SWIMMING: After two straight losses, Western fueled for rebound tonight

Wes Watt

When junior swimmer Nick Bracco crawled out of the pool after his 200-yard backstroke event, his body collapsed with exhaustion along the poolside, trying to replenish his oxygen-deprived body.

Bracco and his competitor, Marcelo Possato, were battling for first place every inch of the 200 yards. However, when the water finally settled, Bracco settled for second.

“I was so physically tired,” Bracco said. “I pushed off the wall (for the final turn and) I knew I was in trouble. I was just thinking, finish.”

It was this type of effort the Toppers gave on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to propel them to a victory over conference rival Southern Illinois for the last home meet of the season.

But the Toppers have no time to reflect on the loss because they have to get ready to swim again.

After collecting a 19-meet win streak dating back to last season, the Toppers have dropped two in a row and are looking to rebound tonight at Evansville for a meet against Evansville and St. Louis.

Bracco said despite the loss to the Salukis, he has confidence his team can finish the year strong.

“If anything this loss gives us more fuel for conference,” Bracco said. “Because we don’t want to lose to them twice.”

Coach Bill Powell said the meet will be a different meet than when his team routed the Purple Aces by 45 points early this season.

The Toppers will still be without freshman standout Nic Hurt, who was missed in the team’s back-to-back losses because he is still ineligible.

Powell said Hurt has made up the test that was missed last semester, but due to an NCAA rule he is still ineligible.

But Powell said Hurt should return in time for the Southwest Missouri State meet later this month.

“We’ve been scouring the rule book,” Powell said. “And it looks like to us he should become eligible.”

Along with Hurt’s absence, the Toppers depth will take another hit since St. Louis has been thrown into the mix with Evansville. With three schools competing, the number of swimmers a team can enter in an event is limited.

“It’s to their advantage,” Powell said. “I still think we have a little too much for them. It will be fun.”

The women will have the week off after their crushing victory over SIU. They will return to action along with the men on Jan. 31 against SMS.

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]