The Saluki swimming & diving team took 21 of 26 events on a night when the team said goodbye to eight seniors.
Seniors Csaba Gercsak, Jessica Anderson, Thomas Defay and Anna Beeck ended their collegiate careers with individual and team wins on Saturday.
SIU held a dual meet Saturday in Carbondale against the University of Evansville. The Salukis won both the men’s and women’s meet with both teams scoring more than 150 points. The men beat Evansville 156-72 and won a total of 11 events. The women’s team won 154-89 and added 10 titles to bank 21 total individual Saluki wins.
Coach Rick Walker said the win is exactly what the team needed with the Missouri Valley Conference meet just two weeks away.
“I’m very proud of the way they approached it,” he said. “In many ways, we could take it lightly and get hammered, or we could take it lightly and accomplish nothing.”
The seniors’ performances were highlighted by Gercsak and Defay, who both won their individual events. Gercsak won the men’s 1,000-yard freestyle swim with a final time of 9 minutes and 58.01 seconds. Defay competed in the 200-yard individual medley and swam a time of 1:58.51, which beat out second-place freshman swimmer Troy Burger of Evansville by nearly two seconds.
The emotion present is usually bittersweet when seniors leave their respective schools, Gercsak said, but he liked leaving SIU on a high point.
“Everyone showed support for the seniors, and it was very emotional, but overall it was a good day,” he said “We all swam well and showed a lot of effort and had a great meet.”
According to senior Kirsten Groome, the SIU swim team acts much more like siblings than they do teammates.
“We all spend 24-7 together, we fight and make up like brothers and sisters,” she said. “At meets we are really behind each other. We know each other’s goals and we make sure to support those goals. If a teammate accomplishes a goal, you feel like you did as well.”
With the MVC meet round the corner, Walker said rest is the main part of his practice plan.
“We’ve worked hard and worked on the physical aspect of the sport and we beat them up,” he said. “But now it’s just time for rest and relaxation.”
Groome said rest is important to success as well.
“We always try to get more rest than usual and try to calm down,” she said. “Most people watch and taper our diets, some start earlier and some start later, it just depends on what your event is.”
However, Gercsak said he does the opposite to prepare for the MVC meet. He will leave for Hungary this week to train in his home country, and will return after a seven-day camp.
“I’m leaving for the Hungarian National Team training camp this week. It’s going to be a bumpy camp, so it’s going to give me an extra boost when I come back,” Gercsak said. “Then once I come back, I have to get the speed and put it all together for the conference meet.”
The team’s next meet is the conference championships. The women’s meet takes place Feb. 14 in Carbondale, but the men’s conference won’t happen until March 7 in Carbondale.
Walker said he was happy with the seniors’ Saturday performances, and he needs the upperclassmen to continue their leadership.
“It’s nice to see the seniors go out in a situation when they can swim fast and go out with a win,” he said. “Our ladies and guys have been showing our younger athletes how to do it since day one and this just culminates to the end of the year.”