Daily Egyptian

Salukis gain conference foe

By Aaron Graff

The Saluki swimming and diving teams have five opponents left in only three meets before the conference championships. The first of those three starting Saturday at University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

The UALR Trojans have recently joined the Missouri Valley Conference for swimming on the women’s side.  SIU will be the first conference opponent they have in a tri-meet with Ouachita Baptist University.

Amy Burgess, UALR’s coach, said she is excited to compete against a conference opponent before the tournament, which begins Feb. 13.

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“It’s kind of been our motivation all year, being in a new conference,” Burgess said.  “To actually get a chance to race against some competition is going to be a good motivator for the team.”

Burgess said she hopes conference opponents can become a more regular occurrence with alternating hosts every year.

SIU coach Rick Walker said he is happy to have the Trojans join the conference, since it will make it better as a whole.  He said they are probably in the bottom half of the conference, but can push other teams to get better and eventually contend against teams in the top half.

Walker said UALR has some swimmers that will place high, and that it could benefit SIU if the Salukis are not the competitors moving down the leaderboard.

“They have a couple of really good swimmers,” Walker said.  “They’ll be finishing pretty high up, maybe in the top eight.  If they get in the top eight, it’s going to knock somebody out, as long as it’s not us, then it’s knocking out one of out competitors.”

Senior Kristy Hinkle, who swims the backstroke, said she is excited to go there for the first time and does not necessarily expect an instant rivalry, but she knows it has the potential to be one.

“There’s always tension in between different teams competing against each other, but a full on rivalry, I don’t know if we’ll get to that,” Hinkle said.

The Salukis trained for this meet and the rest of their season during winter break in Puerto Rico.  Hinkle said the team was practicing roughly four hours a day and lifted on top of that.

Walker said training in Puerto Rico was some of the best possible, and the team needed time off from school to completely focus on swimming since the remainder of the season is short.

“We don’t leave campus for anything but training,” Walker said.  “If I can’t get better training than I can get here, or equal to, we’re not leaving.”

Senior freestyler Evan Wiedeman said the training was difficult but it will be rewarding. Wiedeman said he wants to figure out how far the team has come since Puerto Rico, and he hopes to see the training pay off.

The Salukis have a busy rest of the season, including another tri-meet at the University of Illinois Monday.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at [email protected], @AaronGraff_DE or (618)-536-3311 ext. 269

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