After topping last season’s performance by almost 100 points, the Wisconsin women’s swimming and diving team had a memorable finish to the regular season at the Big Ten Championships last weekend.
Highlighting the meet for the Badgers was junior sprinter Ivy Martin, who took home victories in the 50-yard freestyle (21.68) and 100-yard freestyle while rewriting the record books with her time of 47.78. Her 50 free prelim (21.58) and 100 freestyle final finishes are new Big Ten marks, in addition to the new school record she set in the 100-yard butterfly (52.80) that edged out the previous mark by one tenth of a second, a record held by current UW senior Rebecca Palm. Martin’s dominating weekend earned her the distinct recognition as swimmer of the championships.
Palm, Martin’s teammate who anchored the Big Ten champion 4×100 free relay team, spoke volumes about her work ethic and presence on the team in addition to her dominance in the pool.
“Ivy is a great teammate. She’s always very positive and does a great job of balancing fun with work,” Palm said. “She’s an incredible swimmer, and I love watching her race. She’s so quick, and every time she jumps in, you know something cool is about to happen because she always delivers and does very well. She’s great to have on the team for her training and the attitude she brings to the team for practice.”
Third year head coach Whitney Hite praised Martin as a leader, one who does not necessarily need words to do so.
“Anytime you’re an elite athlete, obviously people will look to you as a leader. I think she’s becoming more and more comfortable in that role,” Hite said. “She’s not the type of girl that stands up and gives a big ‘rah-rah’ speech, but she leads quietly and obviously her leadership is shown in her performances.”
Hite looked back on a moment during Martin’s freshman year in 2011-2012 as the turning point for her swimming career. Looking for a way to bolster the 400 free relay, he turned to Martin and gave her an opportunity to prove herself.
“I just felt like she could really help us and it wasn’t a very popular move at the time, but she stepped up and had a really great split (48.5), which was a really big drop in a pressure situation,” Hite said. “That’s where I thought we had something a little special. Ivy does a nice job when the lights are brightest and she steps up.”
Hite and his assistant coaching staff have played a large role in helping Martin turn the corner over past couple of seasons, and Martin expressed gratitude for the guidance she has received.
“The training here is definitely a lot different from what I had been doing in high school,” Martin, who grew up in Madison and attended Madison East High School, said. “I’ve gotten so much better under coach Hite and his assistant coaches and just the whole program has been really good for me. I know a lot of other people on the team have improved as well.“
Martin’s performance at the NCAA championships last season served as the pinnacle of her swimming career so far. With a sixth place finish and All-American Honors to go along with it, Martin saw the experience as another step taken towards accomplishing future goals. Coming off of her third straight 50-freestyle title in the Big Ten Championships, Martin has high expectations for the upcoming NCAA championships.
“I definitely want to improve on my times from Big Ten’s. I was happy with them, but I think I can drop even more time at NCAA’s,” Martin said. “We’ll see where I’m seeded heading in, but a goal of mine for the 50 would be to win. “
The underclassmen on the team have served as a nice complement to Martin’s individual success, particularly the efforts of freshman Dana Grindall in the butterfly events along with Anna Meinholz in the breaststroke races. Looking ahead to the future, Martin believes the team as a whole has the potential to become great.
“We’re really excited about our sophomores and freshman. Our team is really young – pretty much half of our team is all freshman – but they have definitely held their own this year, and I’m super excited for the future of this program because they’re making an impact already,” Martin said. “So many of them have scored in Big Ten’s as freshman already and that’s really impressive, so I feel really lucky to swim with them.”
The next challenge for Martin awaits at the Division 1 NCAA Championships, scheduled for March 22 through 24.