SWIMMING: Women on verge of 19th straight

Josh Buckman

On Saturday, Western’s two hottest teams have a chance to add another notch in the win column when Southwest Missouri and Emory come to battle with the Hilltoppers’ swimming and diving teams.

Western’s men’s swimming team will enter with a perfect 12-0 record and the women will try for their school record 19th win.

Wins would be a confidence booster for both teams before the conference tournaments.

“I think because it’s our last meet it’s more important than it would be because winning our last meet would give us more momentum going into conference,” team captain Gord Veldman said. “I think … by winning this weekend we’ll have a lot of confidence.”

Even though Emory poses little threat to the men, Southwest Missouri could be the biggest challenge for the Hilltoppers. Loaded with talent for every event, Western only has a clear advantage in the backstroke.

“We’ll have to swim as well, even better, than we did against Southern Illinois,” coach Bill Powell said. “And again it comes down to every guy and girl having great times in order for us to win.”

Everyone knows it will be a tough meet, but the team is ready.

“I’m pretty confident,” senior diver Donny Glass said. “All our swimmers are swimming really good. They’re way above where they were at the beginning of the year, so I think it’s going to be a close meet. But I think we’re going to come out on top.”

While the men can look at the meet as the piece of the puzzle that could complete an undefeated season, the women can view it as one last opportunity to improve their record in a surprisingly successful season.

Despite losing nine seniors the Lady Toppers have gone 17-3, surprising almost everyone except maybe themselves.

“It has not surprised me because I knew that the girls coming in were very talented, and I knew they would add a lot of support and good times,” senior Meredith McCauley said.

Unlike the men, the Lady Toppers are expecting an uphill climb from both SMS and Emory. However Western has been able to come out on top in difficult situations.

“It has surprised me in the sense that we swam against some hard teams and every year we do well and every year it does surprise me,” McCauley said. “You know we work hard, but you can’t take success for granted.”

Although beating SMS and Emory is a desirable goal, the Lady Toppers are maintaining their focus on winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in mid-February.

In order to get ready for the postseason, Powell wants the team to eat well, get plenty of rest and lay off the partying.

Time will tell if he gets his wish.

Reach Josh Buckman at [email protected]