Swim teams set for final dual meet of season

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern men’s and women’s swim team will have one last meet this weekend at Saint Louis to prepare itself for the Summit League Conference meet Feb. 17-20.

The Panthers have been swimming faster than past years and the women will have a chance to break the .500 mark. They are currently 5-5 this season.

The women come in off a win at Valparaiso last weekend, and the men came up just short, losing by just 10 points.

Heading into the final meet of the season, with conference right around the corner, the Panthers will be more focused on individual times rather than worrying about who wins and who loses.

“Our eyes are set on conference,” coach Jacqueline Michalski said. “We have a meet this weekend but we’re really just focusing on conference. We’re almost viewing it as a practice. ‘Just get up and race.’”

Saint Louis has had the Panthers number in previous meets defeating them earlier in the season and last year as well.

The Panthers know that even if they put their best up against Saint Louis, they will most likely come up short 90 percent of the time, Michalski said. But swimming against such strong competition will only help them.

“You only get better by swimming against better people,” Michalski said.

Although Saint Louis come away on top in previous years, the Panthers will still be able to hold their own in the 50-yard freestyle as long as everyone is healthy on both sides. Michalski said that the Panthers should be able to keep up with Saint Louis in the 200-yard individual medley.

Eastern has not begun to taper as practices still have been tough on the swimmers. The Panthers will not begin to taper until next week.

“It’s been a mental battle all week, it’s been a physical battle all week, it’s kind of like a breaking point almost,” Michalski said.

The practices have not gotten tougher than previous weeks, each swimmer’s body is just in need of a break, Michalski said.

Part of what has made practices so tough for the Panthers is doing breath control. The swimmers were asked to go fast, but were also asked not to breathe.

When the teams do begin to taper, they will be able to get more rest than they did before. The first half of the season they would swim for about an hour for their main set in practice, only getting about five seconds of rest for every minute.

For the freshmen, this will be their final dual meet before they get their first look at conference, but for the 10 seniors on both sides, this will be their last dual meet of their careers.

Senior Kyle Ruckert is a distance swimmer for the Panthers, and this will be his final dual meet of his career.

“For me, it’s one of those ‘thought it’d never come moments,’” Ruckert said. “But it’s here and it feels just like any other dual meet that will help me prepare for conference.”

Ruckert said Saint Louis has depth in its distance events, but he knows he has to prepare for anything.

“It definitely helps start to plan race strategies,” Ruckert said. “I don’t know what kind of guy I’ll be swimming against at conference, fast or slow, but knowing SLU’s distance depth, I gotta prepare for anything.”

Michalski said the team’s long-term goal is to have everyone healthy and ready to swim at the Summit League Championships. Eastern might not have everyone healthy and ready to swim this weekend, which is something that they have had to deal with for most of the year.

The Panthers will have about a two-week break before they have to compete again. The meet with Saint Louis will start at 2 p.m. Saturday in Saint Louis.


Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]