Swimming picked third in pre-championship poll

    Isabela Castro is trying to become the first three-time MVC Champion in the 200-yard butterfly.

    Isabela Castro is trying to become the first three-time MVC Champion in the 200-yard butterfly.

    Feb. 13, 2013

    By John Lock

    ST. LOUIS - The Southern Illinois women's swimming and diving team was picked third in this year's pre-Missouri Valley Conference Championship poll. The Salukis garnered 15 points in the poll, which trailed Missouri State (24 points) and Illinois State (21 points). Evansville (10 points) and Northern Iowa (five points) rounded out the pre-Championship poll.

    The Salukis hold the conference's top time or score in six of the Championship's 20 events and hold top-three times in 11 events. Pamela Benitez has posted the fastest time in the conference this year in three of the Championship events, the 200- (1:49.14), 500- (4:53.45) and 1,650-yard (16:39.48) freestyle. She also holds the best time in the 1000-yard freestyle (10:06.13), which is not an event at the Championship. Her time in the 1,650-yard freestyle is the best in the conference by nearly 22 seconds.

    Hannah Pinion is the defending MVC Champion in both the 200- and 400-yard individual medley, and she holds the top time in the 400-yard IM this year (4:27.85). Pinion set an MVC Championship record in the 200 IM at last year's Championship.

    Isabela Castro, who is the two-time defending conference champion in the 200-yard butterfly, will enter as a favorite to win her third straight MVC crown in the event. No swimmer has won the event three times in a row in Championship history.

    Sherry Zhang earned the conference's top score in the three-meter dive (373.10) at the Purdue Invitational. Zhang earned MVC Diver of the Week honors twice during the season and won three individual events.

    The MVC Championship is being hosted by Southern Illinois at the Dr. Edward J. Shea Natatorium in the SIU Student Rec Center. The three-day meet starts Thursday with an 11 a.m. preliminary session and a 6 p.m. finals session. Friday will have sessions at the same time. Saturday's sessions will begin at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.



    To follow along with live results and a live blog from every session of the Championships, click HERE. Updates will also be periodically posted on the swimming and diving official Twitter account @SIU_SwimDive. The Championship is being streamed by Valley TV.

    MVC Pre-Championship Poll
    No. School, points (first-place votes)
    1. Missouri State, 24 (4)
    2. Illinois State, 21 (1)
    3. Southern Illinois, 15
    4. Evansville, 10
    5. Northern Iowa, 5