By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It may be a new year, but Penn State swimming and diving is in full swing as they prepare to enter the final stretch of their season. After a short break, the teams are back in action this weekend as they host Yale and Rutgers at McCoy Natatorium.
Here are five things you need to know on the program heading into 2017:
1. National and Big Ten Leaders
Shane Ryan continues to be a leader in the Big Ten in his first season back following competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics. He was named the Big Ten Swimmer of the Week on November 23, his fourth time receiving that honor this season, and the sixth of his career.
Ryan ranks in the top 10 in the Big Ten in all three of his individual events: the 100-yard backstroke (4th), 100-yard freestyle (7th) and 50-yard (6th). He is also in the top 10 nationally for those events and is the only swimmer in the nation to rank in the top 10 in all three.
Freshman Kaelan Freund has been having a breakout season and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on November 23. He boasts the twelfth-best time in the Big Ten in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
For the women, three swimmers rank in the top 10 of their individual events. Katie Saloky (50 free), Ally McHugh (400 IM) and Katelyn Sowinski (200 fly) are all ranked eighth in the conference in their respective events. Additionally, Casey Francis (mile) and Niki Price (200 backstroke) both earned NCAA B-cut times.
2. Nittany Lions Hosting
Back-to-Back Home Meets
After being on the road for all but one of their meets in the fall semester, Penn State will be back in McCoy Natatorium for the next three weekends.
They take on Yale and Rutgers this weekend on both Friday and Saturday. The Nittany Lions will then face the Navy Midshipmen on January 21 followed by two days of the Diving Invitational on January 28 and 29.
"It's just a really good way to start off the home stretch here," said head coach Tim Murphy. "Being at home is always nice, there will be some energy in the air, and we haven't raced in awhile. We're going to get some stern tests with Yale and Rutgers and so we're looking forward to it. It's time to wake up and see where we're at and really push the gas pedal down and start really racing."
Several promotions highlight the final meets of the season. Saturday, January 21 against Navy will be Military Appreciation Day. The meet will also highlight Penn State's Ability Athletics program. The intermission breaks will feature an ability athletics exhibition race as well as the second annual Great Penn State Duck Toss.
For the Duck Toss, fans will throw rubber ducks into the pool during the second intermission. The goal is to try to get their duck into hoops placed throughout the water. The toss will feature lots of prize opportunities.
4. Senior Day
As the end of the regular season looms closer, Penn State will be honoring 12 seniors on senior day January 21 against Navy. Since arriving on campus, this group has gone through countless hours of training and travelling together, and above all, has shown commitment and leadership to the team.
"The seniors always play an important role in what you're doing because of their experience, because of their maturity," Murphy said. "They all have played a role in contributing to Penn State swimming and diving, who we are and who we want to be and we've got a short time left with them so we're going to enjoy that and we're looking forward to it."
5. Championships Right Around the
With the end of the competition season comes the start of championship season. The Big Ten Championships will be held at Purdue University from February 15-18. Following Big Tens is the NCAA Championships on March 16-18 in Indianapolis.
Both meets require swimmers to qualify in advance, so Murphy is looking to new and old swimmers to reach those times.
"I'd like everyone to have a big meet," Murphy said. "Some of the girls have been there before, so getting back there, qualifying for individual events is something that you want to see. But really, we want to see some new ladies and new guys make those qualifying standards or be on relays."