SIU swimming continuously recruiting

By Melanie Early, @MelanieEarlyDE

It is a decision all college students have made, but student-athletes also have to consider whom they want to spend most of their time with.

The Saluki swimming and diving team regularly has two-a-day practices. Sixteen recruits made a visit to campus to witness them, and at least two have now committed to SIU. Coach Rick Walker said 16 is a good number for this point in the season.

Walker said the recruiting process is difficult for coaches of any sport, and he is no exception because of how many spots there are to fill on the swimming team. There are 52 athletes on the roster.


He said he has to have other coaches help him with the process because he cannot promote the program to everyone at once.

“I get contacted a lot,” Walker said. “If I’m getting too bogged down, then I send my international athletes to one [coach], and then my domestic kids to another [coach].”

Walker said the decision to come to SIU depends on more than the team’s previous success. Last season, the women’s team finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference Championships, while the men finished fifth in the Mid-American Conference Championships. But the team’s welcoming environment was the main factor in recruiting for some of the top performers on the team in previous years.

“When people come here and it’s everything that we said it would be, and they love it; that’s only going to help more,” Walker said.

Matt Lee from Bartlett committed and will be in the class of 2019. The team traditionally goes hiking with its recruits. Lee said he and at least five other potential recruits did so in October and got to see some southern Illinois scenery.

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“The team made me feel like I was a part of something,” Lee said.


When sophomore swimmer Sarah James made her trip to SIU she also made her decision based on the homey feel. She said her and her teammates try to do the same for new recruits.

“People were coming from their own schedules during the school year,” James said. “It’s hard, but people made time for our recruits.”

Junior swimmer Till Pallmann said he showed up late to his trip and felt awkward.

“I came to practice and everyone was just staring at me,” Pallmann said.

Despite feeling out of place at the beginning, Pallmann said he left practice feeling like a member of the team. He knew he wanted to be a Saluki swimmer.

Walker said the team is still recruiting for next season and there is never a slow point in the process.

“We want more. We’ve gotten some of our really big needs filled,” Walker said. “But now we can be a little more specific and work the areas that we still need to have.”

Melanie Early can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269