Swim teams ready for Sun Belt championships

Lucas Aulbach

The moment of truth is quickly approaching for the WKU swimming and diving teams, with the Sun Belt Conference Championships taking place this week.

The event starts Wednesday morning, and competition will last through Saturday.

Head Coach Bruce Marchionda said the event is at the Rockwall Aquatic Center in Dallas, a neutral location close to host North Texas’ campus.  He said the teams will be in Texas for almost a week.

“We’re leaving Monday night, competing Wednesday through Saturday and coming back on Sunday,” he said.

Marchionda said in the weeks since the teams’ last regular season meet, team members have been decreasing the intensity of their workouts in preparation for the championships, a process known as “tapering.”

“Basically we’re trying to come down in yardage and work on some smaller details,” Marchionda said.

The last competition the teams were in was on Jan. 29 against Southern Illinois, wrapping up an impressive regular season in which the teams prevailed in every competition but one early season meet.

Senior Claire Donahue has been to three conference championships in her time at WKU and said the teams’ goals won’t change despite the bigger stage.

“We’re hoping to do the same thing we always want to do — win,” she said.  “That’s been our goal all season.”

Senior David Menchinger has also been to three Sun Belt championships as a Topper and will be competing in several events over the course of the week, including the 200-meter backstroke and 500 freestyle, which he won at every meet this season.

“One important thing is to stay calm before the race,” he said.

Donahue is competing in several individual and team events over the course of the four-day competition. She cited 50 freestyle, 400 relay, and the 100- and 200-meter butterfly as some of her most important events.

Donahue owns the school record for both the 100 and 200 fly.

She also stressed the importance of starting off each day on the right foot, saying that the early events can set the tone for the day.

“One of the things we have to do as a team is swim fast in the morning,” she said.  “(Marchionda) always says swimming well in the morning wins championships.”

While this will be the last time both teams will be performing in their entirety, Marchionda said one of the biggest goals of the conference championships is to get more individuals to post times that qualify for the NCAA National Championships in March.

“Nationals are based on times, not teams,” Marchionda said.  “We’re trying to get some more individuals to the championship this year.”

Menchinger said while the teams are in for a long week, he’s confident in everyone.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “But we’re going for it.”