Swim team dominates season’s first events

By Alex Rostowsky

Saluki swimmers took three of four events against Illinois State and Evansville during its season-opening weekend.

Coach Rick Walker said the events would be some of the toughest the team will see all season.

The Salukis competed against female-only team Illinois State Friday in the 400m individual medley and 1650m individual medley mile. The Saluki men competed against one another in the events.


Sophomore Pamela Benitez won the mile at 17 minutes and 7.50 seconds. Benitez, who normally competes in short and mid-distance events, swam in the mile for the first time.

She said it did not take her long to get used to the style of long-distance competition.

“I made sure I was practicing hard in the summer, so I haven’t lost my endurance at all,” she said.

Illinois State’s Cecilia Holmes finished second at 17:45.29. She was followed by two fellow Redbirds who finished third and fourth.

Saluki sophomore Hannah Pinion finished fifth of 15 swimmers overall in the female mile.

Seven Saluki men competed against one another in the mile. Freshman Till Pallmann won the event at 16:13.86. Senior Csaba Gercsak followed in second, finishing at 16:27.26.

There were seven swimmers in the female 400m individual medley. Redbird Holmes won at 4:37.43, and freshman Saluki Charlotte Davies came in second at 4:40.56.

Gercsak won the men’s 400m individual medley. He beat four other Salukis and finished at 4:14.69. Sophomore Calvin Kolar came in second.

The Salukis competed against Illinois State again in the Open Water 5K Saturday. One woman and three men trekked from nearby University of Evansville to join the competition as well.

As the season’s only planned open-water event, the competition was planned to take place at Little Grassy Lake, but it took place in Campus Lake at SIU because of difficulty in attaining a permit.

The men and women completed 10 laps, each measuring a half kilometer.

Gercsak and Benitez, two of Friday’s victors, took the event for the Salukis on the men and women sides.

Gercsak finished at 1:00.06, more than three minutes before any other male finished, and Benitez finished her first 5K at 1:02.57.

Junior Kirsten Groome, who won the event in the previous two seasons, finished second in the women’s event, despite a broken toe. She led most of the way until Benitez passed her near the event’s end.

Gercsak, Benitez and Groome finished with the three best times amongst the 24 combined men and women who competed in the 5K.

Open water specialist Gercsak said the ideal conditions helped while in the water. He led the event from beginning to end.

He said one of the most important factors in a distance race such as the 5K is a stable composure.

“I think self control is the key, so you know what pace you’re doing and what you can handle,” he said.

Gercsak, who competed in the London Olympics, said he did not have much time after the games to start training. He said he thinks the 5K was helpful to prepare for events later in the season.

Coach Rick Walker said he was very satisfied with the way his team performed in its first events. He said it had a lot to do with preparation.

“I beat them up pretty good in practice prior to this,” he said “ It was pretty much all week.”

Walker said the competition from Illinois State and Evansville will remind the swimmers that they still have some work to do. He said he wants the team to be ready for when it faces the Redbirds again.

He said one of the most important things the team earned over the weekend, besides victories, was a team mentality. Walker said it is vital for a team to become a collective, especially in the beginning of the season.

“If you don’t have a winning attitude, talent just doesn’t go as far,” he said.

The Salukis will return to competition at noon Saturday in the Alumni Meet at the Edward J. Shea Natatorium.