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VIDEO: 2018 THON Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Among the most highly anticipated THON weekend events, check out the men's swimming and diving athlete hour pep rally dance! 

Seniors Poised for Success

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By Briana Zuccarelli, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- From medical school to a full time career in Los Angeles, California, the seven Nittany Lion swimming and diving seniors are ready for life after Penn State.

"We have three graduating from the business school and already have jobs, two of them on their way to medical school and two of them in the IST (information, science and technology) field," Penn State head coach Tim Murphy said.

With a combined grade point average of about a 3.40, the Nittany Lion seniors have big plans once their Blue and White careers are complete and graduation is upon them. 

For senior swimmer Emily Harris, the marketing major has accepted a job with M&T Bank in management development. She will begin in mid-summer and is looking forward to starting something new in the working world.

"It'll be a huge change," Harris said. "Especially no longer having swimming but I'm definitely looking forward to the next chapter."

McKayla Mawn, a senior diver majoring in biology, has recently been accepted into multiple medical schools but still hasn't decided where the next step in her education will take place.

For Mawn, her decision to pursue medical school all comes from her family.

"My mom is a doctor so it was always in the back of my head," Mawn said. "My sister got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was younger and going through that whole process made me realize that being a doctor would be really cool."

For one Nittany Lion senior in particular, her post-Penn State plans involve picking up her things for a cross country move to Los Angeles.

"I have a job lined up working for a consulting company," Pennsylvania native, Tommie Dillione said. "It's going to be a big step for me and I know swimming has helped me along the way. It set me up for post-college life and I know I'll be ready for it when it comes time." 

With Penn State's final home meet approaching, the seniors are filled with mixed emotions when thinking about their last laps in the McCoy Natatorium.

Senior diver, Connor Scanlon who will be working for Northwestern Mutual upon graduating, said it will be great to be done, but also emotional.

"It has been an amazing experience," Scanlon said. "There are definitely a lot of emotions and hard work going into this. As a freshman it felt like it was going to be forever, but it snuck up on me so fast." 

For Hannah Harper, she  could not be more thankful for her time as a Penn State swimmer, hoping to leave behind a positive legacy.

"The legacy I want to leave is to uplift my teammates and to make them feel super confident in what they are doing," Harper said. "I want to be a positive role model and set a standard for what Penn State swimming is about."

Senior Ryan O'Neill, who competed at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials his sophomore year, is looking forward to coming back and watching his teammates in years to come. With a smile on his face, O'Neill said he wants to be remembered as some who works hard in the pool.

"I would like to have my name on the board," O'Neill said. "So everyone can actually see that I left a mark." 

Holding back both emotions and tears, senior Niki Price expressed the sadness she feels describing the end of an era, awaiting her acceptance into graduate school at Penn State. 

"Something that is really important to me is having fun with the sport," Price said. "That's something that I want to leave with the whole team because the atmosphere and performance will always be better." 

For coach Murphy, he has faith in his seniors and the rest of the team heading into the meet on Friday, also explaining the importance and emotions that come with senior day.

"They've put a lot of time, flat-out dedication and discipline to doing this," Murphy said. "I'm going to enjoy any time I have left with them. I think the underclassman can look up at them and say 'you know what they helped me along the way.'"

SAAB Hosts Third Annual Lip Sync Battle

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As is tradition, Penn State's Student-Athlete Advisory Board hosted its third annual SAAB Lip Sync Battle to benefit THON at the HUB earlier this week.

A total of nine Nittany Lion teams put on a show in the Freeman Auditorium to benefit Penn State's annual 46-hour dance marathon, which kicks off February 16 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Following a full slate of performances, a panel of esteemed guest judges featuring Penn State sports medicine's Dr. Roberta Millard, Mike Herr or better known around campus as, "Mike the Mailman" and Penn State cheerleader Francis Alvare made their selections.

Penn State's men's swimming team took home the golden microphone this year with their rendition of Flo Rida's "Low." Men's volleyball and women's volleyball finished second and third, respectively.

"We've been working on this since October," said SAAB THON chair Tess Kearns (track and field/cross country). "Teams started signing up right before winter break so that was a lot of fun seeing who was coming together and the acts they were doing."


By Tom Shively, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's been nearly two months since the Penn State men's and women's swimming and diving teams last took to the pool in a competitive event, and the Nittany Lions are eager to get back into the water. 

Their first meet of the new year comes this Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. against Navy and North Carolina. While these two schools aren't part of the Big Ten, they give the Nittany Lions a much-needed boost in terms of getting back into competition form and heading into the home stretch of the season.

More than anything, this weekend provides a chance for Penn State to return to consistent competition, back to the form they developed all preseason and through the first half of competition. 

"We want to make sure that we're right back on the pre-meet routine that we have," head coach Tim Murphy said. "Warming up and cooling down, getting ourselves individually prepared to compete, we want to make sure that we have that aspect down. It's not something that you want to make up as you go, it has to be consistent. I think we're in a good spot with that."

With only a few weeks left until the Big Ten championships (six for the men, five for the women), and the NCAA championships less than three months away, training becomes more focused as the athletes are starting increased training regimens specific to their events, meaning less time together as a team. 

"Their training is probably going to get a little bit more specified now that we're coming into the final part of the season," Murphy said. "We established a pretty strong routine in the fall, and now it's important to stay with that. We've got separate training groups depending on the events, and within that there are some individuals that need to be treated a little differently. Most of that is in respect to the volume of work that you're doing. How much rest you're going to get is also critical."

Although training is now becoming more individualized, which means there may be less time for team camaraderie than earlier in the season, the team is doing all it can to make sure the bond between the coaches and athletes stays tight.

The men and women both took a trip down to Naples, Florida in December for workouts and some bonding time, something Murphy viewed as invaluable for the team's chemistry. 

 "We reminded them before we went down that this was probably a time that we would spend more time together in that week than we would in the rest of the semester because of our schedules. We have three different group practices and at the same time individual class conflicts," Murphy said.


Murphy could sense that his team was coming together and enjoying themselves on the trip, simply by the way they carried themselves and acted around each other. He also noted how that can translate to success back up north.


"Usually you can tell the pulse of your team when you're riding on the bus to practice, especially in the morning. Down in Florida, they just had a nice energy around them and I saw them bring that back to the deck of the pool. I think they're pretty aware of the window of opportunity."

With such a large group of athletes, communication is essential to the team's success, not only from athletes to athletes, but also involving the coaches. Murphy relies heavily on his seniors and captains to keep tabs on what is going on around the program and make sure that he stays up to date on it all. 

"Our captains play an important role in communicating with the team, and especially with the coaches. We want to make sure we're addressing concerns and issues, and the individual idiosyncrasies that prepare us for Big Tens," Murphy said. 

This weekend's meet coincides with the start of the spring semester, meaning the Nittany Lions are adjusting to their new class schedules as well as resuming their training and preparing for the upcoming competition. 

"The men's and women's sides did very well in the classroom, which is something we're proud of," Murphy said. "We just had a team meeting yesterday to remind them what's important. From an academic standpoint, we want to make sure they're meeting with professors and down at the Morgan Center so they've mapped out their academic calendars."

With the academic and athletic sides both back up and running now, the Nittany Lions can focus on coming back strong from their hiatus. They're up to the challenge, and this weekend's meet is sure to be a benchmark for what this team is truly capable of.

"We didn't compete in December from both an academic standpoint and a training standpoint," Murphy said. "Coming off a midseason meet, we rested them a little bit, didn't really taper them. We haven't competed in a while, so the opportunity to bang heads with Navy and UNC on both the men's and women's sides will be a good wake-up call. Now we're just looking to find a rhythm from our scheduling standpoint, back to the training. We want to get into a good rhythm in the pool, the weight room, and continue to work on that team culture aspect."


The meet is set to begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

VIDEO: Men's Swimming & Diving's THON 2017 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another highly anticipated THON event, check out men's swimming and diving's full pep rally dance!

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 


Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.

By ANNA PITINGOLO, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State swimming and diving teams have big farewells planned for this weekend's upcoming matchups against Navy. The men's and women's squads will be honoring a total of 12 swimmers for their time as Nittany Lions over the past four years. 

The seniors include: Bob Bantley, Mike Kwasnik, Shane Ryan, Andrew Schuehler, Matt Stasiunas, Mackenzie Cornell, Casey Francis, Mackenzie Hornibrook, Bridget Moody, Katie Saloky, Katelyn Sowinski, Megan Wujciak. 

This group of seniors is head coach Tim Murphy's first class to swim all four years under him.

The teams have one more dual meet this season before heading into Big Ten and NCAA Championships. They take on Villanova in Philadelphia on February 3.

Senior Day ceremonies are slated to start on Saturday, January 21 at 11:40 a.m. in McCoy Natatorium, and the meet will begin at noon.

By ANNA PITINGOLO, 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." 

3. Promotions
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 Corner
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."


By ANNA PITINGOLO, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Casey Francis has been representing Penn State for the last three years as a student athlete, a role she's adjusted to and embraced. But now as she enters her final season on the swim team, she's representing the university in a new way: as a member of the annual Homecoming court. 

Francis found out she was selected to the court in the middle of practice when members of the Homecoming Royalty Committee showed up with balloons and a crown for her. Even though she saw them out of the corner of her eye, she still finished the set before jumping out of the pool to celebrate.

"I saw them cheering while I was in the middle of my set but I couldn't stop because I don't like to stop in the middle of a set," Francis said.  "So I finished what I was doing and then when I touched the wall they were all cheering so I hopped out of the pool and they gave me a crown and a poster." 

Being selected to the court came after a long application process. Once Francis found out she was nominated, she had to send in a formal application, which included five essays. From there, she had a 30-minute interview before finally being picked.

"I was in shock," she added.  "I was really happy though and I'm really excited. It's been an awesome experience so far and I don't want it to end."

Adding homecoming engagements to an already busy schedule as a student-athlete has been crazy for Francis, but she's taking it all in stride and enjoying every moment.

"I've had to swim on my own time and luckily I've had no exams, no papers, no projects this week," Francis said. "It's definitely been really hectic but I enjoy it. I'm loving meeting all these new people outside the athletic world and I'm creating friendships that I'm sad I'm only creating my senior year."

 While Francis has some incredible memories in the pool, this week has given her new one. And getting to show her school pride while making those memories makes it even sweeter.

"Representing Penn State is just awesome," Francis said. "I used to say that breaking the school record last year was my best Penn State experience and I think this might top it. This has been so much fun and we're not even halfway through the week yet."

For as much excitement as Francis has had outside of the pool this week, she has brought just as much excitement in the pool for the Nittany Lions throughout her Penn State career. In 2015-16 she broke the Penn State and McCoy Natatorium records in the 1650 freestyle with a time of 16:05.37 at the Penn State Invitational, and was named the Big Ten Co-Swimmer of the Week for her accomplishments.   One of many strong weeks for the two-time NCAA qualifier. 

Francis and the rest of her Nittany Lion teammates open up the regular season Thursday night, October 6th vs. Towson in McCoy Natatorium at 5:00 p.m.  

Students can vote for the Homecoming King and Queen at


By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State saw a record number of athletes competing at this summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and, with the start of classes, now has one of those athletes back on campus. 

Swimmer Shane Ryan competed for Ireland at the games in the 100-meter backstroke and 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle, and while he didn't bring home any hardware, he brought back a wealth of experience. 

"Not only did I just make the Olympics, I made the semifinal at the Olympics, so top 16 in the world," said the Haverford, Pa. native. "So all I can do is take what I can from that, even though I didn't swim as well as I wanted to in the semifinal, you always can learn from a swim. No matter if it's a bad swim or a good swim, you always can take what you can and move onto the next one."

As a senior on the Penn State swim team, Ryan now has a role as leader to the younger members. With his combined time as a collegiate and Olympic swimmer, Ryan is ready to pass along his expertise.

"I can take everything I learned to many other meets here at Penn State and try to mentor the younger guys here and try to pass my knowledge on to them," Ryan said. "So I'm just here to teach people and try to make myself better, and I'm trying to make them better as well."

Head coach Tim Murphy is looking forward to Ryan's new role as a leader on the team as well. And Murphy is excited that his team was able to bond over their support of Ryan while he was in Rio.

"Anytime you have an athlete of that caliber, it just helps the common bond of the team," Murphy said. "I think Shane having become more mature and experienced, the success that he has had more aligns with the goals that he has now and the goals he has for the team. It just helps bring the team that much more together and it's going to be a great year for us."

Ryan made the decision to try and compete for Ireland towards the end of his junior year at Penn State. He comes from an Irish background and has had his Irish passport for the past six years. Ryan's dad, Tom, came over from Ireland 30 years ago and "has yet to lose his accent," while his mom, Mary Beth, is on the board for Philadelphia's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

While he was training in Ireland, there was no shortage of family for Ryan to hang out with. Tom Ryan is one of ten children and is the only one that moved to the United States, so Shane Ryan was able to visit the rest of his family every weekend.

Once in Rio, Ryan bumped into Olympic legend Michael Phelps and got to talk to him for a few minutes when Phelps mistook the logo on Ryan's hat for something else. 

"Phelps came up to me and I was talking to him because I had an Irish hat on and it had kind of the same crest that the Pine Valley Club has in New Jersey," Ryan said. "I had played there once or twice so we got into talking about playing at Pine Valley. He's just a normal dude and it was really cool." 

As the new semester begins in Happy Valley, Ryan is back to bumping into classmates instead of bumping into Olympians, but he is ready to get back in the classroom and earn his degree.

"I've been excited to get back to class just so I can get my degree because there is a life after swimming," Ryan said. "I'm going to take swimming as far as I can after college but there is a life after swimming and just having a Penn State degree, you can't beat that."


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