Salukis off to strong season

SIU swimming and diving dominated Missouri Valley Conference rival Evansville Saturday in its first dual event of the season.

Both the men’s and women’s sides accumulated more points in the 26 events than the Evansville Purple Aces’ respective squads, which brought the Salukis’ record to 2-0 to start the season. The men won 149-73, while the women narrowly conquered their meet 124-119.

The Salukis won 19 events in Evansville. The meet’s swim competitions ranged from 50 to 1,000 yards. It was the season’s first traditional event for the Salukis, who competed in the Miler and Open Water 5K last month.

Graduate assistant coach Chris Gaffney said he thinks the team should feel well about its efforts against Evansville.

“They might not like their times right now, but that’s a good thing,” he said. “Right now is the time where we’re really breaking them down as much as we possibly can. They have actually responded well, not just from a physical standpoint.”

A men’s relay team composed of junior Oleg Rabota, sophomore Calvin Kolar, junior Jacob Lucheon and junior Juan Arbelaez won the 200 yard medley.

Luncheon joined sophomore Matt Frey and freshman Till Pallmann for the 200-yard freestyle relay. The group won the race with a time of one minute and 27.84 seconds, only seven hundredths of a second ahead of Evansville.

Saluki women also took the 200-yard freestyle relay. Juniors Shailey Brumley, Pamela Benitez, Rachael Barry and Carly Dvorak won the event, finishing with a time of 1:37.94.

However, it wasn’t just a group effort. The Saluki swimmers also excelled in individual competitions.

Long distance specialists junior Kirsten Groome and senior Csaba Gercsak won the women’s and men’s 1,000-yard freestyles. Groome finished more than 23 seconds ahead of junior Isabela Castro, who took second. Castro won the 200 yard butterfly.

Gercsak also won the 500-yard freestyle for the men. Benitez, who won the Open Water 5K and Miler earlier this year, finished just ahead of Groome to win the women’s 500- yard freestyle.

“All of my life I’ve been practicing mid-distance, so that’s where I feel comfortable,” Benitez said.

Benitez and Pallmann swept the 200-yard freestyles for the Salukis, while Arbelaez won the men’s 50- and 100-yard freestyle events. Kolar and sophomore Hannah Pinion showed their versatility, as both won the 200-yard individual medley.

Rabota and Pallmann took first and second in the men’s 200-yard backstroke, respectively. The two finished ahead of four Evansville swimmers.

Pallmann said the team has had a good vibe so far this season.

“We have a lot of fun, and everybody’s motivated,” he said. “Everybody is improving.”

Saluki diving was successful in its events as well as it won three out of four competitions.

Sophomore Kegan Skelton won the men’s one- and three-meter dive, while freshman Sherry Zhang and senior Anna Beeck finished first and second in the women’s one-meter. Zhang was second to Evansville’s Sadie Wells in the three-meter dive.

Gaffney said he expects to see great accomplishments from the team as it moves forward.

“This team is constantly making improvements,” he said. “They are way ahead of where they were at this point last year.”

The Salukis will return to the pool Oct. 26 in Rolla, Miss., for a dual meet against the Missouri S&T Miners.

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