The men’s and women’s swimming team did not win any of the 32 events from a four-team meet during the weekend, but the team’s coach said he found plenty of positives at the Missouri Quad invitational.
Coach Rick Walker said he was not displeased with the effort against University of Kentucky’s and University of Missouri’s men’s and women’s teams as well as University of Arkansas’ women-only squad, which are some of the nation’s strongest programs.
“We get asked to do events like that on a yearly basis by programs that are in the top 25 because we don’t back down from anybody,” he said.
Missouri’s women’s team is ranked 18th in the nation while the Arkansas women were ranked as high as 20th in previous polls.
Junior Pamela Benitez continued her successful season when she took second place in the women’s 1,000-yard freestyle with a time of 10 minutes, 6.13 seconds. She also placed third in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events.
Benitez teamed up with sophomore Holly Johnson, junior Luisa Silveira, and junior Rachael Barry to take fifth in the women’s 400-yard freestyle relay.
Benitez, who took part in all four of the women’s top-five finishes, called the competition challenging, especially after the four-hour drive to Missouri’s campus in Columbia.
“It was a really good meet for me because I didn’t look for places; I looked for times,” she said. “I improved from the Evansville meet.”
Freshman Till Pallmann anchored the men’s team, which collectively finished in the top five of 11 competitions. He finished second in the 200-yard freestyle, just four tenths of a second behind Missouri’s Eegan Groome.
Pallmann also took second in the 500-yard freestyle at 4:35.01. He was the only swimmer to finish higher than third in individual men’s competition.
The relay team composed of Pallmann, junior Juan Arbelaez, freshman Steve Andrade and junior Oleg Rabota finished second out of 10 teams in the 400-yard freestyle at 3:06.23.
Rabota, who finished sixth in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 200-yard competition, said he is encouraged by his results despite his belief that he should have done better.
“We can’t always win,” he said. “It’s showing us what we have to do.”
The competition consisted of some of the toughest teams the Salukis could face all season. Walker said he is proud of his team’s resolve against powerful programs.
“Our loss is not necessarily our loss,” he said. “We think it’s definitely in the long run going to be our gain.”
He said the event was good preparation for the Salukis, who will compete against other perennial top-25 teams soon such as Purdue and Missouri Valley Conference rival Missouri State.
“I want them hungry,” he said. “I want them fighting, and I want them to not care who’s across the pool from them.”
The Saluki men will return to competition at 6 p.m. Friday against Air Force at the Edward J. Shea Natatorium. Both the men and women will face Missouri State at 11 a.m. Saturday, also at the Shea Natatorium.