Water Dawgs send off seniors

By Gus Bode

For 12 members of the SIU swimming and diving team, Saturday’s dual meet against Evansville was their last as Salukis.

And they didn’t disappoint, leading the way as the Water Dawgs thoroughly dominated the Purple Aces for the second time this year.

This year’s senior day began with a pre-meet ceremony in which eight seniors on the women’s team were showered with balloons and flowers, while four seniors on the men’s team were greeted with hugs.

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The seniors notched 11 of the 23 wins on the day. Overall, Evansville fell 153-83 to the men and 162-66 to the women. Both squads finished the season above .500, the men at 6-5 and the women at 5-4. The Salukis will play host to the Missouri Valley Conference Championships and Invitational Feb. 17 to 19.

“This is a great group and one that I’ll probably remember for the rest of my career,” head coach Rick Walker said.

On the seniors’ performance, Walker said, “It’s their way of making a exclamation point at the end of the sentence. I’ve come to expect this out of them.”

The most notable win from the seniors came from Marcelo Possato. The Rio de Janeiro native stole the show with a record-breaking performance in the 100-yard backstroke. His time of 48.94 seconds broke the Recreation Center pool record (49.28 seconds) and his own school record of 48.95 set earlier this season at the Northwestern Invitational.

“It’s real exciting,” Possato said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all, a school record right now, but it happened. It’s pretty good for you mentally for conference, and I think we could be much better at conference, so let’s wait and see.”

Another senior, Ivan Sanchez, looked impressive in winning the 1,000-yard freestyle by 12 seconds over teammate and fellow senior Ryan Jackson. One, two finishes were common on this day as were one, two, three finishes. There were even a few one, two, three, four finishes, for that matter.

Salukis had the five best times in the women’s 100-yard backstroke, won by senior Melinda Page. Senior Nadine Shawah put up a career-high 243.45 points in her 1-meter dive win and alternated one, two finishes with Andrea Johnson, another senior in the 1-meter and 3-meter dives. Ashley MacCurdy was one of two swimmers to have two individual wins. Junior Kelsey Kinsella was the other.

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All that’s left for the Salukis is the MVC Championships and Invitational in less than two weeks at the Recreation Center.

Senior Natalie Kenny had to fight back tears before Saturday’s meet. She also fought through the flu in order to make sure she didn’t miss her first meet in four years.

“It was sad to see my turn to go up there as a senior, but I’m happy,” Kenny said. “But it’s time to rest up and get ready for conference. I think we’re going to do tremendously well.”

For Walker, there’s a good and bad side to these events as well.

“It’s good because I definitely see the progress we’ve made,” Walker said. “It’s bad because it also ends a four-year career, and that’s sad. We study and we learn how to get them here, and yet we don’t do a heck of a lot to learn how to say goodbye.”

Walker was stoic for most of the meet, giving momentary shouts of joy when a senior finished a meet strong or when an underclassman put forth a career-best effort of which there were several.

Like a graduation ceremony, the Evansville meet served as a culmination of four years of hard work and a spare moment to reflect on just what all that time and effort meant.

“I really learned what it’s like to be a team player,” Kenny said. “Swimming is such an individual sport; but when you come to a program like this, you don’t swim for yourself – you swim for your team also.”

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]

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