Swimming and Diving with coach Rick Walker

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Jacob Selsor

The SIU Swimming and Diving team returned to the pool Sept. 22 against the Evansville University Purple Aces, marking the official beginning of the 2017-2018 season.

So far it has been a fairly successful season, with a fourth place women’s team finish at the CSCAA National Collegiate Open Water Swimming Championship, which featured senior Bryn Hadley winning the individual event. The Salukis have also notched a win for both men and women at Evansville, and a loss each to Missouri State last weekend.

Head coach Rick Walker is back at the helm of the Salukis for his 31st year as a swimming coach at SIU, and he is ready to get things going.


“It feels great,” Walker said. “It feels like I just started.”

Coach Walker and the Salukis are coming off of a fairly successful 2016-2017 season which saw the women’s team finish second place to Missouri State in the MVC Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships, while the men’s team notched a fifth place finish at the MAC Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships.

Despite being unable to come out on top last season, Walker said the Salukis remain confident they can find first place this season.

“Heads never really got down,” the swimming coach said. “They’re close enough to reality to understand that things fluctuate. That one moment we’ve got a fighting chance, another moment that might be taken away.”

While Walker and his staff try to keep the team grounded in reality, they encourage the student-athletes to set high goals to strive towards.

“We also try and teach them to dream and follow those dreams,” he said. “Try and alter the way those things might go, could go, and are going.”

This year the Salukis are dreaming of first place conference finishes in the men’s MAC and women’s MVC. Right now the women’s team is ranked second in the MVC and the men are ranked fourth in the MAC, but that does not phase Walker and his team.


“I think our program is a much better team when we’re in the hunt for something rather than being on top and trying to keep that spot,” he said. “I think we are a very very strong, healthy team when we’re fighting to get something or take something away. Just like a true ‘dawg’.”

Southern retained several swimmers and divers from last year’s successful campaign. The men’s team returns two of the four swimmers from the 200-yard Medley Relay team that finished second in the MAC Championships last year, setting SIU program and Dr. Edward J. Shea Natatorium pool records in the process.

Sophomore Kai Hoffman-Dussome, the 2017 MAC Freshman Diver of the year, also makes his return to the platform.

The women’s team returns several strong swimmers from the team that finished second at the MVC Championships last year, including Hadley, junior Jordan Ries and senior Nicole Fuller — all of whom won their events at the conference championships. Hadley took gold in the 200-, 500- and 1650-yard freestyle as well as swimming legs with Ries and Fuller on the team that won the 800-yard freestyle relay.

The Salukis also return junior swimmer Audrey Snyder and senior diver Rachel Williams, who were both selected to the MVC All-Conference First Team last season.

Southern boasts impressive newcomers this year, such as sophomore diver Baobao Ji — September’s MVC Diver of the Month — and her twin sister, sophomore diver Beibei Ji.

Walker has liked what he has seen so far.

“We’re off to a good start,” he said. “There’s a lot of of good work going on.”

The Salukis look forward to using the fall portion of the season to prepare for the Conference championships in the spring, where both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams hope to earn some hardware to bring home to Carbondale.

“That’s the only place you find excellence … it’s not out where everybody can get to it,” Walker said. “If it were, then everyone would have it and there’d be no need to be excellent.”

The SIU swim & dive teams have their next meet Oct. 21 in Edwardsville against Truman State University and host McKendree University. The first event is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.

Sports reporter Jacob Selsor can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jacobselsor_DE.

To stay up to date with all your Carbondale news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.