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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, GoPSUsports.com 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.
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, 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."
ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student
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."
"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 homecoming.psu.edu.
Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student
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."
By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It is the second week of the Big Ten Championship for the Penn State swimming and diving teams as the men's squad takes its turn traveling to West Lafayette. Last week, the women placed seventh overall in Ann Arbor.
The Nittany Lions had a record-breaking weekend by setting personal bests and creating a new standard relay time. Swimmers Alyson Ackman, Melissa Rodriguez, Katie Rowe and Nikki Price made a highlight performance on Friday, Feb. 19 touching third in the 400-medley relay with a time of 3:15.88. Head coach Tim Murphy said that he was impressed with the way the relay finished.
While he was proud of the team for placing in the top 10, Murphy said that there were some areas that could have been better, and you always want to be at the top.
"In some cases we struggled a little bit, it's part of the equation, it's the last meet of the season," Murphy said. "For majority of the folks on the team, whether they swam well or struggled, they have a lot to be proud."
Coach Murphy said that the men were just as excited to cheer on their teammates back in State College as they would if they were there. With the women setting the tone for the championships, the men were eager and ready to take their turns.
As for who the leaders may be this weekend, Murphy thinks that everyone will have an opportunity to contribute.
"Naturally, the seniors and upperclassmen will play a different role than the underclassmen. But really, everybody is all in," he said. "Everybody has an opportunity to get up, whether it's winning their heat, winning a race, or qualifying for the finals [Wednesday night] everyone is going to have an opportunity to add to the mix. "
Michigan won Big Tens last season for the fifth year, being one of the strongest teams at the Championships. When asked who the biggest competition will be for the team, Coach is looking at as a clean slate.
"The meet starts off 0-0. For the most part we're up against all of them," he said. "There are certainly some teams that are a little stronger than we are. In this point in time, it doesn't really matter; we just take care of ourselves. Get up and get the performance on the board, and that score will take care of itself."
With the first two days down, several Nittany Lions have already met personal bests and are so far ranked ninth in the competition.
The competition will continue Friday starting at 11 a.m. with the 400-yard IM and is set to finish Saturday.
By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's swimming and diving team begins its journey in the Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor on Wednesday.
Along with the men's teams, the Nittany Lions took a different approach in training the last few weeks and head into the postseason with confidence.
In preparation for the eventful weekend, head coach Tim Murphy said that it was more about relaxing rather than kicking into high gear. Since the teams have been working hard for the past two months, it was time to take things a little slower and release some of the tension.
"We're trying to get them rested. As you go through the season, you're kind of tired most of the time," Murphy said. "We're going through a process now where we pick our spots, spread out the work that we do, and lessen the amount of work."
Over the past week, practices were shortened in order to give the swimmers extra time to heal. The goal of the shorter practices was to get the essential workouts done, then have the extra time for schoolwork and some well-rested sleep.
With all that extra time relaxing, Murphy said that he has noticed the teams coming to practice full of energy and excitement.
"There is a different feel to [practice.] Everyone is putting the final touches on what they are doing and how they're doing it," Murphy said. "The amount of work and the time we're putting in at the start of this rink is still here."
As the weeks went on, each practice meant one step closer towards the big competition. Murphy said there is added pressure, just like any other competitive event. The important thing is not to get lost in the pressure.
"Juices get flowing, nerves are flowing. I think a key thing is to pace themselves, and make sure that energy doesn't' make their brain kind of spin where they start to get scared," Murphy said. "We've worked too long and hard to be scared. I don't want them to try to drum up any extra energy and emotion when we walk out on deck to race. We want to take a step back and relax a bit."
When it comes to worrying about the swimmers losing focus and becoming too relaxed, Murphy said he has none.
"I think most of it is trying to pace them emotionally and pace their energy. When it's game time, they know what's in front of them," said Murphy. "I don't have that much worry about them not getting geared up enough."
Events will begin Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and will go until Saturday. The men's team will have its turn next weekend in West Lafayette.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a few months of traveling on the road, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams are set to return to McCoy Natatorium on Saturday. The team will face Villanova in its last home dual meet of the season before championship season commences.
It will be a special day for the Nittany Lions as they represent the graduating class on Senior Day. For head coach Tim Murphy, this will be his third senior day with the club.
"Anytime you get to watch a graduating class, it shows their commitment to the program," Murphy said. "It shows how fond they are of what they're doing as a member of the team."
Murphy said that it is a nice touch to see family members come out to show their support for the team on celebratory days such as this. To be a collegiate swimmer for four to five years is a tough accomplishment and should be proudly recognized.
"It's always nice to see their families come down on deck, and share a little time with them," he said. "Giving them a brief moment where everybody is looking at them.
"To stick it out through the thick and thin, highs and the lows. That's all a part of the game [and] is something special. It's very rewarding to be a part of."
The team was able to get in some extra practice and down time after having a change in the schedule two weeks prior. With the original Navy meet cancelled due to snowstorms, and only the men competing last week, the women were able to have a break with some quality relaxing time.
"I think it might have been a little bit of a nice break," Murphy said. "Coming off of the training trip [in Florida,] we train real hard for two weeks, go right into school, then school starts to pile up. So we're trying to get them rested and refreshed.
"As much as we would've liked to compete, I think not traveling, not being on the bus, and resting a little bit more played to our favor."
Relaxation meant that there were no additional training sessions to replace the spare time. Coach said that regular training sessions were kept on task and the rest of the free time helped the swimmers save energy and catch up on schoolwork.
"I think we've done enough up to this point in time," he said. "I think it was good for the men because they had a little bit more time. But, you can't really measure what you haven't done. I think the ladies probably enjoyed the weekend off."
As far as competing for this weekend goes, it is more of a dress rehearsal for the team. With this being the last meet in the regular season, it is another opportunity to get in some racing practice and see other skills in the pool.
"What we'll look for is what's showing up. Do they need a little bit more rest to keep going? Do we need to focus on a certain skill aspect? There are certainly some things to learn from the racing, but we're not going to make it too complicated at this point in time," Murphy said.
When making sure the swimmers are still focused on other meets prior to Big Tens, Murphy said that with nonstop training for two months, the team is prepared. As for the seniors, it's all about embracing the moment, treating the game for what it is, and enjoying the rest of their time with the team.
"This is what we train for and it's a challenge. You don't have a game every Sunday where you peak each game," Murphy said. "In some respects, everything leading up to this point in time, you're trying to follow a progression.
"What we try to do is pace ourselves emotionally. Don't get too excited too soon, the meet will come and you're going to need that energy, and really try to have some fun with it."
The meet is set to begin at 1 p.m.
By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a relaxing holiday break, the Penn State men and women's swimming and diving teams were back in action over the weekend as they traveled to Connecticut to compete against Yale and Rutgers. The women dominated in the dual meet with wins over Yale (196-157) and Rutgers (242-111), while the men fell short to Yale (189-153).
As the second half of the season started, the Nittany Lions were looking to use the weekend's meets as a springboard towards the upcoming postseason. Head coach Tim Murphy said that this was going to be a tough weekend physically for the team after coming off of the break. But the Lions answered the bell with a strong outing in Connecticut.
The Nittany Lions wasted no time over the break, taking advantage of the team's availability by traveling to Florida for their annual training trip. The main focus of the trip was to prepare for the Big Ten Championships that will take place in February.
Coach Murphy said that the team's time in the warmer weather paid dividends for training.
"It's healthy to be outside," Murphy said. "We got a nice mix of long course meters in the morning and short course yards at night. Our schedule really allowed them to put out the good effort."
Within the second week, Murphy said he saw positive actions from the swimmers while training.
"Attitude wise, team dynamic wise, we had a real nice rhythm going in that respect," Murphy said. "I was fairly pleased. I thought both from an individual standpoint and a team standpoint we got focused, consistent performances from them."
Murphy said that the one thing that the teams did well was talk to each other to help push and motivate during the practices. Since the practice times were different from a regular day during a semester, the energy was high.
"Their interaction during practice was spirited, and that's what we want," Murphy said. "When we get back and split up again into the two practices, it's kind of hard to work on that."
Though the training was kicked into high gear, the Nittany Lions made sure to save time for team bonding activities outside of the pool.
The majority of the coaching staff and team decided to partake in the drive to Jacksonville to support the football team at the Taxslayer Bowl on Jan.2. Even with Penn State falling short in the end, Murphy said that it was a great experience for the team to share.
As for the rest of the season, Murphy said he hopes to see aggressive swimming and to get fresher and fresher with each week.
Both the men's and women's teams travel to Navy on Saturday. The teams will host senior day on Feb. 16 before final preparations for the Big Ten Championships, which both take place in the latter half of February.
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