The Saluki men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams divided into two groups during the weekend to compete in the Purdue Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind. and the Phoenix Fall Classic in Chicago.
The split squads found success in different forms, as the team that competed at Purdue swam well against some of the nation’s strongest teams while the Chicago group finished in the top three on both the men’s and women’s sides.
The women finished sixth out of seven teams at the Purdue Invitational. The team swam against 20th-place Purdue University as well as 17th-place Louisville, and it finished ahead of 22nd-place Michigan.
The University of Utah, Cincinnati and Missouri Valley Conference rival Missouri State also competed in the invitational. The same seven teams competed in both the men’s and women’s events.
Junior Pamela Benitez continued her strong fall season as she finished fourth of 32 swimmers in the 200-yard freestyle and took third in the mile. Benitez finished less than a half-second behind Louisville swimmer Carly Munchel in the freestyle.
Junior Isabela Castro took sixth of 25 in the 200-yard butterfly as she finished with a time of 2.07.43.
Freshman diver Cheri Zhang built off of her success from the Nov. 3 home meet against Missouri State and Air Force Academy. She finished third and fifth in the in the one-meter and three-meter dives respectively, and her 373.10 score in the three-meter preliminary broke a 17-year university record previously set by swimmer Lisa Holland in 1995.
The men were anchored by freshman Till Pallmann, who has consistently progressed since the season’s start. Pallmann took third in the 500-yard freestyle, sixth in the 200-yard individual medley and sixth in the 200-yard freestyle.
Sophomore Calvin Kolar took seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke, and junior Juan Arbelaez finished eighth in the 50-yard freestyle.
Overall, the men’s team placed fifth of seven teams, four of which have been ranked in the top 25 for the better part of the season. They finished ahead of Michigan, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation before the invitational.
The other part of the men’s and women’s team competed on the University of Chicago’s campus in the Phoenix Fall Classic, where it went up against the likes of Wheaton College, Emory University and North Central College.
The men finished second out of 11 teams, while the women took third in a field of 12.
Sophomore Hannah Pinion set a Myers-McLoraine pool record in the 200-yard freestyle at 2:06. Senior Thomas Defay won the men’s 200-yard freestyle, as he finished at 1:55.14.
Sophomore Holly Johnson won the 100-yard breaststroke for the weekend’s third individual victory in Chicago. She joined junior Rachael Barry, junior Shailey Brumley, and sophomore Ella Otto for the 200-yard freestyle relay, and the group won the event at 1:37.14.
Senior Melissa Larocque, who took third in the 200-yard breaststroke in Chicago, said it was a good weekend for the team at both the Phoenix Fall Classic and at Purdue.
“Everyone swam really well, so it gives us a lot of confidence going back into training camp and conference season (in the spring),” she said. “Most people had their season bests and a lot of people got personal bests.”
Junior George Minkel finished fourth in the men’s 200-yard freestyle at the fall classic. He said the team is happy with where it is at the moment.
“Everybody swam really well and looked really good,” he said. “We’re kind of on a ‘Rambo’ level. We’ve got a lot of momentum, and everyone’s swimming up to their potential.”
Coach Rick Walker said he has noticed the team’s confidence, but he said his swimmers are not letting the success get to their heads.
“I think there’s some cautiousness but not in a negative way,” he said. “Everybody’s bought in to what we’re doing, and that’s why they’re excited.”
It was the last fall event for the swimming and diving team. A few individuals will be in Austin, Texas from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 to compete in the USA National Championships.
The next team event will be Feb. 2 against Evansville at home.
“What we want to do now is focus and make sure they understand that they can’t go home and just go on break,” Walker said. “There is no break. The teams who are doing well take no breaks; they continue to train through.”