W swim: Salukis picked to win conference championship

By Gus Bode

The SIU women’s swimming and diving team only has one thing on its mind.

The Salukis (7-3) were picked by Missouri Valley Conference coaches to win the State Farm/MVC Championships in Carbondale.

The championships begin Thursday.


In the pre-championship poll, SIU received four out of five votes for first place. Illinois State and four-time defending conference champion Missouri State were tied for second.

“Regardless of the rankings, teams have to come in and perform.” – Coach Walker

Saluki coach Rick Walker said being named the favorite doesn’t matter, however.

“Regardless of the rankings, teams have to come in and perform,” Walker said. “I’m confident in our ability but we need to go out there and show it.”

SIU veterans Julie Ju, a junior breaststroke and relay competitor, and senior diver Cristina Curtuneanu will be in the hunt for individual and team accolades.


Curtuneanu, who helped SIU crush Missouri State 173-70 in a dual meet Jan. 20 is coming off a win in the 1-meter dive. The senior diver also won the 3-meter at the dual meet.

2007 MVC Women’s Swimming Pre-Championship Poll? 1. Southern Illinois (4) 24 T-2. Illinois State 18 T-2. Missouri State (1) 18 4. Northern Iowa 8 5. Evansville 7

She said she’s nervous going into her last meet of her career but feels more confident than ever.

“I’m far more confident going into the meet this year because I’ve had a better year overall,” Curtuneanu said. “My performance in the last dual meet shows that things are going well.”

Ju also pitched in during the Salukis win against Missouri State. The junior was part of the 400-medley relay team and owns the fastest time in the MVC this season at 3:51.95. She also won the 200-freestyle with a time of 1:51.81- a career best for her.

Ju said it would be exciting if the Salukis can fulfill expectations.

“Everyone needs to go fast,” Ju said. “I’ve done this for 18 years so I’m ready for to keep doing what I’ve been doing all season.”

While it will be their last chance at a championship for SIU’s five seniors, the meet could be an opportunity for every class to shine.

Walker said this is the pinnacle for any swimmer, regardless of tenure.

“We don’t have a class on this team that has won a championship,” Walker said. “It’s an opportunity for everyone.”