WKU looks to extend streak at home with invitational

Nick Bratcher

As the WKU swimming and diving team hosts the Hilltopper Invite this weekend, a sense of individual responsibility is heightening.

The meet, which takes place in the Bill Powell Natatorium inside the Preston Health and Activities Center, features eight teams and runs from Friday through Sunday.

Finals begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

 “The key to winning the invite is going to be depth,” Head Coach Bruce Marchionda said. “The team that gets more of those sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place finishes is going to win the invite.”

But Marchionda is more concerned with the long-term implications of the meet, establishing a parallel between the Invite and the conference championship in terms of individual success.

“Really, to win a conference championship, you have to have all of your swimmers scoring in three events,” he said. “It makes your team that much stronger. That’s the biggest thing we’re looking to get out of this three-day meet.”

The Invite’s structure mimics that of the three-day Sun Belt Championships. This allows swimmers to compete in a third event, much different than the usual one-day dual meets that restrict swimmers to two.

Marchionda hopes this weekend’s meet will help him determine who will swim together at the conference meet.

“We pretty much know what the first two events will be, but maybe there are some questions about what the third will be,” Marchionda said. “Or for some, it’s finding a third event that they can even score in at the conference championships.”

Senior Chelsea Stephens said the freshmen especially will be under pressure in this three-day format.

“They may not know what they could swim at conference, and this is a good opportunity to see if they can double on one of the days,” Stephens said. “It’s important in determining who’s going to be on the conference team.”

WKU comes into the weekend having not lost a meet since its Oct. 16 opener against South Carolina.

Stephens said that a win this weekend will keep the momentum going.

“The streak is pretty important,” she said. “Obviously, our competition looks at us and sees how we’re doing and how fast we’re going. Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain it.”

Junior Chris Housden was hesitant to put too much emphasis on this weekend’s meet but did agree that the early success has been a plus.

“You’d give every dual meet in the year to make sure you still win conference in the end,” Housden said. “It’s been a great season so far, so it’s great to have that to build off of.”