Swimming, diving teams win, lose by small margins
The SIU swimming and diving team ended up on both sides of a thin line during its weekends events. The men defeated Air Force on Friday by one point, and the women lost to five-time defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Missouri State by one point Saturday.
SIU went 1-3 overall at the Edward J. Shea Natatorium. The men narrowly defeated Air Force 121-120, but they lost 126-115 to the Falcons Saturday.
The men’s team also fell 169-71 Saturday to Missouri State, the nation’s No. 23 team, while the women were bested by the Bears 122-121.
Coach Rick Walker said he was impressed with the showing from both the men and women, who continued their progressively tougher fall season. He said winning and losing by one point is just a part of it all.
“Swimming is a sport where you get out of it what you put in it,” Walker said. “You can go down every (Friday men’s) event and if it didn’t happen just the way it was, we wouldn’t have won. Had it gone just a little bit differently on the girls’ side, we would’ve won.”
The men started the weekend’s events by winning the 200-yard medley relay. Junior Oleg Rabota, sophomore Calvin Kolar, junior Jake Lucheon, and sophomore Shaun Wolfe took the event at one minute and 33.88 seconds.
Freshman Till Pallmann continued his early season success as he won the 200 and 500-yard freestyle.
Other victories in the tightly contested dual meet came from junior Juan Arbelaez in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles and senior Csaba Gercsak in the 400-yard individual medley and 100-yard backstroke.
Sophomore Kegan Skelton started off an impressive diving weekend Friday with a win in the three-meter dive. The lone Saluki male diver defeated five Air Force Falcons in the process and finished with a score of 342.9.
The men’s and women’s teams lost a combined three matchups Saturday, but there were bright spots all around.
Senior Kirsten Groome and junior Pamela Benitez continued their freestyle competition dominance. Groome won the 1,000-yard freestyle at 10:17.75, and Benitez finished just behind her at 10:22.89.
Benitez won the 200 and 500-yard freestyles, and Groome took second in the 500. She teamed up with 50-yard freestyle winner junior Luisa Silveira as well as junior Rachael Barry and sophomore Holly Johnson to win the 200-yard freestyle relay.
On the men’s side, Pallmann won the 500-yard freestyle for the second consecutive day and finished at 4:37.27. It was the men swimmers’ only victory Friday.
Skelton again staved off healthy competition Saturday by winning the one- and three-meter dives against eight competitors.
“I’m pretty satisfied,” he said. “I came into this meet knowing that this is my home board, and by telling myself that, I got it.”
The women divers dominated as freshman Sherry Zhang won both competitions, while senior Anna Beeck finished second. Zhang’s 346.05 score in the three-meter dive set a Edward J. Shea Natatorium record.
Skelton said Zhang found relaxation and confidence — two things she has struggled with since she came over from China.
“I know that she can rip water like no one else,” he said. “I’m really glad that she’s finally pushing herself.”
Senior swimmer Melissa Larocque, who finished fourth in the 200-yard backstroke, said she thought the team found many positives during the weekend, including nearly defeating Missouri State.
“They’re conference champs and our huge rivals,” she said. “As much as it sucks losing by a point, it was really nice for us to be close.”
Walker said he thinks the team should be confident and encouraged by its performance. He said he is proud of the injury-riddled women’s team, which had a healthy Missouri State squad nervous near the competition’s end.
“On paper, we weren’t supposed to win against Air Force or even be close to Missouri State,” he said. “Don’t ever take us lightly. Don’t ever take us for granted because that’s a group of kids that will make you pay for it.”
The Saluki swimming and diving team will return to competition Nov. 15-17. Some of the team will go to the Purdue Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind., while others will travel to Springfield, Mo., to compete in the Drury Invitational.