By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the past four years, seven swimming and diving seniors have set their alarm clocks for 5 a.m., made the sacrifices necessary to excel both in the classroom and in the pool, and they have put in countless hours of work each season. This weekend family, friends, and alumni will come together to honor these seniors in the meet against Towson on Saturday.
Although there may have been hard times along the way, they only have a few more weeks before they can say that they've made it through all four years as a student-athlete. These seniors have made sacrifices day in and day out, they've learned what it means to be a team player, they've paved the way for underclassmen to follow for years to come.
All of the seniors have their own reasons for getting started, but they all have the same reasons for sticking with it for so long. Whether it be the relationships they've built along the way or a pure passion for the sport, the seniors have stuck together through it all and have grown together from their experiences over the years.
When Merritt Krawczyk first jumped in the water when she was 5 years-old, she had no clue that her career would take her to NCAAs, give her the opportunity to compete at U.S. Olympic Trials, and have her name written on the record board next to the 100 breastroke and 200 individual medley.
"I started swimming with a summer league team just for fun," Krawczyk said. "I didn't really start thinking about swimming in college until I was in middle school."
When Krawczyk started looking at schools, her recruiting trip to Penn State was last minute.
"I didn't have a trip planned," Krawczyk said. "I cancelled one of my other trips and I hadn't really heard of Penn State but decided to go on a trip anyway. When I got here, I fell in love with it and it really felt like home."
Captain Amy Modglin started swimming when she needed a change from ballet lessons. However, she knew that swimming would be a part of her life right from the start.
"I thought I would stick with swimming almost immediately," Modglin said. "I loved swimming and just being in the water, I never really saw it ending."
Now that her career is actually coming to an end, Modglin says that she's going to enjoy these last few moments with her teammates.
"It's really a bittersweet feeling," Modglin said. "We're sad it's coming to an end and we're excited to start the next chapter. There's no greater feeling than touching the wall and seeing that time that you've worked all year for so I'm going to take advantage of all the opportunities and not wish it all away. I've been given great opportunities so I want to use the rest of the meets to give back to the program that has built me as a person and given me so much."
Of the four schools Modglin looked at, Penn State had the best combination of academics and athletics. She also wanted to be a part of a team on the rise.
"I knew the team was building and John (Hargis) made that clear that it would be a building process," Modglin said. "He said if you want to be part of that process, this is where you want to be and he definitely held true to his word."
Modglin made an immediate impact her freshman year as the only female to make NCAAs and continued to contribute as she represented the U.S.A in the 2011 World University Games in China. She was also voted team captain for the past two years.
Co-captain with Modglin, Paige Whitmire has grown into her leadership role and has noticed a significant change in her role as a senior compared to her freshman year.
"When I was a freshman, I had a negative attitude and I didn't feel like I had any leadership," Whitmire said. "This year being a captain I always want to set a good example and not let any bad attitude be shown. I've learned to put others first and focus on the whole team."
Whitmire has become a huge contributor and leader in the sprint events where she holds the school record in the 50 free. However, she didn't always think that it would be possible to swim at Penn State.
"I grew up as a Penn State baby going to all of the football games but I never thought it was a possibility to swim here. When the coaches gave me the opportunity, no other school compared to how beautiful the campus is or the opportunities that come with swimming and after I graduate."
As these athletes finish this chapter of their life, Amy Lewis has to remind herself to take advantage of every opportunity over the next few weeks.
"We are given so much and it makes me thankful that I could be apart of this team," Lewis said. "I gained a family, sense of pride, discipline, how to work with others and learning time management. There's so much we learn that you can apply to everyday life that I sometimes take for granted."
Similar to Lewis, Ann Ragan Kearns will take the experiences she's had over the past four years and apply them to other areas of her life.
"The most rewarding part of being on this team was not necessarily my times or meets that I attended, but the lifelong friendships I created as well as the life long lessons that I have learned from being a member of a D-1 program," Kearns said.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Kearns is excited to be on the other side of the senior meet as it will be her turn to enjoy the traditions.
"I'm looking forward to all of the traditions that come along with the senior meet," Kearns said. "I've always participated in them when I was an underclassman but honestly I never thought this day would come and it's exciting that it's our turn now."
On the men's side, Jeff Gomez and diver Alex Marchinski will be recognized during this weekend's senior meet.
Marchinski has proven leadership for the divers over the course of his career as a main contributor for the Nittany Lions. He led the team on the one-meter boards at the Tennessee Invitational and put up several outstanding performances along the way.
Sticking with a sport for 14 years is no easy task, but through all of his experiences, Gomez has learned a great deal of commitment.
"I always remind myself of a saying - no matter how hard it gets, always finish what you started," Gomez said. "I know when I finish there will be a certain sense of gratification that you can't experience any other way."
The meet this weekend will give the seniors one last chance to represent Penn State at home. The swimmers and divers are excited to see their parents, family, friends, and alumni come out and support them this Saturday as they compete against Towson at McCoy Natatorium. Competition is set to start at 1 p.m.
Swimming & Diving Set to Recognize Seniors
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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