Senior swimmers cherish careers

By Aaron Graff

The Saluki swimming and diving teams will honor their seniors Saturday before a home meet against the University of Evansville Purple Aces.

Evansville is a conference opponent for both the men and women’s teams, and this will be the last regular season meet for both schools.

Evansville hosted SIU during the fall season with the Salukis winning with a score of 138-105 for the women and 150-87 for the men.


Coach Rick Walker said the Salukis usually play Evansville more than once a year because of the close distance and the tradition between the two schools.

“If we didn’t have Evansville, I’d be searching for another team to be swimming,” Walker said.  “We have a good history with Evansville and I believe in the philosophy that their coach is following.”

Walker said this meet will be mostly shorter distance events to allow better rest and some final training for the conference meet for both schools.  He said both schools will be doing whatever it takes to win, especially on the women’s side, since conference is roughly two weeks away.

“Evansville is never easy,” Walker said.

Senior Pamela Benitez said she will not Evansville’s women’s team, but she is going to have fun at her final meet.

“People should come,” Benitez said.  “It’s going to be so much fun, and if they see what swimming is or what a meet is, they’ll get enthusiastic about coming for conference and we need the support.”

Benitez said when she was a freshman, she thought it would take her much longer to get senior recognition than it did.

“I wish I could reverse time and experience everything again,” Benitez said.

Benitez has been named the MVC swimmer of the week seven times in her career, and was named the MVC scholar athlete of the week this week.  She also competed in the 2012 Olympics in the 800-meter freestyle.

Benitez said she is still not sure what she wants to do after college, but she plans to keep swimming after the season ends.

“I don’t think I can just wake up the next day and say ‘I don’t want to swim anymore’,” Benitez said.

Walker said after this meet, the women will rest some to be fresher for conference, but the men will still be practicing hard.  The men’s conference tournament will begin Mar. 6 in Buffalo, N.Y., and Walker said it is too far away for the men to rest now.

Graduate student Eric Sparks said is a first year Saluki.  He said he is excited to have his mom watching his final regular season meet.

Sparks previously swam for Towson University in Maryland from 2008-10.

“I just happened to have a year of eligibility left as a senior,” Sparks said.  “I’ve always looked forward to having my senior day.  For me it’s going to be a celebration of my year here and my whole career.”

Evansville is one of two schools that competes in the same swim conference as SIU for both the men and women.  Walker said Missouri State University, Evansville and SIU’s men will try to stick together no matter what conference they are swimming in.

The meet will start at noon at the Dr. Edward J. Shea Natatorium.  SIU will also be hosting the Missouri Valley Conference Championship starting Feb. 13.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at [email protected], @Aarongraff_DE or 536-3311 ext. 269