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Take Two at the Big Ten Championships

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11726314.jpegBy 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.

Nittany Lions Reduce Pressure Before Big Tens

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11698157.jpegBy 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. 

Training Remains the Same as Nittany Lions Approach Senior Day

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11665202.jpeg By Michel Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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.          

Nittany Lions Continue Building Towards Postseason

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11620770.jpegBy 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.

Swimming Senior Spotlight - Part Two

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11546334.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a successful weekend with competitions at Georgia and Princeton the senior spotlight coverage continues with Katie Rowe, Sierra Scoggin, Tim Maurer, and diver Logan Knauss.

The swimmers looked back at how their time has changed from freshman to seniors, and what it is like to have this year as their final season.

Q: How has your overall experience at Penn State been?
Rowe: "It's been amazing, I don't think that I could've asked for anything better."

Scoggin: "Awesome, it has been so much fun. I was born and raised Penn State. Living this dream of swimming at Penn State was my ultimate goal. Being able to achieve that and just loving every day here, taking it all in while you can."

Maurer: "It's been good, each year has been a lot different than the one before, so it's been a very diverse experience. Each year, we have a different group of guys that bring something special to the table and that's good, [it] changes things up."

Knauss: "It was a big change as far as finding a new group of people. The Penn State team was very welcoming as far as me being a transfer [from Wisconsin] and as a diver. I'm from relatively around here, so I've always sort of been in love with the Penn State atmosphere and culture. It wasn't too hard to adapt."

Q: How do you think you have improved from freshman year to now?
Rowe: "I definitely improved in the water a lot. Coming in, I was kind of in the middle of the pack. I think throughout the years, I nailed a push up in my special events. In general as a person I have grown."

Scoggin: "In every way; physically, mentally, academically, socially. Just all around, because you get to do so many things, you figure out what you like. As far as school goes, you figure out what you're into and what you're not into. In swimming, you really push your boundaries mentally and physically. That helps you translate into the real world and gets you going."

Maurer: "My first year here, I started out pretty out of shape. I've definitely gotten in shape and overall I've gotten a lot stronger in my swims."

Q: Do you have any pre-event rituals? If so, what are they?
Rowe: "Usually I listen to certain playlists. Just kind of relax and have fun with it."

Scoggin: "I love Ciara's "1,2 Step" because my name is Sierra. A couple of my friends have remixes that I really like to listen to. So if I listen to that a couple of times, I'm ready to go."

Maurer: "Not really, I like to stay as relaxed as I can before a race and not psyche myself out."

Knauss: "When I was a little kid I always used to do the exact same thing. A lot of divers do the same routine all the time. A lot of the time it's sitting in the same spot, or either not watching the competition or watching the entire competition. When you're in a competition, there could be anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes where you're sitting around, mentally preparing."

Q: Do you have a favorite memory/competition that you will remember and look back at?
Rowe: "I don't think anything is better than Big Tens. As a team, we all have a lot of fun there and we usually race really well. We just enjoy the experience because there is nothing like a conference meet."

Scoggin: "It wasn't my favorite, but it is one I'll never forget. We were down on a training trip my freshman year with all the old coaches. We were doing a spin class [and] it was glow in the dark. It was just this atmosphere in the room that everyone was trying their hardest. You could just tell that everyone was working so hard and everyone can see that final goal of winning Big Tens and getting to that final destination. That's a feeling that everyone felt in the room. Everyone was exhausted after, but we look around the room and knew what we were working for.

 

"Just [having] that feeling of all having the same goal, doing everything you possibly can and not holding back at all. That was probably one of the coolest things I've ever experienced."

Maurer: "I think the memory that stands out the most was the 2012 [Olympic] trials. That was one of the [most] fun meets I've ever been to. It was just a good experience."

Q: What are your goals post season/graduation?
Rowe: "Immediately after I graduate, I am going to get ready to go to [Olympic] trials. After that, just figure out exactly what I want to do. Probably vet tech, [that is] initially what I wanted to do, so maybe veterinarian school in the future."

Scoggin: "Post-season, trying to make Olympics trials. I'm sure that is everyone's goal, that's why we stay and train in the summer. Post graduation, I'm looking for a job. I'm a risk management major, so trying to get out into the corporate world and experience new things." 

Maurer: "I'm looking at trials [in June and July] to be my last meet. I'd liked to end it on a good note there."

Knauss: "When I graduate, my intention is to do one of two things. I'd like to work in government, that's my degree. Hopefully something like that goes through, but I've recently been applying for a lot of jobs within athletics. Considering that a lot of us make athletics our lives, it's only fitting for when you get out that you want to work with athletes. Furthering their experience."

Q: What does it feel like to be a senior and have this be your last season?
Rowe: "It feels weird to finally be the role models and head of the team. It's a lot different and you just feel a lot different. You have more of a presence on the team."

Scoggin: "It's crazy seeing everything transform. Starting out with one group of kids and watching everyone change. Here we are, where we thought we would never be at senior year. Looking back at freshman year, I didn't think all of us were going to make it. It's surreal, but it's definitely happening. It's cool to be in this position.

"You see so many people go through it, and you think 'Oh wow, that's going to be me next year,' and it actually is you. You know you've made it, you've done it."

Maurer: "It's exciting, it's been a long journey. It'll be bittersweet to see it end, but it'll be exciting to see what comes next and what the future holds."

Knauss: "It's scary. Even though it's six months away, every day feels like you're going to be thrown into the real world. Even the college atmosphere and the college athletics [background,] it's difficult to imagine myself rising to the occasion."

Francis Earns Top Spot in NCAA

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11497050.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewksi, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Casey Francis turned in a record-setting performance over the weekend as she touched first in the women's freestyle mile race during the men's and women's swimming and diving invitational where the Nittany Lions swept UConn and Princeton at McCoy Natatorium.

Francis had a strong lead throughout the entire race, finishing at 16:05.37 and breaking the Penn State and McCoy Natatorium record. Her training partner, Katelyn Sowinski, was right behind her touching second at 16:25.78. The two swimmers now have the fastest times in the country so far, with third place belonging to Minnesota swimmer Sam Harding at 16:36.33.

"This week was a really hard week in practice, but I felt good the whole week and felt confident going into the meet," Francis said. "I thought I was going to do somewhere close to my best time, but didn't know that it was going to be that fast."

Earlier that event, Francis referred to the updated times on the board and saw that the fastest pool record time for the mile was 16:21. With that time in the back of her mind, she knew that she needed to be as fast or a little better.

"I thought, 'Ok, that's a pretty fast time,'" Francis said. "I was hoping for a 16:21 or better, and then to look up at the board and see a 16:05, I was just in shock."

With the mile race being the longest competition of the entire weekend, Francis said that this was nothing compared to other races she has competed in. Francis participates in open water swimming that has 5k and 10k races.

"The 10k takes [about] two hours," Francis said. "When we practice, we are practicing for two hours straight. So 16 minutes wasn't that bad."

When it came down to the actual competition, Francis said she felt at home being in lane five. This lane is special to Francis, for it is the lane she practices in everyday. During those practices, Francis and Sowinski work hard in preparation for races such as this.

"During practice, we're pretty much together the entire time. Some days, [Francis] will be on her game and I'll be the one trying to catch her. Other days it'll be the other way around," Sowinski said. "We try to push each other. Depending on the day, it sets it up for what it's going to be like at those big time races."

The time that these two swimmers spend training together pays off with big rewards at the end. Sowinski said that after she saw Francis earn that title, she couldn't have been happier.

"We've been working our butts off the past few weeks. Coming here and being able to continue [to] race each other, push each other, and see each other success is really cool," Sowiniski said. "I know it inspires both of us and encourages us to continue to work hard."

As for her own time in the mile free, Sowinski said that she was a little surprised by the final mark.

"I wasn't expecting to go that fast. Everyone was up and cheering the whole time which helped pushed me," Sowinski said. "Some of your best races you feel the worst, and then they end up working out."

For assistant coach Doak Finch, seeing the hard work that the two swimmers have put in to reach this milestone is a great sight to see.

"It's fantastic, it's great for them to get the recognition," Finch said. "They come here and put in the work. What we're putting together this year, it's special. They are working together as a team and the success it just going to continue to grow upon itself." 

Swimming Senior Spotlight - Part One

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11488881.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 2015-2016 season halfway complete, seniors on the men's and women's swimming and diving teams have plenty to look forward to during the next few months. The Nittany Lions have a total of 14 senior swimmers, all whom are anticipating graduation with each passing day.

 

Swimmers Haley Sinatro, Chelsea VanderWeele and Jon Seiferth, were the first bunch of seniors to look back and share how being a part of this program molded their college experience in a continuing series on GoPSUsports.com.

Q: What has your overall experience at Penn State been like?
Sinatro: "It's been a blast, I've had so many opportunities just from swimming alone and academics. I made some great friends and couldn't have picked a better university to go to."

VanderWeele: "It's been really positive, I've had opportunities to do different things with and outside the swim team. I feel incredibly blessed on that aspect, I don't think I could see myself anywhere else."

Seiferth: "Amazing, way better than I expected. I never thought that I was going to come to Penn State, I thought I was going to go somewhere South or out West, I didn't want to be this close to home. Coming [to Penn State] was definitely one of the best decisions of my life."

Q: How do you think you have improved over the years?
Sinatro: "I think the main way that I have improved is through my attitude. Just having more fun and approaching each meet with a racing mentality."

VanderWeele: "Swimming, I feel like I have improved my times, but I've also developed a new mentality for the sport itself. When you're in high school, you might be one of the top scorers. When you get here, you're competing on a higher level. You kind of get a new perspective and I've grown from that.

"I've never been one to shy away from trying new things and I think being here only amplified that [by] getting involved with things outside of swimming. Overall it's been a good growth."

Seiferth: "I'd say I finally got my time management under my belt. It took a couple of years, but after having to be forced to do it with swimming, school, homework, sleep and socializing on top of that.

"I definitely got better in the pool, I've seen lots of improvements. My times have dropped each year, even in the first year when we had a different coaching staff."

Q: What is one of the main things you have learned throughout your college career?

Sinatro: "At the end of the day, we take care of each other. Everyone has an off day, in and out of the pool."

VanderWeele: "As cliché as this sounds, it is probably to never give up and try a second time. I think it's very easy to get discouraged when you're training 20 hours a week. With swimming, you only have two big meets in the year, so you put all this pressure on it and it's easy to get stuck on one bad race."

Seiferth: "I would say, don't put things off, do things as soon as you can. With swimming, it's letting the coaches know, 'Hey I have something coming up, is there anyway we can work something out?'

"With school, getting your homework done as soon as you get it or studying as soon as you find out the information. There have been too many times that I put it off until the end. It's such a close call and your sweating bullets just trying to get things done, and it's not a fun time."

Q: What are your future goals? Post-season and/or post-graduation.
Sinatro: "I plan on taking a gap-year, doing something in the medical field before I hopefully attend medical school."

VanderWeele: "I'd like to stay involved with sports. I'm currently a marketing major and would like to do something in sports marketing. I'd love to work with the Paralympics or Wounded Warriors and do events planning for either organization."

Seiferth: "I would like to attend medical school. I've taken the MCATS once, didn't score as well as I wanted [to], but I'm going to go back and take them again. Once I do, I'm going to hit it hard and try to get it out to as many schools as I can. I had originally thought of Osteopathic medicine, but I'm keeping an open mind. If I had to choose one now I'd probably be a primary care physician.

"I'm also talking to Naval recruiters. I'd like to do officer training for the Navy, it has always been a dream of mine. The Naval Academy was [originally] my first choice over Penn State, but the application process was so long a grueling, it didn't work out."

Q: As a senior, how have you helped the younger teammates throughout the season?
Sinatro: "I have four years of experience of big meets. When [their] struggling in the pool, I hope that I am someone that the younger teammates can come to and ask for advice and be a positive influence on deck. Practice is hard, so joking around is definitely necessary. "

VanderWeele: "Just being there. There are a lot of seniors this year and I think it's different from any year before since I've been here. It's kind of overwhelming for the underclassmen because you have so many people you can go to. You can ask any one of the seniors a question and get 12 different answers.

"I think being someone that they're comfortable talking to, being a role model, encouraging them, helping them stay on top of thing and being as a mentor is the biggest thing about being a senior."

Seiferth: "I think I've instilled some advice in them. I've definitely helped a lot of people get themselves on the right track. Keeping the team positive and motivated, trying to get that tradition, keeping all traditions going.  I've really helped carry those on from upperclassmen and then bringing them to the underclassmen and newbies." 

Ackman Shares Pan American Medals with Coach Murphy

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11458504.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the 2015-2016 season started for the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, one swimmer decided to bring something extra for head coach Tim Murphy.

Alyson Ackman, one of the three swimmers to participate in the 2015 Pan American games this summer, brought her gold and bronze medals that she won with team Canada to provide a boost of confidence and aspiration for her teammates this season.  

For Ackman, competing in her home country was a thrilling and motivating experience for the 2015-16 season. Upon finding out that she was taking home hardware for her efforts, all she could think about was the energy from the competition.

"I was a ball of excitement, I was kind of hurting still from the race, but it is just fun being up there with my team especially representing Canada," Ackman said. "The initial rush was being up there, having cameras on you taking your picture, I felt like it was paparazzi. It was a really cool experience."  

Ackman said she didn't decide to give Coach Murphy her gold and bronze medals until after she came back to Penn State.  Though her initial plans were to place the medal with the rest of her Big Ten awards, Ackman felt that the medal would be a good representation of the program and all that it can do for the swimmers.

"Having them in [Coach] Tim's office kind of reminds me that this is Penn State that I'm training with, it's the coach that is really helping me achieve my goals and hopefully it reminds him that I have high goals for myself and high goals for this team," Ackman said. "I'm really hoping that the medals up there not only to show [Coach Murphy], but anyone who goes in there and sees them in his office, that we are an international competing team, and that we are all on the same playing field."

When first hearing about Ackman's accomplishment, Coach Murphy could not have been more proud.

"It's rewarding to get the news because you knows how much work, time and effort, and how much it means to them," Murphy said. "It's almost a secondary thing that they are Penn State, but from an individual standpoint you are just real proud of their accomplishment."

Murphy said that being able to swim at an elite pace at a given place and a given time is not easy. Seeing that Ackman could excel and contribute to a team effort means that much more to the growth of the squad.

"I get pretty fired up and experience pure joy when I watch an athlete that I've had the honor to work with to do something exceptional," Murphy said. "I've had the pleasure of having somebody medal in the Olympics and other international competitions, and I get the same rush every time it happens. It's the reward of watching somebody do something that they didn't know they could do or something exceptional that is the rewarding part. When it's on a larger platform I think what happens in that it gets noticed more, but I think the button that it pushes for me is the same."

Murphy added that no matter what the platform of the competition may be, the feeling is always the same. He appreciated the fact that Ackman wanted to share the medals with him and the rest of the team, proudly displaying them with the rest of his achievements.

The Nittany Lions will take on UConn and Princeton in their next home meet Nov. 13-14 at McCoy Natatorium. 

Coaching Q&A with Coach Murphy

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11443312.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the season continues, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams are working hard to reach their goal of participating in the 2016 NCAA Championships. With the guidance of head coach Tim Murphy, the Nittany Lions are poised to have another record-breaking year. 

Since Murphy joined the program in August 2013, the Nittany Lions have grown in each season. His first campaign with the Lions included a total of 20 records that were broken within the program and 19 swimmers in the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Heading into the bulk of the team's 2015-16 season, the head coach opened up about coaching philosophies and how his techniques look to improve the teams' performances. His inspirations and goals are just a small part as to what drives the team to success.

Q: What is behind your "step-by-step" coaching philosophy and getting to that next step?
Murphy: "The beginning of the season is really about developing a skill set and that's from a technical standpoint of knowing what you are doing to create speed or maintain speed from a developing capacity standpoint, in terms of a skill set in the way that you train.

"We have specific objectives, on specific days. There is always a technical component, there's always a methodology to the main set, and there's always a speed component. Sometimes that speed component is developing maximum speed, and some of it's maintaining your stroke at different speeds."

"We really try to put the first part of the season together developing capacities in the different types of training that we do, developing speed at the different capacities and control in different capacities. The back half of the season comes more about putting those pieces of the puzzle together.

"We spend a fair amount of time in the beginning of the season getting them to do things a certain way. Then, adding the volume to that. You have to have those pieces of the puzzle in order to put them together.

"From a team standpoint, the team dynamic is something that when you get it right, it is powerful. When you get it wrong it kind of lets the air out of the balloon.

"As we go along, each individual has a responsibility. When they show up to work out, they show up to deck, they interact with their teammates both in the pool [and] out of the pool; it's based on the values that their presence has to make the people around them better.

"There is both a responsibility there, a commitment there, and really a focus of doing things in a certain way that create an environment that is very competitive, very challenging. But has a level of respect and support within that. The way we go about doing things as a team and the way they go about doing things individually makes everybody better.

"The philosophy is to create an environment that's going to exceed or [maximize] that intensity for when we want to put it all together. Doing that in a step-by-step process. It's a lot of work, it's a lot of time, but we just got to make it count."

Q: What are your thoughts on the physical aspects of coaching versus the mental aspects?
Murphy: "You can't really ignore either one. You have to develop the physical components; it's all about going faster. The mental part, we talk a lot in practice about putting yourself in a race. So that they are connecting with what they are going to have when the races go up: the intensity, the excitement, [and] the environment.

"Not every practice, but their level of focus has to be such that. Six weeks from now, they are not the same swimmer. They develop technically in the water about the way they go about doing their strokes, understanding their tendencies; their strengths and their weaknesses.

"There has to be a level of focus that matches with the intensity. [That way] when we get to our competitions, we can kind of relax a bit, as opposed to trying to step it up. Usually when you're a little relaxed, you perform a little bit better. It doesn't mean that you're not intense, and your not focused, it just means that you try to find that zone where you're performing and not just trying to do too much."

Q: Who and what are your coaching inspirations?
Murphy: "First, I'm inspired by any athlete that I have in the water on a daily basis. They've told me that they want to do big things, they told me they want to be a part of this program and value what we are trying to do here. Their actions demonstrate that [at practice.]

"I know how [badly] they want to swim fast, I know how [badly] they want to beat people. That is jet fuel for me. I don't need caffeine in my coffee or anything else to get me going.

"I've been extremely fortunate to have worked with awesome teachers and coaches at every level. From people who teach you to learn how to swim, summer club, high school, YMCA, USA swimming, and Olympic swimming.

"I start with my summer club coach who told me I should go out for the swim team. It was probably because of her that motivated me to do that. The educators I had at West Chester University, and the mentors that I've had; if I could bring a little bit of them on deck with me every day, then I'll probably end up doing a good job.

"I try to honor them every day by walking out on deck, and doing the kinds of things that they taught me how to do. Then keeping my education going, so that I continue to learn from the other coaches that I work with."

Q: What is the main thing you have learned as a coach over the years?
Murphy: "I've learned that what's most important is what's in front of me. What I'm doing with the team, small group, or individual on a daily basis; I've learned that it's the students and the athletes [that are] what's most important. It's not what I know, it's what I am able to teach.


"I continue to learn that there are things that I still don't know. I continue to learn that there are things that I didn't know, I didn't know. I'm fortunate to have a relationship with coaches that are both younger than my age and a lot older than me so that if I needed to get on the phone and make a call to ask them something, they would give me their thoughts.

"I think it's a matter of doing a good job with what's in front of you, maximizing the opportunities, and being ready for any athlete at any point in time: physically, technically, emotionally."

Q: Are you looking to break anymore program records here?
Murphy: "That's always the goal, keep rewriting. You always want to see that happen. There are some good ones up there, so we got some work to do."

Strong Effort by Women's Team Headlines Home Opener

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11415082.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a tough competition against Virginia Tech Friday at McCoy Natatorium as the men's and women's swimming and diving teams battled in Penn State's home opener.

Behind a superb effort from senior Melissa Rodriguez, the Nittany Lion women's team cruised past the Hokies by a score of 183-114.


Rodriguez had a pair of great performances, touching first in both of her individual competitions. She beat the Hokies with a 1:02.75 in the 100-yard breaststroke and tallied a 2:13.81 in the 200 yard breaststroke. Teammates Haley Sinatro (1:04.32) and Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo (2:18.60) were behind her, placing third in the respective events.

"I didn't expect that at all," Rodriguez said. "I've been injured for the past few weeks, coming back, I wasn't sure what was going to happen."

Rodriguez was excited to be able to pull a big win for the Nittany Lions. This was her best in-season time so far.

"The win was important, I like the way we swam," said head coach Tim Murphy. "The women swam tough. We made some progress in that area. "

Energy filled McCoy Natatorium throughout the home meet. The crowd was decked out in pink T-shirts that were provided at the doors in support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"It adds a different element," Murphy said. "I think the breast cancer awareness adds a little more to it. There was some good energy on the deck, in the pool, and in the stands. It was really nice to see."

With the win, the women's team improved to 4-0 on the season. On the men's side, the Nittany Lions fell to 1-2 on the year. The Hokies topped the Lions by a score of 178.5 -118.5.

"[Virginia Tech] had more guns than we did," Murphy said. "We had some breakthroughs and got a lot out of this meet."

With the majority of the men's team being underclassmen, Murphy said that each meet becomes more of a learning process and is an awakening for what the swimmers need to work on next.

"I think in a lot of different races, people got themselves into the race and they got more out of it," Murphy said. "I think some people learned that they need to get themselves up in the race from the get go."

Freshman Rory Lewis continued his strong rookie campaign by gaining a big lead in the 200-yard butterfly. Lewis was ahead of the pack during the entire race, touching first at 1:49.24. Teammate and senior captain Jon Seiferth was shortly behind, touching second at 1:51.88.

"I was looking for a little more competition honestly," Lewis said. "It was good [to win] and get that."

Another swimmer making a big debut was freshman Tomer Zamir. The NCAA officially cleared Zamir earlier this week, allowing him to compete for the first time as a Nittany Lion. Zamir placed in the top three for all of his singles races, placing third in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. 

"That was really nice," Murphy said. "He's been sitting around waiting to find out, and I think it was a real good boost for him to finally get in and race, be a part of the team. I think it was a big boost for the men."

Coach Murphy said that he hopes the teams will take that energy and attitude from Friday's meet and bring it in to the next one. The Nittany Lions will head to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan and Virginia in a dual-meet on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. 

 

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