By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The men's and women's swimming and diving teams take on Virginia Tech Friday in their first home meet. As the upperclassmen and coaches anticipate with excitement to return to McCoy Natatorium, the newcomers anxiously await to feel the atmosphere of a home competition for the first time.
The Nittany Lions have a lot of new faces this season after recruiting 19 freshman swimmers, 13 of them for the men's team.
Freshmen Rory Lewis and Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo have already set the stage in their debuts against Georgia Tech and Emory by receiving the Big Ten Swimming Freshmen of the Week awards earlier this season.
Gonzalez-Hermosillo had a total of five finishes in the top five rankings for individual competitions. She placed third in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 200 individual against Georgia Tech, and won the 200 breaststroke against Emory. This helped guide the women's team to their first victory of the year.
Though the men's team fell short to both competitors in the tri-meet, Lewis was able to standout for the Nittany Lions by placing in the top three for all eight of his competitions. He had first touch in the 400 freestyle, second in the 100 butterfly, and third place finishes in both the 200 freestyle and 400 medley relay against Georgia Tech. Lewis also placed second in the 100 freestyle against Emory.
"It was a wake up call for me to see how fast Georgia Tech was," Lewis said. "I think I did pretty well overall and felt that I did a good job supporting the team."
This was the first time that two Nittany Lions have won the Big Ten award at the same time. Gonzalez-Hermosillo is the first Penn State swimmer for the women's team, while alumni Shane Ryan was the most recent recipient of the award for the men's team back in November 2012.
As for head coach Tim Murphy, there is nothing but positive reactions about the young team and how they are performing so far.
"I'm very pleased with their effort," Murphy said. "I think they have done a fairly good job adapting to a new situation. "
The coach spoke highly about the swimmers and the excitement he had to work with them. With most of the men's team being underclassmen, Murphy said this factor did not change the way coaching would be handled this season. The coach said he treats every year the same and looks at things from a long-term standpoint.
"This is a learning process, step-by-step," Murphy said. "I want to see them swim with some attitude and some purpose. I want them to take what happens back into the training pool, continue to get better and continue to learn continue to train and grow in their understanding of what we are trying to get from them from a technical stand point."
Coach Murphy even acknowledged how the upperclassmen are handling, and helping, their young teammates.
"I really appreciate the way the upperclassmen, especially seniors, have set the tone for those guys," Murphy said. "I think we have a good track record of the upperclassmen looking out for the underclassmen. [Seniors] Matt Grillo, Jon Seiferth and Tim Maurer have all in their own way set a good tone this year."
For swimmers like Lewis, and the rest of the team, Murphy said he expects to see energy amped up a bit on Friday.
"It's the second opportunity, and now that it's at home, it should really get their juices flowing," Murphy said.
Recently in Swimming & Diving Category
By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After coming off of last weekend's tri-meet against Georgia Tech and Emory, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams showed more than just their Penn State pride. This season, the Nittany Lions have a total of seven international students, each one of them representing their own home around the world.
Senior Alyson Ackman, junior Taylor Cameron, and senior Matt Grillo are among the group representing Canada. Both Ackman and Grillo are from Quebec, while Cameron is from Ontario. Grillo remembers back to the acclimation when he was a freshman.
"It was an adjustment phase," Grillo said. "I knew it was something I wanted to do and I was pretty dedicated to getting acclimated to a new environment. It was tough to get used to at first, but it helped shape me as a person."
By being some of the upperclassmen in this group, they are used to the transition and are more than willing to help out any of the new teammates. Grillo said he likes to make himself a personal list of things he would have wanted help with and uses that for the incoming freshman.
"It was hard for me during my freshman year, especially with the culture and the language," said senior Melissa Rodriguez. "Everything was different with the training, and the school, and how people interact."
Rodriguez, along with teammate Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo, represented Mexico in the 2015 Pan American games. Rodriguez placed fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke. She currently holds the top mark for Penn State in the 200-yard breaststroke.
"It was fun, I had my other teammates [Gonzalez-Hermosillo] and I saw Alyson [Ackman] there," Rodriguez said. "We got to meet a lot of people from other countries, it was great."
As for freshman Machiko Raheem, being the new kid on the block comes naturally. Raheem said that she was born in Sri Lanka, but has moved to multiple countries, including Singapore and New Zealand, making her used to getting to know other cultures.
"Penn State was different, it's college, it's not regular school," Raheem said. "I had to get used to the size of the place and the number of people. Everyone is friendly and the team has been very helpful."
After talking to
multiple coaches, it was one of her sister's old coaches that recommended Penn
State and influenced her final decision.
"He is the kind of person that once he says something, you know he's right," Raheem said. "I looked up Penn State and it's an incredible school both academically and swimming. I spoke to the coaches and they were really nice, and kind."
Things were a little
different for 21-year-old Tomer Zamir. As an Israel native, Zamir spent three
years in the Israel Defense Forces. Most of the recruiting done for Zamir was
done through Skype conversations. So far, the transition from being in defense
forces, to becoming a Nittany Lion, has been an overall good experience.
"I'm a freshman and only being here a month, I'm having a really good time," Zamir said. "All my friends seem like really good friends, even without being here for a long time."
When it came down to
choosing a school to continue his swimming career, deciding on Penn State and
transiting here was simple.
"The recruiters helped me with everything before coming over [to the United States,]" Zamir said. "I knew that Penn State was a good school and that made the choice easier for me."
"I think they add to what we are doing from our program's standpoint," said head coach Tim Murphy. "They're good students, good athletes and are committed. They add value to our program."
Coach Murphy spoke highly of the international swimmers, seeing the way they are prepared to come to practice and compete in the meets is a pleasure to work with. Murphy said that after the teams' last meet, the thing to look forward to and work for is postseason during the latter stages of the season.
"It's more of a work in progress thing," Murphy said. "Of course we want to beat people at meets, but we are looking more at a standpoint of training."
Murphy said that he is looking forward to next week's meet against Virginia Tech. This will be the first home competition of the season for the Nittany Lions.
"We'll see how we react to being at home and to a competitive standpoint," Murphy said. "We'll try to develop the pieces of the puzzle and at a certain point in the season, we will be putting those pieces together."
By Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The men's and women's swimming and diving teams are heading to Atlanta for their first tri-meet of the season against Georgia Tech and Liberty on Friday. The Nittany Lions will stay in Atlanta and continue their season-opening weekend with a dual meet against Emory on Saturday.
The offseason was full of pre-Olympic trial hype with swimmers such as Katie Rowe and Tim Maurer, with both earning bids for the men and women's U.S teams. Women's captain Alyson Ackman competed in the 2015 Pan American Games this July, helping her native country Canada win the bronze in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
"Pan American games was amazing," Ackman said. "To hear Canada cheering for us was just absolutely thrilling and motivating for this year coming up for 2016."
Other Penn State swimmers competing in the games were Melissa Rodriguez and freshman Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo, who swam for Mexico.
"I think it's great to know that all of us can represent different countries on a bigger field, but can still represent Penn State," Ackman said.
While the summer games helped Ackman prepare herself for upcoming competitions, being a captain this year is a whole other role. Along with co-captain Jon Seiferth, the senior swimmers are ready to fulfill their leadership roles by helping teammates out, welcoming new swimmers and new assistant coach Matt Hurst. Hurst joined the Nittany Lions this summer after spending 12 years with Southern Connecticut State.
"It's going to be a challenge being a leader of 30-some people, especially with the boys included," Ackman said. "I think my leadership role doesn't have that much more of an impact of anyone else's role on the team. I think it's really important for me to take that extra stride to make sure everyone communicates and is on the same page."
"Leadership and prior knowledge, incoming freshman have a lot of questions and I'm always trying to help them out as much as I can," Seiferth said.
The Nittany Lions have a total of six incoming freshman for the women's team. Along with Gonzalez- Hermosillo, other international students include Aleksandra Tulacz, who was born in Gdynia, Poland.
Upcoming meets that the swimmers are looking forward to are tri-meets, including one against Big Ten rival Michigan and Virginia. Seiferth said there is more motivation this year to try to change the finishing scores and have an overall improvement in competing.
"I'd like to see our place in the Big Ten go up," Seiferth said. "There is motivation to do a lot more and try harder to get that higher place. "
The Nittany Lions will have their first home meet against Virginia Tech Friday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m.
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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.
It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.
The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.
The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.
Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.
"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."
The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.
When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.
"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."
The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.
"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."
The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.
"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."
It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.
"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"
The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.
"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."
At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.
"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was. When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."
The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.
"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."
The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.
"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."
Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.
Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.
"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."
The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.
Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.
The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).
The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).
Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.
It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.
"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."
A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes, increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.
"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."
The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.
"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.
In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.
While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.
"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."
"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.
"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."
Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.
A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.
"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."
Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.
By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.
The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 2014-'15 season drawing to a close, six Nittany Lions have the opportunity to race one last time. After a quick turn around from the Big Ten Championships, Penn State is headed back to Iowa City for the Men's NCAA Championships.
Coming off a seventh place finish at Big Tens, the Nittany Lions have spent the past three weeks preparing for this meet and making the appropriate changes to their training. The main focus for NCAAs will be strong morning swims in order to score in finals.
"We are focusing on getting a second swims in our races," said senior Nate Savoy. "We know we have to swim really fast in the morning in order to do that."
The NCAA competition is the most selective meet in college swimming. In order to participate, swimmers must reach or surpass a specific time standard. At the beginning of the season, time standards are released for each event, which are referred to as "A" and "B" cuts. In order to receive an automatic invite to the meet, a swimmer must achieve an "A" cut. Once conference meets are finished, swimmers with "B" times are then invited based on their ranking in an event. Typically the top 37-40 swimmers in each event receive a bid for NCAAs.
Two swimmers who qualified individually for Penn State are senior Nate Savoy, and junior Shane Ryan. Both Savoy and Ryan have qualified for NCAAs in years past, and have led the Nittany Lions in points this season.
Savoy will be competing in the 100 and 200 backstroke, which he placed second in at the Big Ten Championships. Savoy is also the current record holder for the Nittany Lions in the 200 backstroke.
Ryan qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyles, as well as the 100 backstroke. At Big Tens Ryan took home a bronze in the 50 freestyle and a gold medal in the 100 backstroke. He also had the eighth fastest time in the 100 freestyle.
The four other Nittany Lions to compete at NCAAs are: senior Kyle Madley, junior Matt Grillo and sophomores Bob Bantley and Andrew Schuehler. The trio will participate in Penn State's relays alongside Savoy and Ryan.
Last year Penn State had its best finish in over a decade, finishing 17th place. The Nittany Lions were within 10 points of their finish at the 2001 NCAA Championships, which was their strongest in history.
This year the Nittany Lions look to improve upon that finish, and are focusing on scoring big in relays.
"We have a good chance to score in our relays which will be huge points for the team," said Savoy.
Relays rack up the most points for teams. A first place finish in a relay is worth almost double the points as a first place individual event. Strong relay performances can make a huge difference on a team's total score as well where they finish in the meet.
Currently, the Nittany Lions are seeded in the top 20 for the 200 and 400 medley relays and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Live results for the meet can be found online at hawkeyesports.com throughout the duration of the meet.
Miceli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Eleven members of women's swimming and diving team arrived in North Carolina and are ready to race in the NCAA championship meet. Penn State will face its toughest competition yet, racing against Division I teams from across the nation.
"Last year we swam really well at this meet and placed 18th," explained senior Carolyn Fittin. "This year, the goal is to score more points and have our relays make it back to finals."
The NCAA Championships are the most selective meet in collegiate swimming, with strict qualification requirements. In order to garner an automatic invite, a swimmer must achieve an "A" standard time in an event. That swimmer is also eligible to compete in bonus events, but they must have a "B" standard time for their selected races.
In each event, there are anywhere from 35-40 swimmers invited. Once the number of swimmers with "A" times are established, those with "B" qualifying times are invited based on their position in national rankings. Additionally, relays are another opportunity to receive an invitation. Swimmers do not have to qualify individually for the meet in order to compete on a relay team, which have their own "A" and "B" standards.
For the Nittany Lions, seven out of the 11 swimmers competing qualified for events individually. In the senior class, Megan Siverling qualified in the 500 and 1650 freestyle events, while Fittin was invited in the 50 freestyle. Both Siverling and Fittin have competed at NCAAs in past seasons. For the junior Nittany Lions, Ally Ackman qualified in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle, Melissa Rodriguez in the 200 breaststroke, and Katie Rowe in the 200 butterfly. Ackman, Rodriguez and Rowe were also members of the 2014 NCAA Team for Penn State. The youngest class competing this week is the sophomore group, led by Katelyn Sowinski who qualified in the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly, and Casey Francis who will swim the 200 butterfly. Sowinski also competed at NCAAs last season.
Penn State will also participate in the 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle and 800 freestyle relays, as well as the 200 and 400 medley relays.
"We did not swim as well as we were hoping at Big Tens," Fittin said. "But we still have 11 girls who qualified for this meet and we know we can end the season on a high note."
The Nittany Lions placed seventh in the Big Ten, dropping from their third place finish in 2014.
"We knew we had to bounce back and be ready to race this week. We spent spring break training and preparing- I think that's going to show," Fittin explained. "The turn around time between NCAA's and Big Tens is quick, but we feel ready."
While NCAAs marks the end of the season for Penn State, it also marks the end of four long swimming careers. The entire senior class qualified for NCAAs and will represent the blue and white one last time. This week marks the senior class of Carolyn Fittin, Caitlyn Karr, Katelyn Miller and Megan Siverling will represent Penn State together at the NCAA championships.
"As a class, we want to go in and have fun with it," said Karr. "We want to enjoy every last moment together."
Competition begins on Thursday at 11 a.m. in Greensboro, North Carolina.
By Meghan Miceli, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions have arrived at the Big Ten Championships and are ready for a busy few days. This week marks the culmination of grueling practices, a tough dual meet schedule and a year's worth of hard work.
But for the men's swimming and diving team, the past few weeks have been about more than training, they have been about preparation.
"Race strategy, we've been trying to clean up the little things - tempo, turns - and staying relaxed," said head coach Tim Murphy.
Last year the Nittany Lions placed fifth, close behind Minnesota and just ahead of Purdue and Wisconsin.
This year boasts tougher competition, with seven out of the 10 teams ranked the top 25 in the nation, three of which are in the top 10.
Defending champion, Michigan, is ranked fifth, followed by Ohio State and Indiana in eighth and ninth, respectively. Wisconsin and Minnesota are currently polled at 19th and 22nd, and not far behind is Penn State at 24th.
"The Big Ten is a heavy hitting conference," said senior Larry Virgilio. "But the boys look good, feel good, and we're excited."
Although competition begins in earnest on Thursday for the men's team, the Nittany Lions had their first dose of championship season last week, with the Big Ten Women's Championships. The women placed seventh overall and broke four records.
For the men, seeing the teammates they train with everyday going best times is a great motivator.
"We are excited and ready to get this championship going," said senior Nate Savoy. "The competition is going to be great and the team is ready to see what we can do."
One of the key factors for the Nittany Lions this week is going to be staying relaxed under pressure, which is something they worked on leading up to the meet.
"We've done a good job pacing ourselves and not getting ahead of ourselves," explained Murphy.
For many swimmers, the Big Ten Championship is a final opportunity to qualify for the NCAA championship meet in March.
As the most elite in college swimming, NCAA's showcases the fastest collegiate swimmers across the country in one setting. Although the number invited per event changes each year, usually around the top 30 fastest times in each event are able to participate.
Last year, the Nittany Lions sent seven members of the men's team to the NCAA's and finished 17th, recording the most points at the meet for Penn State in over a decade.
While the Nittany Lions look to add to that number this year, the main focus for the time being is fast swimming in Iowa City and showcasing their year's worth of tough training.
"The work is done," said Murphy, "It's time to just pin our ears back and seeing what we've got,"
Miceli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "Top three always has a nice ring to it and we always like to be better," said head coach Tim Murphy with a smile while speaking about the Women's Big Ten Championships.
The Nittany Lions have arrived in Columbus, Ohio, and are anticipating four days of fast swimming.
"They're prepared, they're ready to go," explained Murphy. "They're anxious, but that's okay, we're saving that energy for race time."
The women's team wrapped up their regular season with a 10-1 record, their only loss coming by a few points to Michigan in November. The Nittany Lions will have an opportunity to revisit the Wolverines this week.
"We're up against a lot of stiff good competition, we have to respond to that," said Murphy.
Last year the Nittany Lions captured a third place finish at Big Tens, behind the defending champions, Wisconsin and runner-up Indiana.
"We need to swim aggressive and swim smart. We want to be under control but we want to be a little bold with what we try to do," said Murphy. "As opposed to having the competition impact us, we want to have an impact on the competition."
One of the biggest differences between last year's Big Ten Championships and this year is allowing the C Final to score.
Historically, only the top 16 finishers from prelims (the top two heats) were in a position to score in finals, even though the top 24 finishers were invited back for a second swim.
While allowing the top 24 to put points on the board gives the opportunity for more swimmers to add to their teams score, Murphy does not believe it will sway the outcome of the meet. He does however believe it will impact the atmosphere.
"It's going to give some people a chance to score who have not in the past and it's an incentive to make it back," explained Murphy. "I think it's going to add to the level of excitement, across the board, that's a given."
While swimming is often conveyed as sport focused on individual races, it is actually very team oriented. The Nittany Lions consider themselves a family and each team member plays an important role in contributing to the team's overall performance.
"We're supportive of one another and we have fun competing and practicing against each other," explained senior Carolyn Fittin. "We have developed a great team dynamic throughout the year and I think that's really going show at Big Tens."
The atmosphere at Big Tens has an excitement level of it's own. For many swimmers, it is the culmination of a grueling a season and a final opportunity for best times and to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
For the Nittany Lions the goal is to stay focused and ready to race.
"We need to just take care of ourselves and swim really tough," said Murphy. "There's going to be three, four, people going into the wall at the same time. The difference is going to be who gets their hand on the wall first in those situations."
With tough competition and evenly matched teams across the Big Ten, this year's competition is shaping up to be a fight to the finish.
The meet kicks off this evening with the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays. Individual events begin on Wednesday and continue through Saturday.
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