Cats outswim Dawgs in last fall home meet

By Aaron Graff

he Saluki swimming and diving team struggled against challenging opponents during the weekend.

The University of Kentucky Wildcats and the University of Missouri Tigers traveled to SIU with the best competition the Salukis have seen so far. The meet took place Thursday night and Friday morning at the Dr. Edward J. Shea Natatorium.

SIU head coach Rick Walker said the team wanted to face challenging opponents to prepare its swimmers for easier competition.


“We wanted this challenge,” Walker said. “It’s tougher than anything we will go through all year because it is multiple events coming at them really quick.”

Walker said the team did much better than what the scores say. He also said some of the swimmers are sick and others are getting sick, so the intense match made their performances suffer.

“The scores do not reflect how close the meet was,” Walker said. “We had a lot of close races, but if we are on the wrong end of that, the points are going to be skewed.”

Not everything went wrong for the Salukis however, as senior Pamela Benitez, sophomore Till Pallmann and senior Oleg Rabota all came away with multiple top- three finishes.

“I felt really good (Thursday), especially for my 100 freestyle sprint in the relay,” Pallmann said. “(Friday) I was really tired, but I am still satisfied I could swim fast, even though it was not as fast as I expected.”

Rabota won both the 200- yard freestyle and the 200-yard backstroke races and said he appreciated competing against bigger schools.

“(We) can see what they do and see what we are doing wrong and what we are doing right,” Rabota said. “It is better to swim with the big swim teams compared to the slow swim teams.”

Benitez found herself towards the top of the leaderboard with multiple top three finishes. Benitez finished the 500-yard freestyle in first place, with a time of 4:57.68,

which was only two hundredths of a second better than the second place finisher, Kendal Casey from Kentucky.

Walker said Benitez is a team player, and that it was great to see her challenge two bigger swim schools and win a couple of races.

“It means everything to the team,” Walker said. “I think more importantly for her, it is a confidence booster.”

The diving teams were both fairly successful against the tough competition. Sophomore Kaixuan Zhang earned a final score of 334.25 in the women’s three-meter dive, putting her in first place.

Zhang also finished second in the women’s one-meter dive with a score of 309.00. Her teammate, senior Fengting Chen, finished right behind her in third place in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives.

On the men’s side, Junior Kegan Skelton finished fourth in the one- meter dive with a score of 280.55, and finished third in the three- meter dive with a score of 324.30.

The SIU swimming and diving teams will travel to Springfield, Mo. Nov. 2 to challenge conference rival, Missouri State University.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at [email protected]

or (618)-536-3311