Salukis start 2015 nearly perfect

By Melanie Early @MelanieEarlyDE, Daily Egyptian

The SIU swimming and diving team’s winter training paid off today despite its aches and pains.

The Salukis hosted Arkansas at Little Rock on Saturday. It was the women’s first conference competition of 2015. The Trojans do not have a men’s team, but Washington University in St. Louis also competed in the meet with a men’s and women’s team.

SIU’s men and women both won 15 of 16 events, leading the program to a strong victory.


The men beat WUSTL 205-93, while the women defeated the Bears 222-76. The women also defeated UALR 222-76.

After a few weeks of training, coach Rick Walker saw exactly what he expected from his team.

“It’s like starting on a gravel road,” Walker said. “It’s a little bumpy and a little rocky.”

Walker said that in order to get back on track with the mentality and flow of the season, focus has to be the main priority.

“You have to be pointed in the right direction so you can end up on the pavement,” Walker said “By the end of the meet that’s exactly where we were.”

Diving coach Joy Zhao was satisfied with her team’s performance overall, but knew that it was not its best.

Zhao said most of the divers, including junior Sherry Zhang, who finished first place in both the one-meter and three-meter dives, are experiencing some nagging injuries. She said they were able to work through them Saturday.


Senior Kegan Skelton came out on top of the one-meter dive with a score of 374.35, which broke his own Edward J. Shea Natatorium pool record from earlier this season against Missouri State. Skelton also placed first in the three-meter dive.

“I’m very proud of them,” Zhao said. “They’ve overcome their injuries and did a good job.”

Senior swimmer Caleb Coots swam his 100-yard butterfly heat alone, but that did not stop his team from cheering him on.

“It’s an odd situation when you’re in a heat by yourself and there’s no one to race,” Coots said. “It’s a little nerve racking, but to have people encouraging you is nice.”

Sophomore swimmer Sarah James also stressed the importance of team effort in Saturday’s meet.

“The hardest thing that we do all year long is winter training,” James said. “Trying to come right back into a meet is pretty difficult for everybody, so we were just trying to get through it as a team.”

James won the 100 and 200-yard backstroke. She also swam a leg of the winning 200-yard medley relay.

Although their major winter training is over, the Salukis have conference in the back of their minds.

“UALR is a little bit low on numbers right now,” Walker said. “But they’ve got some good, quality athletes and they’re going to be ready to go when we come to conference. That’s going to be a good team.”

The Salukis travel to Fishers, Ind. on Jan. 25 for the Butler Invitational. After that, they have one more regular season match against Evansville on Feb. 7 at Edward J. Shea Natatorium.

Melanie Early can be reached at [email protected]