Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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High dives and high expectations: A midseason check-in with SIU swim and dive

Selim+Hassan+propels+through+the+water+as+he+swims+the+men%E2%80%99s+200m+butterfly+Oct.+6%2C+2023+at+Dr.+Edward+Shea+Natatorium+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.
Lylee Gibbs
Selim Hassan propels through the water as he swims the men’s 200m butterfly Oct. 6, 2023 at Dr. Edward Shea Natatorium in Carbondale, Illinois.

Heading into the midpoint of their season, the SIU swimming and diving teams are right where they want to be.

Head coach Geoff Hanson said the season is going “really well” so far. Although the men’s team has been off to a bit of a slow start, falling short in each of its dual meets, Hanson is very optimistic heading into the rest of the season.

“We learned a lot in the early season…about what kind of team we are, about what we can be. I feel like we’re in a much better place now…” he said.

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The women’s team has been able to hit the ground running, winning both dual meets they’ve competed in as well as putting up a strong showing at Northwestern on Oct. 21. Two women, junior backstroker and butterflyer Celia Pulido and sophomore breaststroker Olivia Herron, have already put down B standard times that would qualify them for NCAA Nationals.

Sophomore diver Farida Moussa has also qualified for zones, which is a qualifying meet for the NCAA diving championship.

“The women started strong right out of the gate,” Hanson said. “You’ve got a lot of lifetime bests out of our women already… I think we’re where we want it to be at this point.”

Junior freestyler Apryl Paquette sees things similarly, and is excited for the swimming ahead.

“The women’s team has just been really really strong coming out of the first half of the season. I’m really looking forward to watching everyone swim in the midseason; you’re going to see a lot of season bests and personal bests.

Hanson, who is in his fifth year as head coach at SIU, has seen the team become what he envisioned when he arrived.

“We’ve grown a lot in terms of depth in certain events that we weren’t really deep in,” Hanson said. “I think this year we’ve got great relays for both the men and the women.”

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This season also marks the first year that the team is made up entirely of recruits from Hanson and his staff.

“That makes a big difference in terms of the buy in and the culture of what they came here expecting. Just different ideas, different goals, different team goals,” Hanson said.

Sophomore Selim Hassan, who swims butterfly and freestyle, has noticed a different mindset as a part of the team.

“Last year, we were not as ambitious as we are this year. We were not as driven, not as goal oriented. You would walk our pool deck this year and you see that everyone wants to be there,” Hassan said. “It’s been exciting to see that.”

Hanson had two long-term goals that he brought to SIU the day he was hired: win the conference meets for both men and women, and to have both the men’s and women’s teams represented at nationals. Based on the results so far this season, there is a good chance for representation at nationals this season.

Pulido and Herron are leading the charge for the women’s team as individuals, while divers Oliver Metz and Moussa are on track for the nationals qualifying meet. Alex Santiago and Donat Czuvarsky are contributing heavily to relays that have a chance to qualify. According to Hanson, if the men’s relay squads qualified, they would be the first SIU relays at nationals since 1991.

The conference titles may be more difficult to achieve, but Paquette thinks that there is a path to the Salukis bringing home the hardware.

“I definitely think it’s a possibility for us, but we’re going to have to put in the work from midseason to February. We have to dig really deep and come together, and everyone’s gotta swim as fast as possible for us to win that meet,” Paquette said.

Hassan has a similar mindset, saying winning a title is “gonna take consistency.”

He said, “Swimming is one of the longest seasons… and it’s easy to have a good week, or good two weeks or three weeks, but how easy is it to have an entire season of just dedication? The champions every year are the ones that stay consistent throughout the year.”

The men’s team will have a little extra motivation to win a conference title, too; they’ll be swimming in front of their home crowd.

“We’re going to be racing in front of our friends and our families, and supporters of SIU. That’s how you know it’s going to be electric,” Hassan said.

Hanson thinks that the upcoming A3 Performance Invitational, which will be hosted at the SIU Rec Center on Nov. 9-11, will be a good indicator of where the team is heading into the stretch run of the season.

“[The meet] is kind of the mid-season check in for where we are really, how do we adjust training for certain individuals or groups, for the whole team if need be. It’s a time to step back and make adjustments as we look at the second half,” Hanson said.

The A3 Performance Invitational will also offer the team a chance to show off some improvements made to the Edward J. Shea Natatorium. In addition to several new banners being hung in the spectator area, a new video board replaced the old analog scoreboard and record signs that were previously in place.

Of the renovations, Hanson said, “It’s a huge upgrade for the facility. We’ve done some cosmetic things that kind of brought this into the 21st century of Saluki athletic facilities. We’re excited about it.”

Spectators are welcome to come check out the improvements and also attend the A3 Invitational, which will run all day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“We’d love to have people in the stands next week. It’s our big home invitational,” Hanson said. “Having Saluki fans in the stands is always great.”

Sports reporter Ryan Grieser can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date on all of your southern Illinois news, be sure to follow The Daily Egyptian on Facebook and on Twitter @dailyegyptian.

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