Salukis count down to start of MVCs

By Gus Bode

Season’s biggest meet six days away

Slug:It’s t-minus six days until the biggest Missouri Valley Conference swim meets begin.

Lying ahead of the SIU swimming and diving teams is the MVC Championship for the women and the MVC Invitational for the men from Feb. 17 to 19. The two different names are no means an accident, as each will provide a different group of opponents.

Advertisement

The women’s championship is contained to swim teams in the conference while the men’s invitational will include out-of-conference foes to make up for the Valley’s relative lack of men’s teams compared to the women.

Adding to the differing dynamics of the meets is the fact that the men come into this year’s invitational as defending champs while the women are seeking retribution for a second-place finish in last year’s championship. The hunter-slash-hunted aspect of motivation has not left any part of the team deviating from the main focus of winning.

Aside from upstarts such as Evansville, Northern Iowa and Illinois State, the main competition for the men and women will come from Southwest Missouri State. SIU’s biggest rival is expected to go heads up once again with the Salukis for the conference title.

And the Water Dawgs would not have it any other way.

“We’re going to be in there mixing it up,” head coach Rick Walker said. “We’re certainly in the hunt on the women’s side. Southwest is the team to beat, and Illinois State, I don’t know how to put them because wherever we aren’t, they are. So it’s pretty tricky.

“On the guy’s side, we won it last year. We beat [SMS] at the dual meet. We’re the team to beat.”

Rest for the weary

Advertisement

For the second time in three weekends the Salukis will not compete, something that suits the swimmers just fine.

Since winter break, there has been nothing much besides hard training and stiff competition for SIU. The weekdays have been punctuated by two-a-day practices, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. At their peak the swimmers swim around 6,500 yards a day.

Walker is not without a heart, though; he’s lightened up as conference approaches. The morning sessions have been eliminated this week, and Walker has espoused the importance of rest during this unsteady time of the season.

“As their bodies begin to adjust to the extra energy, then they have more energy to perform,” Walker said. “We beat them up day in and day out. There are days when they come in here and they feel lousy and days when they feel great.

“When they feel lousy they get nervous – ‘Oh, I don’t want to feel lousy’ – and when they feel great it’s, ‘Oh, it’s too soon.’ It’s a real tough mental time right now.”

Walker’s practice strategy seems to have had a positive effect. As Wednesday’s practice wound down, several swimmers spent extra time speeding through the pool’s lanes trying to shave down their times.

Speaking of shaving …

One of the average swimmer’s best weapons, besides snug trunks and a reliable pair of goggles, is a good shaver. According to freshman Antonio Santoro, all the guys get their shave on to feel smoother and sleeker in the water.

“It’s the feeling you have underwater – you feel so good,” Santoro said. “It’s more than just the hair, though. You have to feel it to realize how better it is to swim. It’s hard to explain.”

Besides the seemingly obvious physical advantage of going hairless lies a mental boost, which senior Marcelo Possato said means everything in the world.

“When you jump in the pool shaved, it’s like a totally new perspective of swimming,” Possato said. “You are much more relaxed and confident.”

Having the body sleek, especially in time for a big meet, could mean the difference between a first- and second-place finish – but not in record-breaking and non-record-breaking performances apparently.

Possato broke two records in the 100-yard backstroke, the Recreation Center pool record and his own school record, last weekend against Evansville despite not giving himself the once-over.

“I wasn’t expecting at all a school record right now without being shaved,” Possato said.

There will be no chances taken before the invitational, though – Possato promised he’d be bare, and aerodynamic.

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]

Advertisement