Saluki swimming coach Rick Walker said the team is ready to go after months away from competition.
“The bottom line is, we want to get in and compete,” he said.
The Saluki swimming and diving team will compete in its first season event against Illinois State this weekend in the Saluki Miler and the Open Water 5K.
The Saluki Miler, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday at the Edward J. Shea Natatorium, will feature the 400M individual medley as well as the 1650M individual medley mile.
The Open Water 5K begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Little Grassy Lake Marina in Makanda.
Walker said junior Kirsten Groome, who won both the Saluki Miler and Open Water 5K for the last three years, is listed as questionable because of injury and may not compete.
Senior Melissa Larocque said she is exhausted from summer training, but she is excited to finally get the chance to compete against another team, especially the Redbirds.
“We’re swimming against Illinois State, which is one of our biggest rivals,” she said. “We don’t want them to come into our house and show us how it’s done.”
Walker said the Illinois State team, which is a female-only squad, has the same team-building mentality as his when it comes to seasons’ first events.
He said his team is anxious to start the new season and compete against someone new.
“I think our swimmers tend to work really hard, but they’re tired of racing themselves, so they want to go race someone else to see how they stack up against somebody they haven’t seen,” he said.
Sophomore Oleg Rabota, who just started his first semester at SIU, said he is excited to start his first season with the Salukis. Rabota competed in the 2008 Beijing Olymics for his home country of Kazakhstan.
Rabota typically swims shorter distances, but he said he has some experience in long-distance open-water competition. He said he is looking forward to the event, even if the water is expected to be frigid.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s more interesting than swimming in the pool.”
Rabota said he is getting used to balancing school work and his swim schedule, but he thinks the experience at SIU will make him a better swimmer because of the coaches and team around him.
Walker said he does not have any particular expectations for his swimmers this weekend. He said all he wants to see is effort from his team.
Walker said the Saluki Miler and Open Water 5K will not necessarily answer any long-term team questions, but he thinks it will be a good building block for the team to work off of.
“Everything that we do leads us one step closer to where we need to be at the end of the year,” he said.