Saluki swim team dives into season

By Aaron Graff

Saluki swimming and diving athletes will get their feet wet for the first time this year this Friday and Saturday with high hopes and expectations for the season.

The season opens with the Saluki Miler on Friday and the 5K open water swim on Saturday, both in Carbondale. The team competes in 36 events overall and has a lot of potential in some of those events. Sophomore Till Pallmann won the Missouri Valley Conference in the 500-yard freestyle race and set a conference record last season, and this season he has even higher hopes.

“For myself I want to win all my three events at conference,” Pallmann said. “ I want to set at least one team record, and for the team, I think we should go for at least third place (in conference).”


Head Coach Rick Walker said he would like to see improved results over last year. The team is nearly ready to go, but players can still improve their technique, he said.

“Technique is something that we battle every day, but the team unity is there, the excitement level is there,” Walker said.

Freshman Dusan Vukobrat said he is glad he chose to swim at SIU. Along with the coaches and the older swimmers, he has set high goals as well. He said he hopes to do well this year to set up the team for the next couple of years.

“As a team, I know that last season we had a rough season,” Vukobrat said. “If we could go top three this year and kind of build upon it for the next couple of years, that would be really great.”

Many of the team members are from out of the country and bond as a family. Sophomore Katy Ovington said she enjoys the chemistry teammates have.

“I absolutely love it,” she said. “There’s an amazing team atmosphere, everyone encourages each other, I have come along so much since starting at SIU.”

Freshman diver Aidan Chipps, from Australia, said American schooling is a new experience for him, but he is thoroughly enjoying it.

“It’s extremely different,” Chipps said. “I have to deal with a roommate, which I’ve never had. I have to be literally on the other side of the world from my family for a whole year. It’s just completely different, compared to what we have back home.”

Even though the team has a family feel to it, and teammates have a lot of fun while swimming and diving, Chipps said competition can become intense. He said his practice in America is a lot more efficient and he feels better after every single practice here.

Chipps said he looks up to the older members of the team for motivation and is ready to dive right into the season.

“Kegan (Skelton) is the only other guy diver,” Chipps said. “He is ridiculously strong and good at what he does. So in terms of diving, I look up to him.”