200 (1:45.55) and 400 (3:48.97) medley relays.

Her time in the 200 back was good for third place in the conference and her three individual records tied former Illini Renee Gamboa (1995-96) for the most in UI history.

"I had a lot of fun at that meet," Didde said.

Even more fun could be in store this year. Didde says she is swimming better right now than she was at this point last season.

That spells trouble for Big Ten competition.

"Erin could win the 200 backstroke (at the Big Tens this year)," UI coach Jim Lutz said. "She hasn't surprised me with anything she's done. She's a national-level swimmer."

Who has helped make Illinois a national-level program.

In the five years since he took the helm, Lutz has transformed Illinois from a winless club (0-9 in 1992-93) to one that is currently 8-1 and ranked No. 22 in the nation.

Didde's happy to be a part of that.

"I thought (the program) would continue to get stronger," she said. "(Coach Lutz) has rebuilt it and set different standards."

Those standards were upheld Saturday at the IMPE Pool as Illinois won 15 of 18 events at the Illini Classic.

Didde won the 200 back and Nicola Homenock, Sarah Hackler and Anna Christiansen were double winners.

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