MSU Men's Swim Team Claim First Sun Belt Title
The Missouri State men’s swimming and diving team proved it was a force to be reckoned with, claiming it’s first Sun Belt Conference title over 2007 champion Denver. The Bears claimed the title with 688 team points while Denver took second with 654 team points. Western Kentucky placed third with 539.5 points, Southern Illinois was fourth with 347 points, Florida Atlantic took fifth with 121 points, and Evansville placed sixth with 108 points.
Under head coach Jack Steck, assistant coach Dave Collins and diving coach Jim Huelskamp, Missouri State ended its 2007-08 season with an 8-3 dual meet record and a Sun Belt Conference Championship trophy.
The Bears broke seven MSU varsity records and eight Sun Belt Conference championship records at the 2008 conference championships. 15 members of the Missouri State swimming and diving squad were Sun Belt conference medallion winners. MSU Swimmer of the Year Victor Serra highlighted the Bears at the championship, claiming six championships and setting five Sun Belt Conference records. Serra won the 100 butterfly in a time of 48.23, breaking his own record he set last year. He captured first in the 200 individual medley in a time of 1:48.92 and first in the 200 butterfly in a time of 1:47.35, setting MSU varsity records in each event. Serra swam the first leg of the 200 free relay and the third legs of the of the 200 and 400 medley relay that also set new conference records and new MSU varsity records. Ignacio Gayo, Eduardo Pajares, Cajun Skinner and Nicolas Villarroel also claimed individual titles at the Sun Belt Championship.
The conclusion of the season saw Missouri State ranked sixth in the final Mid-Major Division I Power Rankings of the season, according to collegeswimming.com. Harvard University topped the final poll and was followed by Princeton University.
The Bears began the season competing in the Show Me Showdown, which featured six in-state universities. Missouri State took second in the meet with 357 team points behind host Missouri who combined for 635 team points. The men’s swimming squad quickly rebounded with home victories over Delta State and Truman State.
In late October, the Bears hosted cross-town rival, Drury and came away with another victory, 132-111. Missouri State would travel to Columbia, Mo. to compete against Southern Illinois, Virginia Tech and Missouri in a triple-dual meet. The Bears just missed knocking off the Hokies and the Tigers but came away with a win against conference foe Southern Illinois.
MSU finished fourth in a very competitive Purdue University Invitational meet and captured a third-place finish in the UALR Invitational. The Bears won the Delta State Invitational for the fourth consecutive year by dominating Tampa, Lambuth and Delta State.
The Tigers would once again prove to be too tough for Missouri State outscoring the men 160.5-139.5 in a dual road meet for the Bears. MSU responded with four dual meet wins over Truman State, Southern Illinois, Drury and Evansville. In the victory over the Purple Aces, Pajares set a new Hammons Student Center Pool record in the 400 IM with a time of 4:00.13. The record was previously set four years ago by Matt Beasley.
Newcomer Skinner was named MSU Freshman of the Year and Serra was named MSU Swimmer of the Year. Freshman diver, Eric Ducourneau was honored as MSU’s Diver of the Year. Ducourneau was one of 13 divers selected from the region to compete in the NCAA Zone D Championships.
Steck concluded his 25th year at Missouri State with an overall MSU dual meet record of 221-83-1, and he has improved his 40-year overall men’s record to 355-138-1.