Hilltopper Invite a ‘rehearsal’ for Sun Belt meet

Kurt Carson

The WKU swimming and diving team has found plenty of success at this point in the season, but this weekend, they face a style of competition they have yet to experience. 

The men’s and women’s swim teams will face a three-day format competition as they host the Hilltopper Invitational at the Bill Powell Natatorium. It’s similar to the format of the Sun Belt Conference Championship they will see later this season.

Head Coach Bruce Marchionda said WKU is looking at this weekend’s invitational as a “rehearsal” for the conference championship in February.

“We expect some pretty good competition this week,” he said. “We’re kind of working right through it, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to being so tired and being in a three-day meet. It’s not going to be easy.”

The women’s team will compete against Vanderbilt, Evansville, Cumberlands and Arkansas-Little Rock, while the men’s team will face the same teams with the exception of Vanderbilt.

Marchionda said it will be an opportunity to gain experience in such a format, especially for the influx of freshmen on this year’s squad.

“Once you get to Sunday, the sixth session, it’s hard especially since you’re not rested and it’s not a conference championship on the line,” he said. “The biggest thing we’re looking for is for them to remain mentally tough through all six sessions — be aggressive, not back off and be competitive.”

Senior captain Georgia Smith also said it’s a good way to prepare for the conference championship.

“It’s tiring,” Smith said. “But, it’s really good practice for conference and it’s good for the freshmen to see how hard it’s going to be and if they’ll need to practice a certain way.

“People are going to start feeling it on day three.”

Marchionda said it’s “very difficult” for any team to swim a competition of this format this early in the year.

He said it’s arguably even harder than the conference championship.

“Most swimmers in a conference championship will have one event a day for three days,” Marchionda said. “Now all of a sudden they’re going to come in and have three events in the morning, three events at night and do it all over again for the next two days.”

Sophomore Heitor Rodrigues said although it will most definitely be challenging, it also provides motivation to do well.

“We get excited to race because it’s more like conference style,” Rodrigues said. “We’re all very motivated for it.”

Marchionda said while his team is “very tired” and he knows that will make it even harder, he’s looking forward to seeing the team essentially “rehearse” for the Sun Belt championship.

“We put them in this situation to work on their mental toughness, their tenacity, so to speak and to be aggressive when they’re tired,” he said. “If they can do that now they’re going to be great in February.”