Olaf Meller was one of three underclassmen to compete in A Finals for Southern on Friday.
March 8, 2013
By John Lock
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois men's swimming and diving team jumped up a spot to fourth place at the Mid-American Conference Championship on Friday, leapfrogging Miami for the fourth spot. The three-day meet concludes tomorrow with an 11 a.m. preliminary session and 7 p.m. finals session. Southern trails Missouri State, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan and leads Miami (OH), Ball State and Evansville.
"I love this team's young energy to go out and compete so well in such a big meet," head coach Rick Walker said. "It's exciting to watch such a young team compete like this. If we continue to bring in swimmers like this, it's impossible not to love the direction this program is heading."
The team features 12 underclassmen and seven newcomers after losing 10 seniors and two other top swimmers during the year. Justin Wolfe had a shoulder injury that ended his Saluki career before his senior season got going, and Juan Arbelaez left the team to return to Columbia for family reasons. Both swimmers were defending conference champions and All-MAC performers a year ago.
"Three years ago, we had a full team and placed fifth," Walker said. "This year, we're young and short-handed, and we're in fourth. That says a lot about the direction we're headed: up."
Two of those underclassmen, freshman Till Pallmann and sophomore Calvin Kolar, put their names in the SIU record books on Friday. Both swimmers swam the second-fastest time in school history in their individual races on Friday.
Pallmann finished third in the 200-yard freestyle. Pallmann, who won the 500-yard freestyle yesterday, jumped out of the blocks quickly and built a lead before running just shy of enough gas to get his second MAC Championship. Pallmann's time (1:36.79) would have been a pool record if not for the top-two finishers and was second in school history, with school record-holder Antonio Santoro looking on from the stands.
The Salukis also got points from underclassmen in both events in the B Finals. In the 200 free, freshmen Olaf Meller (1:41.83) and Esteavo Andrade (1:42.04) placed sixth and seventh in the B Final, respectively. In the 100 breast, sophomores Shaun Wolfe (58.00) and Andrew Spencer (59.11) finished fourth and eighth, respectively, in the B Final.
In the first individual swimming event of the day, the Salukis got 15 points from one of the few veterans on the team, Thomas Defay. Defay finished fourth in the event (3:57.22). Another veteran, Olympian Csaba Gercsak, finished fourth in the B Final, while sophomore Caleb Coots scored at the MAC Championships for the first time in his career (4:15.27).
Sophomore Matt Frey won the B Final in the 100-yard butterfly, posting the seventh-fastest time in the finals in the event (49.96). Wolfe (50.08) finished third in the B Final and Jacob Lucheon (50.63) finished seventh in the B Final.
Olaf Meller was the second Saluki freshman of the day to qualify for an A Final, finishing eight in the 100-yard backstroke. Fellow newcomers Oleg Rabota and Andres Saavedra finished second and eighth, respectively, in the B Final.
Southern capped off the night with a fifth-place finish in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The first three legs of the relay were newcomers to the team this year and had the team near the front of the pack before falling a hundreth-of-a-second short of fourth place.
The final day of the MAC Championship starts tomorrow with an 11 a.m. preliminary session and a 7 p.m. finals session at the Dr. Edward J. Shea Natatorium in the SIU Rec Center.
1. Missouri State - 503
2. Buffalo - 490.5
3. Eastern Michigan - 478
4. Southern Illinois - 278
5. Miami (OH) - 258.5
6. Ball state - 127
7. Evansville - 116