Swimming and diving teams press toward conference championships

Laura Beranek

While some WKU students spent their winter break in hibernation mode, the swimming and diving teams were punching the clock to continue their dominance into the postseason. The Toppers hit the deck Saturday during an intrasquad meet to test their recent progress.

 Coach Bruce Marchionda said he’s pleased with the way his team has remained focused through the lull in competition.

“We’re coming off the hardest training of the year, on our two-plus week training trip down in Florida, and now trying to extend that here for about two weeks,” he said.

Soon after their return from the Sunshine State, the WKU squads beat Evansville during a dual meet at Bill Powell Natatorium.

WKU freshman Michelle Craddock, senior Hilary Mishler and senior Alex Van Oost each clocked the best time in two events. Freshman diver Giorgi Meyer also placed first in the three and one-meter boards, and eleven more WKU swimmers earned best times in their respective events.

One of them, senior Billy Kunkel, said their training in Florida was the best thing the team could do to shift their attention to the upcoming meets.

“We’ve been focusing on staying sharp, even if we’re racing a really bad opponent, just not doing bad habits,” Kunkel said.

The men’s team will travel to Houston Feb. 20 for the Conference USA tournament.

Kunkel is one of several seniors on the men’s team who has had a hand at guiding their teammates into the post season. “We’ve just been keeping everyone focused, leading by example,” he said.

The women will head to the Sun Belt Conference tournament Feb. 27 in Dallas.

Coach Marchionda says his team knows the ultimate goal is winning a conference championship, but despite the near-constant dominance of the regular season, the women have a tough battle ahead.

“We have three teams that could easily win it – North Texas, Florida International, and us,” Marchionda said. “You can have a great conference meet and be first, you can have a great conference meet and be third.”

With less than a month until the men head south to begin the postseason, Marchionda stressed the positive impact this senior class has made.

“This year we’ve had a group of seniors that has been focused, they have given us great leadership from day one, so we’re pretty excited about that,” he said. “I think they’re going to lead us into the conference championships very well. “  

With C-USA and Sun Belt titles at stake, the WKU swimming and diving squads will take the intensity and focus from the Sunshine State on the long road to the Lone Star State.