Swim teams preparing for final meet, Senior Day

The WKU swim team practices Tuesday in the Powell Natatorium in preparation for their home meet on Saturday against Southern Illinois. The meet will also be Senior Day.

Lucas Aulbach

The swim teams at WKU are in what senior Chelsea Stephens called the “final push” of the season before next month’s Sun Belt Conference Championship.

The teams will host Southern Illinois on Saturday in their final competition before the conference championship. 

The meet will begin at 1 p.m. at Powell Natatorium in the Preston Center, and admission is free.

At the teams’ practice Wednesday, Head Coach Bruce Marchionda acknowledged the importance of this weekend’s meet.

“After just coming off our hardest training of the year, it’s extremely important for us to perform well and come away with a victory,” he said.

Assistant Coach Rita Kalmikova said that a win would be important because it can give WKU some momentum.

“We want to finish our season on a good note,” she said. “It’s very important for our confidence this close to the conference championship.”

Marchionda said that SIU will pose several challenges at the meet, with their men’s and women’s teams both projected to win their respective conferences.

Assistant Coach Brian Thomas said he’s confident heading into the meet and believes that the event will help motivate the team.

“We traditionally swim well at home, and with this atmosphere I have no doubt we’ll come out and swim our best,” Thomas said.

For nearly a month, WKU has been in its most difficult training period of the year, Marchionda said.

He said the teams have been working consistently on the little things that will “make a difference at the end of the year.”

Stephens said she usually practices three to four hours a day in order to stay in shape.

“You always want to work on the little things and keep preparing for other teams,” she said.

Kalmikova also stressed the importance of continuing to practice during this stretch.

“In swimming, you can’t take much time off,” she said. “You have to stay in the water.”

Saturday’s meet is also the teams’ Senior Day, and many of the athletes’ families are expected to be in attendance.

Stephens, who has been on the team for four years, said she has a love-hate relationship with the date.

“I used to be ready to be finished with it, and now that its actually here, it’s kind of sad,” she said.

Kalmikova said she shares a special relationship with the senior class.

“My first year here was the first year for these seniors,” she said. “It’s like my class graduating.”

Kalmikova said she believes the seniors have an important place in the program’s history.

“They helped move the program forward,” she said.  “We’re much more competitive because of them. It’s hard to see them go.”