Backstroke record-breaker picks Illinois

Jennifer Ochab, who broke a U.S. Junior Nationals Southeast record in August, has orally committed to the University of Illinois women's swimming program.

The Mundelein High School senior said Wednesday she'll make it official when the early signing period begins Nov. 11.

"They're very strong in academics, and I like their swim team," said Ochab, who made her official visit in mid-October to the UI. "I felt very comfortable with the girls. I thought it would be a great place to start my future."

Ochab broke a year-old Junior Nationals Southeast record in the 100-yard backstroke while winning in 1 minute, 5.72 seconds. She also placed second in the 200 backstroke at the meet.

Those performances qualified Ochab for U.S. Senior Nationals, where she placed 53rd in the 200 back and 58th in the 100 back.

Ochab, who is contemplating majoring in business administration, said she selected the UI over Michigan State.

"It was pretty hard because I really liked the coach at Michigan State, and the team was really great," she said. "It came down to a money thing. I had to pay more at Michigan State. And I felt the academics were better at Illinois, too."

Ochab is the second recruit known to have committed to coach Jim Lutz's program. Alison Czmarko, a two-time Junior Nationals champion from St. Louis, said last week she would sign with the Illini.

Ochab already is familiar with a couple of her future Illini teammates. Sophomore freestyler Allison Olech was a teammate of Ochab's last summer on the Palatine Park District Swim Team. And freshman Abbie Lueken attended Lincolnshire Stevenson High, which is in the same conference as Mundelein.

Next up for Ochab is the North Suburban Conference meet. Later in the month, her fourth trip in as many years to the IHSA state meet looms. As a junior, she was eighth in the 100 backstroke and 15th in the 200 individual medley.

Although Ochab figures to be a top contender in the 100 back, this could be the single toughest event at state to win. The 1997 co-champs, Susie Sample of LaGrange Lyons and Jessica Roberts of Hinsdale Central, both return. They finished in a dead heat while setting a meet record of 56.18.

"Top three was my goal, and it still is," Ochab said, "but my (prep) coach and club coach, they say I should not sell myself short."

In wrestling:

Public scrimmage set.

The Illini will hold a public practice and scrimmage 11 a.m. to noon. Saturday at Huff Hall. There is no charge for admission.

Illinois is ranked eighth in the preseason Amateur Wrestling News poll and returns two 1998 All-Americans: 141-pounder Carl Perry and heavyweight Karl Roesler.

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