Nov. 16, 2004
By Shalae Schulte
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Although she's just a junior, Saluki distance swimmer Briley Bergen has a wealth of international swimming experience. Bergen will have to put her knowledge to the test this month, when she represents the United States and Southern Illinois University at the 2004 World Open Water Championships Nov. 27-Dec. 2 in Dubai of the United Arab Emirates.
Bergen will make her fourth trip to the World Championships this year, competing in the 10K and 25K. She is one of America's top open water swimmers, winning 11 national titles in the 10K, 15K, and 25K, since joining the U.S. Open Water National Team in 1997. Now Bergen is looking forward to competing at the highest level in her sport.
"I'm excited and a little nervous," Bergen said. "You always get nervous going into a world championship type event, because it's the highest level that you can compete at for open water swimming since it's not an Olympic event."
"I've known coach Walker since I was 12," Bergen said. "He's a big reason that I came here to school and that helps me get prepared for an event like this, since we know each other so well."
"She's become one of the dominant figures in open water swimming," Walker said. "Historically speaking, she's been a mainstay for USA Open Water Swimming. She's a leader. She's got the experience, and she's got the maturity."
Bergen has earned several opportunities to travel abroad throughout her tenure on the U.S. National team. Last year she competed in Spain, and has also raced in Japan and Australia.
After four meets for SIU this fall, Bergen has garnered seven top three finishes, including two wins against Missouri, which earned her Missouri Valley Conference Swimmer of the Week honors for her efforts. She also sits atop the MVC best list in both the 1000-freestyle and 1650-freestyle this season.
"I've been swimming really well. All my meet races have been getting a little bit faster each weekend," Bergen said. "Hopefully in a week when I go out there, I'll be swimming really well."
Throughout all of the training, Bergen doesn't feel any pressure outside of the pressure she puts on her self to perform well each time out. She knows that on any given day she can have the best swim of her life or her worst.
"You want to do better each time that you compete," Bergen said. "I just always tell myself that I'm going in there to do the best that I can and that's all I can do."
"As the head national team coach, I look for our younger swimmers to look to her," Walker said. "I think she sets one of finer examples of what we want on our national team."
Bergen's best finish at the World Championships was in 2001, when she finished sixth in the world in the 25K in Fukuoka, Japan, leading the U.S. to a fourth place finish as a team.