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By Gus Bode

With the season over, SIU swimming and diving head coach Rick Walker said the flashes of promise he saw bodes well for next season.

The Salukis wrapped up their season at the Sun Belt Conference Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday.’ SIU finished fourth in the seven-team conference with a score of 523.

‘We have got a bright future,’ Walker said.’ ‘We are very low on graduating seniors.’ We have had a lot of comments on how strong our freshman class looked – should bring us closer to where we want to be, which is at the top of our conference.’

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Denver won the conference with a score of 864.50, followed by former conference champion Missouri State with 810.50 and Western Kentucky with a score of 717.

The Salukis finished ahead of New Orleans, Florida Atlantic and Evansville.

Junior Tim Silkaitis said no matter how individuals finished in each event, the team bonded.

‘I think we became a team. Some of the guys did outstanding, some of them not so well. But even if they didn’t do well, they were still a part of the team,’ Silkaitis said. ‘I feel like the performance this year will definitely benefit next year.

‘Good race or bad race, we still kept our heads up.’

Even though SIU did not secure the highest score, Walker said he was pleased with several performances during the competition.

Walker said he was impressed with freshman Justin Ruszkowski who finished third in diving, which was the team’s highest finish in that event.’ ‘

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He was also pleased with seniors Dennis Hedo and Alex Marrucho, who finished second in the 100-yard freestyle.

Even with an impressive showing by the team’s young swimmers, Walker praised the team’s upperclassmen for its contributions.

‘They kept these guys focused, collectively focused,’ Walker said. ‘Now these guys have an understanding of what is there and the level that they have to perform at.’

Despite the Saluki swimming season coming to an end, Walker said there is more work to be done by him and the returning swimmers.

‘In collegiate swimming, if you want to succeed it includes summer,’ he said.’ ‘Those who are not succeeding are usually the ones who take breaks over the summer.’

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