SWIMMING: Men remain undefeated

Josh Buckman

Head Coach Bill Powell believed that everyone on the swimming and diving team would have to do well to beat Southern Illinois.

On Saturday, he got his wish. Both the men’s and women’s teams pulled off the upset.

Trailing most of the meet, the underdog Lady Toppers came back to beat SIU 124-119 and pick up a school-record 16th win.

“It was hard mentally for you to get back in the meet,” senior Carol Brown said. “But I knew that it wasn’t over, even though we were still kind of down because we were losing more than we thought we would. But you knew inside everyone could pull together.”

With just three events left in the meet, Western was down by 18 points. In those last three events, Western outscored the Salukis 39-15.

Trisha Nailer and Marci Kacsir finished 1-2 in the 3-meter dive before Lucy Faria and Lori Ludwiczak swept the 100-yard breaststroke with Sarah Besco finishing a strong fourth. That pulled the meet to a 113-113 tie with only the 200-yard freestyle remaining.

Halfway through the meet with the Lady Toppers seemingly hopelessly behind, Coach Powell sensed that the only possible chance for victory would be in the last relay. So he pulled Brown out of the 100 freestyle to save her for the last relay. The move paid off as the team of Rachel Buncher, Jordan Beck, Carrie Redman and Brown on the anchor leg edged out SIU to clinch the meet.

Nailer was the outstanding performer of the meet for Western, as she was the only team member to win two events – the 1- and 3-meter dives. Freshman Meredith Mountjoy also won the 100-yard butterfly (59.49).

Western’s men’s swimming team ran its record to a perfect 11-0 with an impressive 138-105 victory. Relying on strong performances from nearly everyone on the team, the Hilltoppers never trailed the defending Missouri Valley Conference Champions.

In the first event, the 200-yard medley relay, a team of Gord Veldman, Charlie Knight, Ryan Crosby and Matt Nalbone won in a very swift 1:32.64.

Following the relay, in the first individual event, Bowling Green High School product Karl Swanson swam the third-fastest 1,000-yard freestyle time in Western history (9:31.27). James Campbell came from behind in the race to finish second and give the Hilltoppers a big boost.

“The whole team was standing out on the side cheering for us during the 1,000, and during long races like that when the whole team gets up there and cheers for you and they’re clapping for you, it’s just a second wind you get,” Swanson said. “You don’t want to let down the team.”

Senior Jerrod Janes once again won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle (21.29 and 46.89 seconds, respectively). Greg Strickler had a strong showing during the meet, winning the 200-yard individual medley in his best unsaved time ever (1:54.86). Paul Graves made it another strong event for the Hilltoppers, finishing second (1:56.40).

The 100-yard butterfly was the team’s biggest event as Chad Waits (50.06), Ryan Crosby (50.25), Strickler (52.31) and Alex Handley (52.71) swept the top four spots.

Team captain Gord Veldman broke the Southern Illinois pool record in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 48.97.

Chris Tarter clinched the meet for Western with a surprise victory in the 100-yard breaststroke (59.15). Finally, the Toppers’ freestyle relay team of Veldman, Janes, Matt Nalbone and Drew Aldridge won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:23.95.

Next week, the team heads to Evansville for their final road meet of the regular season.

Reach Josh Buckman at [email protected]