Daily Egyptian

Salukis hope to end Missouri State’s run

By Aaron Graff

The Saluki women’s swimming and diving team has prepared all season for this weekend.

SIU will host the Missouri Valley Conference swimming and diving championships at the Edward J. Shea Natatorium in the Recreation Center. Preliminaries start Thursday at 11 a.m. and the events will be spread out until Saturday.

The women’s team finished third in the tournament last season behind Illinois State University and Missouri State University, which won the previous six MVC titles in swimming and diving. The Saluki women lost to the Bears by two points during the fall tournament in Springfield, Mo.


Freshman Sarah James said two points in swimming is not much, and the Salukis will have an advantage swimming in their own pool with parents and fans in the stands to cheer them on.

“We swim in this pool every day,” she said. “Whenever you’re racing in the same pool you’re training in, you know it like the back of your hand.”

Coach Rick Walker said despite being at home, the Salukis do not have an edge in the tournament. He said even though everyone can come and go at their own leisure and will get to sleep in their own bed, the team has to contribute a large amount of time running the meet.

“Other coaches get to walk in on deck and remain 100 percent focused on their team,” he said. “We go through the meet partially distracted at times.”

Walker said this year’s team is one of the best prepared for the tournament, and they are hungry to win.

“Missouri State doesn’t scare us,” he said. “Illinois State doesn’t scare us. If anybody should be scared, they should be scared because we’ve got nothing to lose.”

The team trained in Puerto Rico during winter break and freshman Kristina Ksarjian said since the training, the team thinks it can do anything.

“We’ve put in all the hard work,” she said. “We’ve got a great chance to win.”

This will be the first conference tournament for Ksarjian and James. James said her teammates, who have competed in the tournament before, told her words could not describe how exciting it is.

“It’s a whole new experience,” she said. “We’re seeded really well this year. I think it’s going to be exciting and totally different than something that I’ve ever done before.”

SIU will have one more school vying for the top spot this year. The University of Arkansas-Little Rock joined the conference in swimming earlier this season. The Salukis beat the Trojans 177-60 in January.

The Salukis have faced every conference opponent this season except Northern Iowa University. They have beaten Evansville University twice, and competed against Illinois State in the Saluki Miler.

Walker said the team is getting excited as a group, which can be huge to the team’s success.

“The best thing we can do is come in and be fighters,” he said.

Full coverage of the tournament will be on the MVC website and live-tweeted from @DEsalukis on twitter.


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