UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The postseason push for Penn State teams in March is on.
The first weekend of the month kicked off in fine fashion with two teams tallying Big Ten championships to go along with an individual being named the top performer at the Big Ten Men's Swimming & Diving Championships.
In dramatic fashion, the Nittany Lion women's track & field team notched its third conference crown at the Big Ten Indoor Championships on Saturday afternoon. It all came down to the 4x400-meter relay with the Lions leading Michigan by just half a point heading into the final event. The Lions stormed to a victory in the relay to seal the title.
"The women were outstanding today," said Director of Track & Field and Head Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "Michigan pressed us hard throughout the weekend, but we kept our composure and competed great. This is a championship win to remember."
Roughly 45 minutes after the women's track & field team was crowned champion, the Lady Lion basketball team finished off a 77-62 triumph over Michigan to clinch a share of its third-straight Big Ten regular season title. The Lady Lions join Ohio State and Iowa as the only programs to win three or more consecutive Big Ten titles.
"It's the first time in program history that we have won three Big Ten Championships in a row," head coach Coquese Washington said. "When this program has such a storied legacy, to be able to do something that this program hasn't done before, it's pretty hard. The program has accomplished so much and for this class and team to do something that sets them apart, that's really cool."
In the pool, sophomore Shane Ryan capped off a strong outing for the Nittany Lion men's swimming team by becoming the first Penn State men's swimmer to be named Swimmer of the Big Ten Championships on Saturday. Ryan broke the Big Ten record in the 100m freestyle, topping a mark set by former Northwestern Wildcat and 2012 London Olympics medalist Matt Grevers. Ryan is the first Nittany Lion to win two individual gold medals at the Big Ten Championships. His efforts powered the men's team to fifth in the team standings. The men's team's performance came one week after the Nittany Lion women's swimming & diving team took third at the Big Ten Women's Championships.
With a standout weekend in the books, the Nittany Lions are full steam ahead in postseason mode beginning on Friday when the Lady Lions kick off play as the No. 1 seed at the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. Penn State will meet either Northwestern or Ohio State at noon (BTN) on Friday. The semifinals take place on Saturday, with the tournament final on Sunday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
On Saturday, the three-time defending NCAA champion Penn State wrestling team will begin its Big Ten title defense at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Head coach Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lions will look for their fourth-straight Big Ten title over the weekend. Additionally, seniors Ed Ruth and David Taylor have an opportunity to become Penn State's first four-time Big Ten individual champions. Junior Matt Brown is the third Nittany Lion in the lineup with a Big Ten individual title. The Big Ten finals will air live on BTN Sunday at 2 p.m.
There are several marquee events on the horizon following the action this weekend. The 2014 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament is slated to begin on March 13 in Indianapolis. The Nittany Lion men's hoops team will finish off its regular season this week with games at Northwestern and Minnesota. The Lions will learn their seed for the tournament on Sunday.
The track and field squads will also be in action during the third weekend in March. Penn State will travel to Albaquerque for the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 14-15.
Head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lion football team will wrap up winter conditioning this week in preparation for the start of spring practice on March 17. The Nittany Lions will practice 15 times before the Blue-White Game on April 12 (1:30 p.m.).
The fourth weekend of March will feature no fewer than six postseason events for Penn State teams. The No. 1 wrestling team will begin its NCAA title defense on March 20 in Oklahoma City at the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The finals will take place on March 22. The ESPN family of networks will televise all six of the NCAA Wrestling Championships sessions.
In Happy Valley, the women's gymnastics team plays host to the Big Ten Championships in Rec Hall on March 22. Across campus, the Bryce Jordan Center is slated to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship. Games are slated for 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on March 23 and 7 p.m. on March 25.
Out of town, the first Big Ten Hockey Tournament will take place in Saint Paul, Minn., beginning on March 20. The NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships begin on March 20 in Minneapolis, as well. The Penn State fencing teams also kick of NCAA Championships competition in Columbus on March 20.
The month will wrap up with a weekend featuring the NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships, which begin on March 27 in Austin, Texas. The Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships begin on March 28 in Lincoln, Neb.
With two titles already in hand, it will be a busy month ahead for Penn State teams competing in postseason competition. Stay tuned for complete coverage of the postseason push on GoPSUsports.com.
Key Dates Ahead in March
March 7 - Noon (BTN) - Lady Lions vs. Ohio State/Northwestern (Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals - Indianapolis)
March 8 - 11 a.m./6 p.m. - Big Ten Wrestling Championships (Madison, Wis.)
March 9 - 12/2 p.m. (BTN) - Big Ten Wrestling Championships (Madison, Wis.)
March 13-16 - Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament (Indianapolis)
March 14-15 - NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships (Albuquerque, N.M.)
March 17 - First Day of Spring Football
March 20-22 - NCAA Wrestling Championships (Oklahoma City, Okla.); NCAA Fencing Championships (Columbus, Ohio); NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships (Minneapolis, Minn.); Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament (Saint Paul, Minn.)
March 22 - 12/5 p.m. - Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships (University Park, Pa.)
March 23 - 12:30/3 p.m. - NCAA Women's Basketball First Round (University Park, Pa.)
March 25 - 7 p.m. - NCAA Women's Basketball Second Round (University Park, Pa.)
March 27-29 - NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships (Austin, Texas)
March 28-29 - Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships (Lincoln, Neb.)
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
Recently in Swimming & Diving Category
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The women's swimming and diving team brought back a third place finish in the Big Ten Championships just in time to send off the men's team as they take their turn to compete.
Coming together and getting behind each race proved to play a huge role for the women as they got off to a strong start with the 200 Medley Relay on the first night. From there, they kept the momentum building each day.
"As a team, we really rallied off of each other," senior Chelsea Weedman said. "The very first relay was awesome so after that, we just kept the ball rolling. I think we did a really good job cheering and getting everyone pumped up and motivated, but overall I think it was a very, very good meet for the team."
This championship season marks the first time that head coach Tim Muprhy would walk on the deck of a Big Ten Championship leading the Nittany Lions. After going through the meet, he couldn't be more proud of what the ladies accomplished.
"I was really proud of them and I was impressed with the way that they took on the challenge going into the meet. They weren't really predicted to have any kind of presence, but by the end of the last day we certainly left our mark at the meet in the pool and off the deck," Murphy said.
Although the women's swimming and diving team were not mentioned in the top three projections going into the meet, they did everything possible to change the outcome of that as they competed hard to finish in third place as a team. Murphy reminded the team to keep in mind who they are representing before they started competing.
"The main thing that we talked about was that everything we do needs to be done with the backdrop of Penn State pride," Murphy said. "In reference to not being mentioned or talked about beforehand, I think the pride was very evident in who they are and how they felt about each other and representing Penn State and I thought they did a nice job with that."
The Nittany Lions came back with new school records in the 200 Medley Relay, 800 Freestyle Relay, 100 Butterfly, 200 Freestyle, and 400 Medley Relay. In addition to a new school record in the 100 Butterfly, Mackenzie Powers also set a new Big Ten record in the event.
On the third day of competition, Powers (100 Butterfly) and Alyson Ackman (200 Freestyle) both fought their way to earn the top spot on the podium and a gold medal with their teammates cheering them on.
"The nicest part about it was watching them stand on top of the podium looking at their team and their team going nuts for them," Murphy said. "That was both during the race when they finished and turned around to look at the team and the team cheering them on and then when they got their medal on the podium and they played the fight song. It just doesn't get much better than that."
Freshman Katelyn Sowinski had the opportunity to experience her first Big Tens and really took in the moment when her teammates received their medals.
"That was one of the coolest things ever because they are your teammates and you train with them everyday," Sowinski said. "To see them accomplish something that great - there was just so much excitement and you felt like you were right there with them."
The wins for the team helped keep the momentum going and the energy up for the women as they headed into their fourth and final day. Having those two Big Ten titles to take back to the team motivated the swimmers and divers to close out the meet strong.
"That just creates so much excitement in general and Saturday morning is always the hardest to get up and swim fast because everybody's tired and your just trying to get to finals so with the two individual victories in mind - it was easier to keep motivated and keep our goals in check," Weedman said.
With an exciting start to the championship season behind them, the season is not over for the Nittany Lions. The team will have to shift their focus and get back to training as they prepare for the NCAA Championships on March 20 in Minneapolis, Minn.
"We're just going to go back to work," Murphy said. "We just came off of a big meet so we need to recharge and regain our focus for the NCAA Championships. It's not going to get any easier; in fact it's a step up so it'll get more competitive. I think they're excited about what they did and now we expect and our goal is to get better between now and then."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the men's swimming and diving team, the opportunity to showcase what the group has been training for all year is finally here.
The men's swimming and diving team will make its way to Michigan to compete in the Big Ten Championships beginning on Wednesday.
Even though the men and women train together each and every day, when it comes time for Big Tens, they compete one week a part at different locations. For the men, this gave them an opportunity to see how the women's team did and build off of their results.
"After we saw the girls swim, we know the training has worked for them so we're set-up to do great things," senior James Wilson said. "You know what girls were in your group and you know what they've been doing so that really boosts your confidence."
As head coach Tim Murphy just got back from his first championship meet with the women, he knows what challenges the men will face as they step into a similar setting.
"I think they're very proud of the ladies team, proud of Penn State Swimming and Diving, and now it's their turn," Murphy said. "They have the same challenge in terms of the backdrop and everything we do, the way that we handle ourselves, the way that we compete, a backdrop of being proud of who we are and the way we do things. It's their turn and they're excited about finally getting to go to the meet."
With excitement running through the team, the men are ready to watch all of their hard work throughout the season pay off as they take the blocks against some of the best competition in the country.
"I'm excited just to see how we come together as a whole," Wilson said. "I feel like in the past we haven't really had that one meet where everybody comes together and I think this year we are in a good place for everybody to have good swims."
In an atmosphere that brings together 10 different Big Ten teams all trying to compete at the highest level, the men use that energy to push them closer to their goals.
"It's probably the most exciting meet that we go to all year," junior Nate Savoy said. "It has a championship atmosphere that doesn't get matched at dual meets throughout the year. For all of us, it's really exciting to perform there. For some of the guys it's a little intimidating but the quicker they get used to it the better they're going to do."
As one of the more experienced swimmers on the team, Savoy has competed at NCAA Championships and Olympic trials and knows how to channel any nerves he may face. The junior has given some of the freshman advice on how to handle the intense atmosphere.
"I've talked to several of them just about what to expect when they get there and how it's going to work and talk through some of their goal times with them one-on-one to try and get them settled down," Savoy said. "I know there's a lot of guys in our freshman group that if they swim the way that they should, they're going to score points for us and be really helpful in the team race."
Wilson has given the younger swimmers the same advice. Knowing what they are going through headed into a championship meet far different than any high school meet, the captains told them to be prepared for anything.
"They're going to see guys that are the best in the country, but they were recruited as some of the best guys coming out of high school so they have to know that they're already on their level," Wilson said. "They should be as good or if not better as some of the seniors at Big Tens."
Even though championship season can bring extra pressure for the swimmers and divers, remembering that it's just another meet and that the athlete's have been doing this for most of their lives is key to keeping their nerves down.
"You have to think of Big Tens as another dual meet," Wilson said. "You're just trying to win, you're trying to get your hand on the wall first, you can't put it on a pedestal and freak out before. You just have to go with what you've been doing your whole life."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 42nd IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.
A record 711 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. THON raised a record of more than $13.3 million in 2014. To date, more than $110 million has been raised by THON.
Several Penn State student-athletes danced in the annual dance marathon. Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) will be Maggie Harding from women's volleyball, Natalie Buttinger from field hockey, Erin Kehoe from women's soccer and Christian Kaschak from men's soccer.
Additionally, Nicole Williams and Elise Potter from the Lionettes squad and Eugene Bodden, Kali Fleckenstein, Carrie Tedesco and Ally Zimmerman from Penn State cheerleading danced in THON.
Several teams and coaches played an active role in THON events throughout the weekend, in addition to squads participating in Saturday's annual pep rally and team dance competition.
We would also like to congratulate Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Rachel Steinberg, as she danced over the weekend, in addition to the several student assistants actively involved with THON.
Take a look through our THON weekend updates on the involvement Penn State Athletics. To donate to THON, please visit THON.org.
3:30 p.m. - Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer
Click here to read a feature on the student-athletes participating in THON 2014 - Feature Story
6 p.m. - THON 2014 Begins
The 711 dancers took their feet at 6 p.m. before an energetic crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center to begin 46-straight hours on their feet.
11 p.m. - Interview on the Floor
GoPSUsports.com talked with women's volleyball senior Maggie Harding on the floor about her experience during THON.
3 p.m. - Student-Athletes Host Make-A-Wish Families
Several teams hosted THON Make-A-Wish families on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON 2014 festivities.
More than 50 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed nearly 40 THON Make-A-Wish children and their families to a special tour of the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon.
The Make-A-Wish event is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.
Head coach James Franklin greeted the group when it arrived at the facility tour before senior Miles Dieffenbach and sophomore Akeel Lynch led families on tours. Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.
Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish Football Event
5 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the Bryce Jordan Center during athlete hour on Saturday. Take a look.
9:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pep Rally Dance Competition Highlights
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally. In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2014 version of the dance-off.
With resounding approval from a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team was named champion of the team dancing competition for the second-straight year. We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON.
Photo Gallery - THON 2014 Pep Rally
Men's Swimming (Champions) - Full Dance
Football - Full Dance
Men's Basketball - Full Dance
Women's Volleyball - Full Dance
Men's Gymnastics - Full Dance
Women's Tennis - Full Dance
Field Hockey - Full Dance
Fencing - Full Dance
Men's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Lacrosse - Full Dance
Women's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Golf - Full Dance
11:05 p.m. - Student-Athlete Dancer Interviews: Hour 30
GoPSUsports.com talks with THON 2014 dancers Natalie Buttinger (field hockey) and Erin Kehoe (women's soccer) during the 30th hour of their 46-hour quest at THON.
12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2014
Head coach James Franklin took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to continuing working hard in their final push at the 46-hour marathon. Franklin spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center. Take a look.
4:11 p.m. - THON 2014 Raises Record $13.3 Million
THON 2014 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $13,343,517.33 for fight against pediatric cancer. Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2014. Here is a look at the reveal on the Rec Hall video board following Sunday's Penn State wrestling victory over Clarion.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since August, the women's swimming and diving team has put in countless hours of practice and competed in seven dual meets, all while keeping in mind their ultimate focus of the year - the Big Ten Championships. Now that the championship season is finally here, it's time for all of their hard work to pay off as the team travels to Minneapolis, Minn.
"I think there's been a build up over the course of the whole year," head coach Tim Murphy said. "I've seen some good things in reference to the team and individuals from the training standpoint. We're at that time of the year where we just have to connect the dots and put some good performances together."
Having 12 different teams all in one place with prelims and finals sessions, the energy at Big Tens is unlike any other meet and contributes to strong performances all across the board when the whole team gets behind each and every race.
"The atmosphere at Big Tens is insane," Allyson Ackman said. "It's so exciting you get your adrenaline pumping and you're ready to go right away so it's one of the biggest differences of swimming in college."
In order to ensure that the swimmers and divers are both mentally and physically prepared to compete against the other Big Ten schools, the amount of yardage that the team puts in goes down while the quality increases.
"At this point in time you always start to change the amount of work, the type of work, but it becomes a little bit less in volume," Murphy said. "We're still doing quality work but we're coming down a little bit in just a general tapering process making sure the bodies are rested and ready to compete from a peak performance stand point for the time we're at Big Tens."
Although the last few weeks have been a different approach to training, having a new coaching staff has also helped the team prepare in a new way the season. Taking the times and scores from dual meets and comparing them to past years gives sophomore Alyson Ackman the confidence needed to perform well going into Big Tens.
"This year as a whole has been really different mostly because the coaches have been different," Ackman said. "We've been doing a lot less volume intensity and a lot more specific intensity and I think that's really helped me prepare and seeing my times compared to what I was doing last year I think I've improved a lot which really gets me mentally prepared for Big Tens and seeing what I can do."
The Big Ten Championships start on Wednesday and ends Saturday, which is longer than the one or two-day dual meets during the year. Having the ability to keep their bodies physically fresh and their minds positive despite any fatigue from racing for several days in a row is something the coaching staff has worked all season to prepare the team for.
"It comes down to a reflection of what we've been doing all year in reference to being prepared," Murphy said. "We challenge the athlete's, we've asked for their input when it's appropriate and necessary and help them rely on their competitive instincts and not overthink things. It's a simplification process but at the same time, the energy and the excitement gets larger so you just have to take a deep breath and have some fun with it."
Even though there are more days to compete at Big Tens, the individual events are spread out giving the swimmers and divers more time to recover and focus on one race at a time.
"The whole year we've gotten speeches if you have a bad race to forget it, move past it," Shishkoff said. "If you have a good race, forget about it and move past it because you can't get complacent. Even though Big Tens is really hard, we're swimming fewer races in a day than we are at dual meets so it's easier because you have more time to cope and move on instead of back to back races."
Both Shishkoff and Ackman have experience competing at this level in a collegiate championship and will use what they learned to help the freshman adjust to their first Big Tens, which can sometimes become overwhelming.
"I'm really excited to see the freshman and how they react to the adrenaline rush," Ackman said. "It'll be really interesting to see it from a different perspective having that experience already and knowing what it's about, which will help me prepare for it and be able to support my teammates better."
Taking what the upperclassmen learned from past championship seasons, their confidence headed into one of the biggest meets of their career adds to their success both as a team and individually.
"Confidence is key especially when it comes to race day," Ackman said. "The past couple of weeks I've just been telling myself I can do this and when I get to the meet I shut my mind off and the pieces fall where they may. Just from experience, my confidence is what gets you to your goals. You can't be thinking about other people and your doubts - you just have to go for it."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Nittany Lions begin to prepare for their championship season with Big Tens just around the corner, the team had one last opportunity to put their last few weeks of training to the test as they competed against St. Bonaventure and Towson.
The swimmers and divers came out with wins on both the men's and women's side. The men beat Towson with a score of 183-114 and St. Bonaventure with a final of 200-95, improving their record to 7-1 for the duel meet season. The women closed out the meet with a score of 166-133 against Towson, while they defeated St. Bonaventure 232-65. This victory gives the women a 5-2 record.
However, this tri-meet had much more meaning to the program than any score would ever tell. For 17 seniors, four years of running out in front of a home crowd came down to one final day. The day started off with a team breakfast where head coach Tim Murphy thanked them for everything they brought to the program.
"I had a short period of time with them," Murphy said. " But I wanted to take the time to acknowledge their perseverance, their dedication, and their commitment to the program. I appreciated how they handled this year. I told them at the beginning of the year that they would be the most important people on this team in terms of setting the team dynamic and setting the work ethic."
In past years, the team has made a human tunnel for the seniors to walk through with their parents. This year, alumni were invited on deck to join in this tradition. At the end of the tunnel, they were given a blanket from Coach Murphy.
"We had a nice ceremony," Murphy said. "I could see it in their eyes that their parents and them are very proud of what they've accomplished. We really wanted to take the time to honor the seniors - they deserve that. To see that some of the kids made decorations for them is kind of neat. To see a crowd, to see it packed, and to see the emotion from the parents - that's the way it should be."
After watching the senior day traditions for three years, having the opportunity to finally participate in it and walk through the tunnel was exciting for Shane Austin who's brother, John Austin, walked through the tunnel when Shane was a freshman.
"I feel like just recently I was on deck with my brother for the ceremony," Austin said. "It went by a lot faster than I expected. It's a lot of fun. It was a different atmosphere because it was our last time swimming here and I think we all wanted to do well."
The swimmers and divers did just that. With the unique atmosphere, sophomore Shane Ryan and junior Nate Savoy helped make it even more memorable for seniors John Hauser and Austin when the four combined to break the pool record by over two seconds in the 400 freestyle relay.
Breaking a new pool record means their names will go on the record board hanging in McCoy Natatorium.
"I told them we were going to challenge them, support them, and expect the best from them," Murphy said. "It takes a lot of energy and a lot of focus on their part. The fact that they get to put their names on the board just adds to the whole afternoon and makes it kind of special."
One aspect the seniors had to face this year was taking on a leadership role in easing the transition in coaching staffs. For senior Mackenzie Powers, the changes were easy to adjust to during her final year of representing Penn State.
"I think the new coaching staff has been a really positive thing for our team," Powers said. "They bring really great ideas and smarter training. I think we've all had a lot of fun this year. It has definitely been a good last year of swimming with this team atmosphere."
At this point in the season, the focus shifts from tough training and competing in duel meets to easing into taper to prepare for the Ohio State Invitational and Big Tens just weeks away. Coach Murphy is pleased with where the athletes are headed.
"We've done some good things," Murphy said. "I expect that the way that we do things will put us in a position to do better. I'm looking for us to perform individually and especially to perform as a team. If that unfolds, we're going to accomplish a lot. Where we end up in reference to the rest of the conference, we just need to take care of ourselves."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the swimmers and divers prepare for another home meet against St. Bonaventure and Towson, for most it's just another competition. However, for the 17 seniors who have helped lead the Nittany Lions, it's their final chance to compete with this team in McCoy Natatorium.
This meet has traditionally been a chance for the seniors to be recognized for their commitment, development, and leadership that they have given to the program over their past four years. On the women's side Mackenzie Powers, Gabi Shishkoff, captain Claire Singley, Sarah Somers, Megan Springsteen, captain Chelsea Weedman, and Brynja Winnan will be honored.
For the men's team, Shane Austin, captain Chris Cipolla Peter Fittin, John Hauser, Lucas Kachurick, Tom Mershon, Matt Salig, Andrew Sideras, Seth Wensel, and captain James Wilson will be recognized.
While all of these seniors had a choice of where they wanted to start their collegiate career, one common reason that they chose Penn State was the amount of pride the university displayed when they took their recruiting trip and how well they connected with the team.
"When I took a trip here, I didn't really have any expectations, but when I came to this campus I fell in love with the team, I loved the coaching staff, and most of all I loved the school spirit and how everyone here loved Penn State," Weedman said. "It just seemed like the greatest community anyone could be a part of."
Looking back to when this group of seniors first stepped foot on campus, they knew they had four years ahead of them to train in the pool and learn the ins and outs of their major in the classroom. For captain Claire Singley, she did not expect the time to go by as quickly as it has.
"My freshman year, you're just thinking this is never going to end," Singley said. "Then you look back and you realize how much fun you did have. I just remember everyone saying each year goes by faster and I never really believed them. Now it's already almost over and I'd never thought it'd go this fast."
Over four years, the role of each athlete changes. As a freshman, they quickly learn the expectations of the program, how to balance the athletics, academics, and the social scene. As seniors, they are the one's teaching the underclassmen how to adjust and handle these different pressures.
"From my freshman year to now, there has definitely been a huge change," Cipolla said. "I never would have seen myself become a captain during my freshman year but throughout my time here I've seen myself be able to take on a lot more responsibilities in my actions and with what the team is doing."
With the grueling schedule of morning practices, weight room training, and going back to the pool again in the evening, making it all four years is a true accomplishment. For diver Megan Springsteen, all the hard work and sacrifices she has made over the years have already paid off for the best.
"At times you wonder why you do this and why you get up at 5 a.m. every morning and then you look at the progress you've made over the past four years," Springsteen said. "You also look at the chances you've had to represent Penn State and to be a great competitor and a better diver and it becomes unreal and completely worth it."
When the swimmers and divers put in as much time as they do, they have developed strong bonds and relationships between their teammates and coaches, which is one aspect that keeps them going and pushing through the hard work.
"I'll miss walking on deck everyday and having a huge group of friends where everyone's going through the same things together, " Mershon said. "There's such a strong support system so it'll be a little bit disappointing to know that this weekend will be the last time I'm stepping on this deck for a meet with these people in a competitive way."
While all the seniors spent their college career competing in McCoy Natatorium, some of the Pennsylvania natives also competed at this pool with their club teams as they were growing up. This weekend will mark the senior's last chance to compete in the pool that they've spent countless hours training in.
"The first time I swam in the pool, I was 12 years-old so it'll be really weird after the weekend knowing that would be the last time I would compete in this pool," Salig said. "It'll be hard not to be competing anymore after this season. It'll be like leaving part of me behind since I've done this for so many years. That'll be a void I'll have to fill with something else."
Head coach Tim Murphy has watched these seniors grow into stronger leaders in his first year with the Nittany Lions and looks forward to the opportunity to recognize them this weekend at 1 p.m.
"It's been an honor, it's been a pleasure, it's been a challenge to work with these seniors," Murphy said. "I appreciate the effort, their commitment, and the value they place on being on this team. Being a four-year athlete is difficult, being a four-year student-athlete is difficult, being a four-year student-athlete who swims or dives is extremely difficult."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a home dual meet behind them against West Virginia and an away meet against Buffalo last weekend for the men swimmers and divers, the Nittany Lions are set to travel as a combined squad to Charlottesville, Va. to compete against Virginia, Texas, and West Virginia.
The men had an extra opportunity to race against Buffalo where they came out with a win 155-137. The swimmers and divers took advantage of the competition and used the past couple of days to clean up their technique and race plans.
"Taking off of the Buffalo meet, the biggest thing we got out of it was we had another opportunity to race and a better understanding of the things they need to work on whether it be race strategy or technique stuff," head coach Tim Murphy said. "The last couple of days we got good work in and we're going to go down and bang heads with some good swimmers across the board and see where we are competitively at this time."
Not only did the dual meet allow for the coaches to see where the men swimmers and divers stood, it also allowed the men to come back and refine their habits going into a meet with some of the best competition in the ACC and Big 12 on Friday and Saturday.
"Although last weekend was a great win for us, there were still things that were clear we needed to work on," junior Nick Ankosko said. "I think this week was really all about working out some of the kinks of racing and focusing on early speed in our races. This weekend is a much bigger meet for us so we have to take what we saw last weekend and fix it going into this weekend."
The trip to Virginia will mark the first travel meet with coach Murphy and the combined squads, adding excitement to the meet in addition to gauging where the athletes stand after a fall season of hard work.
"I always get excited when I get to see my team race against other competition," Murphy said. "In this case, the level of competition is a couple steps up at this point in time and it will be interesting to see where we are at this point of the season."
The veterans on the team know what to expect in the tri-meet since they have competed against West Virginia and Virginia for the past couple of years. The men are using the results of last year as motivation to come out with a victory this year.
"After last years meet when the men's team was leading after day one, we kind of let our fight down in day two of the meet so I know we will be ready to fight this year and finally take down UVA," Ankosko said. "It makes it easier competing against the same teams each year because we know what we need to do."
Along with knowing how to handle the level of competition by racing against some of the same teams, the athletes set certain expectations and can mentally prepare to reach those goals.
"It's fun to swim against the same teams every year because you get to know some of the swimmers and you always have certain expectations going into the meets against certain teams," junior Megan Siverling said. "Knowing the other team's strengths helps us know where we need to step up the most."
Although the upperclassmen have competed against these teams and know what to expect, the freshmen are experiencing this competition for the first time. With seven freshmen on the men's side and 15 newcomers for the women, senior Mackenzie Powers is excited to see how they will do against tough competition.
"I'm really excited to see how our team does especially with all of the talent in the freshmen class and I'm excited to swim against Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia because they are all very good teams. It should be a fast meet," Powers said.
Keeping the end of the season in mind, the swimmers and divers use the opportunity of competing early in the season to help prepare for the championship season months down the road.
"It's helpful because we've already put in a lot of work so we can start to see if it's paying off," Siverling said. "At the same time, there's enough time to make changes in training after the meet if we need to."
In the two-day meet, the swimmers and divers will have the chance to rehearse a race plan that they want to use at the Big Tens conference meet.
"Most of our people will be swimming in their most competitive events," Murphy said. "The events relate to what they're going to be doing and looking at possibilities for Big Tens. It's just another step in the process."
With meets early in the season, coach Murphy is looking for tough, competitive racing from the Nittany Lions with the mindset focused on what will prepare them best for the end of season racing.
"I'm looking for people to be aggressive and dive in and approach the weekend - not wait to see what they're doing and what's going on around them," Murphy said. "I want to see them dive in with the intensities that line up with what we're trying to accomplish at the end of the season and take note of where we are in that process from a competitive and team standpoint."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Proud supporters of the Penn State men's and women's swimming and diving teams filled McCoy Natatorium to cheer on the Nittany Lions to their first win under head coach Tim Murphy against West Virginia.
The women's team defeated the mountaineers with a score of 152-102 while the men's team touched first in all 14 events finishing the meet with a score of 153-129. With their first opportunity to compete against another team, they had the chance to see where they stand after eight weeks of hard training.
"Everybody learned something tonight which was important," Murphy said. "They should have learned something individually and what's showing up for them in terms of the work we're doing. They've been doing some good work and that showed up in their racing. I think they have a better idea of what they really need to sharpen they're focus on."
Going into the meet, Murphy asked the team to bring a high level of focus and intensity to their racing. The swimmers and divers wasted no time bringing the intensity that Murphy was looking for by winning the men's and the women's 200 Medley Relay over West Virginia and starting the meet off with strong energy.
The momentum continued as Kaitlin Jones (200 Free, 100 Free), Melissa Rodriguez (100 Breaststroke, 200 Breaststroke), and Katie Rowe (200 Fly, 200 Back) won two individual events on the women's side while Nick Ankosko (1,000 Free, 500 Free) and John Hauser (50 Free, 100 Free) won two for the men's team.
"I set the tone for things and where we want to be by the end of the season," Murphy said. "In a number of ways we did a good job with that. There were spots where the focus and intensity and aggressiveness of the racing were good. We got off to a certain start and now we know what we need to work on."
Keeping the goals for the end of the season in mind, Murphy knows what it will take during the dual meet season to reach what they're striving for. When he started the season, he brought a new training plan focused on the knowledge of the sport that the swimmers and divers are benefiting from.
One of the swimmers who appreciates Murphy's approach is Shane Ryan, who finished second in the 50 Freestyle and led off the winning 400 Freestyle Relay. Ryan has noticed a change in training styles and thinks the whole team has adjusted well.
"He's working us really hard now and we trained pretty hard going into this meet, which is good because later in the season it will pay off," Ryan said. "Since our practices have changed to getting more rest and training smarter, a lot of kids that were swimming fast last year just stepped up to a whole new level. John Hauser is swimming great and same with a lot of the freshman. The training is specific to the individual person instead of the whole group and it's really working out well."
Hauser walked away from McCoy with a new pool record in the 50 Freestyle finishing in a time of 20.14, lowering the previous mark by .10. Among the freshmen stepping up were Matt Stasiunas and Megan Wujciak. Stasiunas finished second in the 200 Freestyle and the 500 freestyle while Wujciak swam to second in the 100 Freestyle and was the only freshman on the winning 400 Freestyle Relay.
Making the transition from club swimming into college swimming can be a difficult adjustment, especially with an unfamiliar event format compared to the meets they swam in high school. However, Murphy sees excitement in the freshmen and leadership from the upperclassmen to help ease the pressure of competing for a Big Ten team.
"I think they're excited. It's something new and different for them." Murphy said. "The upperclassmen are showing some good things in terms of the way it's supposed to be done. Just like anything, it's a huge learning curve but I think they're excited about what they're doing and we just need to turn that into productive work."
The divers also saw their first opportunity to see how their practices would pay off under new head diving coach Dennis Ceppa in a competitive setting. TJ Schenkel and Megan Springsteen finished third on both the one-meter and three-meter boards. Springsteen has enjoyed working with Ceppa throughout the fall and is excited to see what the rest of the season will bring after competing against West Virginia.
"We used today to figure out where we stand in terms of what we need to work on and what we really need to hone in on to get better for the rest of the season," Springsteen said. "We've all adjusted really well to the new coaches and they're really dedicated to what they do. It wasn't hard for us to make a connection and to respect them as coaches."
On the diving side, the team brought in two newcomers - Mackenzie Cornell and Taylor Kramer who have already adapted well to the college scene. After watching them practice and compete, Springsteen is eager to see how much they will develop.
"I'm really excited for them - they're doing so well," Springsteen said. "They're coming into a new program with a lot of changes. Now that we have a solid foundation, I know the freshmen are going to do awesome. We're going to see them rise really quickly and I can't wait to see how they do for the rest of the season."