Salukis prove to be conference contenders

By Aaron Graff


Coach Rick Walker said he could not remember the last time the Salukis beat the Bears in their pool, but the most important thing he saw out of both the men and women’s teams this weekend was the amount of fight they had.

Last year’s conference champion, Missouri State University, hosted SIU’s swimming and diving team during the weekend, and the SIU women captured a win.



Walker said he was keeping track of every event the women’s team won. After only a couple of events, he thought to himself they had a shot.

“You have to win a certain number of events in order to win a meet, and when you’re knocking them down one at a time you think, ‘Oh there’s one.’ That’s when you start going ‘Hey, we have a shot at this.’”

The Salukis’ last meet was against two of the top swimming schools in the nation and Walker said the last meet against the University of Kentucky and the University of Missouri was difficult, but the team wanted the challenge to not be afraid of conference schools.

“We walk in on the pool deck to face Missouri State, who has won conference six years in a row,” Walker said. “We don’t look at them as anything special because we’ve already been up against Missouri and Kentucky.”

The SIU women won a total of six swimming events and sophomore Cheri Zhang won both the one-meter and three-meter dives. Of the six events the women won, senior Pamela Benitez won three of them.

Benitez said she was happy to lead her team to victory, but was also happy to prove the team as conference contenders.

“I’m very sure we are doing much better now than last year,” Benitez said. “They now know what to expect from us.”

On the men’s side, the swimmers won two races and junior Kegan Skelton won the three-meter dive. Both race wins came from sophomore Till Pallmann, but there were plenty of close races that Walker was happy about.

“Missouri State men were setting school records and pool records,” Walker said. “We were fighting all the way down to the very end.”

Pallmann won both the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races. Pallmann said it was pretty amazing to win both.

“I saw my times on the board,” Pallmann said. “I went a lot faster this time and I’m in really good shape.”

Skelton placed second in the men’s one-meter dive to Missouri State junior Garrett Nevels. Skelton’s goal afterward was to even the score on the three-meter dive, which is Skelton’s best event.

“I knew I was going to beat him,” Skelton said. “Three-meter is my best event and after my first four dives I knew he could not catch up even if I bombed my dives.”

Skelton said he has a friendly rivalry with Nevels, and that Nevels will likely be his top competition when conference comes around.

The Salukis next travel to Arkadelphia, Ark. to compete in the Henderson State Invite on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. Walker said the team is moving in the right direction, and it was exciting to see the women’s team get a win.

“All in all I’m actually very excited to come into their pool and their facilities because I don’t think they were expecting that at all, and I know they weren’t on the women’s,” he said.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at 

[email protected] 

or 536-3311 ext. 282.