Daily Egyptian

SIU swimming and diving win senior day in final tune-up before conference meets

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

Eight Saluki swimmers and divers competed in their last collegiate regular season meet Saturday in a resounding victory against Evansville. 

Both the men and women defeated their Purple Aces counterparts by a score of 179-62 for the men and 191-46 for the women.

“It’s a sentimental moment,” coach Rick Walker said. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into just a few competitions. So, this one means probably the most to many just because it signifies a moving on, our graduation.”

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In the final women’s event of the day, an all-senior team of Helena Amorim, Kiley Handley, Katy Ovington and Morgan Timms won the 100m freestyle relay with a time of 48.34.

“It was great to get all the girls together for just that one final race,” Handley said. “We’ve all been together for so long and we got to come out on top.”

Handley said the four of them normally do not race together and Walker informed the four the night before that they would compete together.

Fellow senior Sherry Zhang also won her two diving events: the one-meter and three-meter dives.

“Like a parent, it’s one of those milestones,” Walker said of his seniors. “They came in young adults and they leave mature adults ready to take on the world. Now we’re anxious to see what they’re going to do after they leave.”

Andres Saavedra Sanchez said the meet was a bittersweet moment because his SIU swim career is almost over, but he is excited to look forward toward his career. An architecture studies major, Saavedra Sanchez said he can finally participate in trips and studies that his program offers.

Overall, two Saluki seniors, Zhang and Saavedra Sanchez won their respective individual events. A Saluki won all but three events.

The team competed in front of what multiple swimmers called the largest audience of the season.

“It was really cool to actually compete in front of a big crowd,” senior swimmer Brandon Vuong said. “This was the first time my parents got to see me swim at SIU, so it was great to finish my career in front of them.”

The men’s team is now 28-0 all-time in dual meets with Evansville while the women’s team is now 17-1.

Even with the Salukis’ strong record against the Aces, the team knew the significance of taking the meet seriously.

“They’ve always put up a good fight,” Walker said. “There have been times they’ve come very close to beating us … and every team needs that. They resemble what we need to be when we take on [better] competition. It can be [men’s No. 6] Auburn or [men’s No. 1] Texas. If we do the same, then we stand a fighting chance.”

The two teams fought for victory, but the nature in the natatorium was light as competitors often congratulated each other after their respective events, regardless of team.

Before the Salukis’ senior day festivities, Walker called out the names of the Aces’ seniors to receive recognition alongside SIU’s.

“I respect the heck out of Evansville,” Walker said. “I’ve got a personal relationship with [Evansville coach] Rickey Perkins. It’s just good, healthy competition.”

The meet also served as the last before both teams go to their conference meets. The women’s events were half of their normal distances in an effort to conserve energy before conference.

The women will get to compete in their own pool one last time at the Missouri Valley Championships on Feb. 17-20 while the men will travel to Ypsilanti, Mich., to participate in the Mid-American Conference Championships March 2-5.

“This is all leading to one thing, and it’s that championship,” Walker said. “What gets [the team] excited is that this is the final step before we actually get there. It’s like that final step before you hop across the finish line. This is the hop, and the next step is crossing it.”

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307.

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