Daily Egyptian

SIU won’t break, unless it’s a school record

By Aaron Graff

Sophomore diver Cheri Zhang shattered the school record in the 3-meter dive during the weekend while the Salukis competed in two separate meets.

SIU’s coaching staff determined where every swimmer would go based on his or her current level of competition.

Coach Rick Walker said he was excited about the way the Salukis raced and was happy the swimmers were ready to go on little rest.

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“We had some really good swims on not much rest,” Walker said. “There were some really good ‘Hey I want to step up and swim fast’ performances.”

The Phoenix Invite in Chicago saw multiple top-five finishes, but it was junior Ella Otto who stood out. Otto won the final round of the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 57.95 and the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 2:03.68.

Walker said since Otto swam faster, it moved her up and gave the Salukis the top-five backstroke swimmers in the conference, which rarely happens.

“Currently, right now we have the top-five times in the backstroke,” Walker said. “That’s huge 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 all SIU, we have not seen that in a while.”

Otto also won her preliminary round in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:54.44, but finished third overall with a final time of 1:54.18.

Otto said she was pleasantly surprised at how fast she swam, and this meet will help motivate her to keep working harder for the conference championship meet.

“I’m expecting more of myself after what came out of this meet,” Otto said. “I’m expecting to be faster, which means I’m expecting to work harder in the pool.”

SIU had second-place finishes in five relay races, and Otto was involved in all three of those women’s teams.

Otto led the women’s team to third place out of 10 teams with a final team score of 449.5.

The men’s side had two second- place relay finishes that featured the same teams. Senior George Minkel, sophomore Nathan Ray, graduate student Eric Sparks and senior Evan Wiedeman finished second in the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays.

Minkel also captured third place as an individual in the 200-yard freestyle race with a time of 1:43.65.

Sophomore diver Cheri Zhang shattered the school record in the 3-meter dive during the weekend while the Salukis competed in two separate meets.

SIU’s coaching staff determined where every swimmer would go based on his or her current level of competition.

Coach Rick Walker said he was excited about the way the Salukis raced and was happy the swimmers were ready to go on little rest.

“We had some really good swims on not much rest,” Walker said. “There were some really good ‘Hey I want to step up and swim fast’ performances.”

The Phoenix Invite in Chicago saw multiple top-five finishes, but it was junior Ella Otto who stood out. Otto won the final round of the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 57.95 and the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 2:03.68.

Walker said since Otto swam faster, it moved her up and gave the Salukis the top-five backstroke swimmers in the conference, which rarely happens.

“Currently, right now we have the top-five times in the backstroke,” Walker said. “That’s huge 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 all SIU, we have not seen that in a while.”

Otto also won her preliminary round in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:54.44, but finished third overall with a final time of 1:54.18.

Otto said she was pleasantly surprised at how fast she swam, and this meet will help motivate her to keep working harder for the conference championship meet.

“I’m expecting more of myself after what came out of this meet,” Otto said. “I’m expecting to be faster, which means I’m expecting to work harder in the pool.”

SIU had second-place finishes in five relay races, and Otto was involved in all three of those women’s teams.

Otto led the women’s team to third place out of 10 teams with a final team score of 449.5.

The men’s side had two second- place relay finishes that featured the same teams. Senior George Minkel, sophomore Nathan Ray, graduate student Eric Sparks and senior Evan Wiedeman finished second in the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays.

Minkel also captured third place as an individual in the 200-yard freestyle race with a time of 1:43.65.

The men’s team as a whole placed fourth out of eight teams.

At the Mizzou Invitational, there were fewer top finishes due to a higher level of competition, but Zhang broke a school record in diving.

Zhang captured victories in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives, but her 3-meter went above and beyond. Lisa Holland has held the school record for the 3-meter dive since 1996 at 313.55. Zhang scored 389.00 on her 3-meter final, which was more than 40 points better than the second place finisher.

Zhang said she was just doing her best. She knew there was tough competition at the meet and she did not knowat first that she broke the record.

“At first, I didn’t know I broke the school record,” Zhang said. “My coach told me I broke the record, and I was kind of surprised.”

Zhang scored 309.90 on her 1-meter final, which was also good for first place and 20 points better than the second-place finisher.

Senior Pamela Benitez finished fourth in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 16:33.52, which helped the women finish seventh out of 12 teams.

On the men’s side, sophomore Till Pallmann finished third in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:37.10, which helped the men finish fourth of seven teams.

Walker said with Thanksgiving and winter breaks coming up, athletes are going to need to be disciplined to work for the rest of the season.

“We can’t take a break,” Walker said. “This is where they have to be adults and mature athletes when they go home.”

Walker said he looks forward to the shorter leg of the season and said he really likes the group he has.

“There have been times where I have gotten to this point and I have been a little nervous looking forward,” Walker said. “I look at the future toward the end of this season, and I can’t wait to get there.”

The Salukis will next compete Jan. 18 against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and Ouachita Baptist University in Little Rock.

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