Kolar craves conference championship

By Aaron Graff

Moving up from the bottom is something junior Calvin Kolar is on a mission to do.

Kolar is eyeing a Mid-American Conference championship this season after improving from fourth place as a freshman to third place as a sophomore.

Kolar and his teammates know if he keeps working hard, he will have a good shot at achieving his goal, but Kolar said he needs to keep up his mental strength.


“Swimming is such a tight race,” Kolar said. “The smallest thing can put you from third to eighth.”

Saluki swimming head coach Rick Walker said he recalls when Kolar would be in a crib on deck while his parents were swimming as part of the Saluki Masters team in the ‘90s. Kolar’s parents have swum for the Masters team for as long as Walker has been coaching at SIU, and they are still swimming for them today.

“Literally, I’ve watched him grow up, and I’ve watched him swim,” Walker said. “I knew there was a lot of talent in him. I also knew he needed some direction. We provided him with that opportunity, but I told him it was not going to come free.”

Walker said Kolar primarily needs to keep his hunger and drive to capture a conference title as an individual.

“If there is anything I know about Calvin,” Walker said. “If he wants something bad enough, he will go out and get it. This is a big want, and if he wants to be a champion, he is going to have to need to be that champion every day until he can actually achieve that.”

Walker said he values Kolar as an athlete. Not only does he have potential to win his events at conference, but also is a role model to the younger swimmers. The swim team has become accustomed to passing down the torch respectively. When swimmers graduate, there are always underclassmen to step up and take the lead.

During Kolar’s freshman season, he looked up to Steve Wood, who was a senior at the time. This year, Wood’s younger brother, Bobby Wood, is a freshman looking up to Kolar.


“We swim the same strokes and the same events,” Bobby Wood said. “He’s always in here working hard, he comes to every practice and is never slacking off. He’s just a good role model to have in the pool.”

Kolar said his favorite thing about swimming is competing and racing. Both of the Wood brothers have made that something to look forward to at practices. Walker said Steven Wood originally out swam Kolar all the time, but eventually the two started finishing closer together. He hopes that Bobby Wood can start finishing close to Kolar by the end of this season.

“(Racing) is just what the sport is about,” Kolar said. “If I didn’t love to beat the guy next to me, I would not be doing it.”

Kolar said he is a team player, and admires his teammates for all of the hard work they put in. He said he would rather win a conference championship as a team than as an individual because he spends so much time with his teammates.

“You practice with your teammates every single day for almost four hours,” Kolar said. “If you have a conference championship with all of them, it would mean a whole lot.”

Kolar knows that as a junior, he is running out of time to achieve his goal. He said it would be a top accomplishment, and swimming has helped him manage his time. He said between his classes and practice, he does not get a lot of free time because he is always working hard.

After college Kolar wants to take a break after swimming for nearly 15 years. Since he loves swimming so much, he said he might join the masters swim team just like his parents did.

“If the NCAA allowed betting, which they don’t,” Walker said. “I would bet on Calvin. When he is determined he wants something, he goes out and gets it.”

The Salukis next meet is Oct. 24 and Oct. 25 in Carbondale against the University of Kentucky and the University of Missouri.

The men’s team competes in the MAC Championship tournament Mar. 6-8 in Buffalo N.Y.