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Divers Finish Season with NCAA Zone A Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a season of hard work and countless of hours practicing, Penn State's divers Megan Springsteen and TJ Schenkel competed at one of the highest level of meets this past weekend in the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships and closed out one of their best seasons yet.

8708449.jpegThe Nittany Lions traveled to Virginia Tech with the hopes of taking all of the skills they learned throughout the year and putting them to the test to perform their best dives of the season.  Both Springsteen and Schenkel made their first appearance at this level of competition this past weekend and enjoyed the opportunity.

"Being at the meet is an experience all in it's own," Springsteen said. "It's really amazing just to be there with everyone and to know that there was only a select group of people that qualified, and that you're one of them."

The Nittany Lions had the opportunity to compete against a total of 86 divers from 30 different schools for automatic qualifying spots at the NCAA Championships.

In order to qualify for this championship meet, the divers must reach a certain score in any dual or championship meet. There are two ways that the athletes can qualify. The first way is that the divers compete in six optional dives without a limit on the degree of difficulty. The second way is they can compete in one voluntary dive with an assigned degree of difficulty of 2.0 followed by five optional dives without a degree of difficulty.

The NCAA created five diving zones. The zone in which the divers compete depends solely on their location. Springsteen and Schenkel competed against all of the qualified divers in the Northeast. From there, those who scored near the top will then be selected to compete in the NCAA Championships. Zone A has six women's and five men's automatic spots for the upcoming championship meet in Indianapolis, Ind.

"Qualifying was a great feeling, especially since I did it in the beginning of the season," Springsteen said. "It was exciting and made the rest of the season a little less stressful."

Springsteen qualified after winning the event and earning a score of 268.42 on 1-meter against Villanova near the beginning of the season. She also won against Navy and placed second against Towson in the same event.  

"Qualifying is very exciting," Springsteen said. "It's nice to be able to see the hard work that I have put in throughout the season pay off and to be able to represent Penn State at the same time makes me proud."

Starting off the competition, Springsteen finished 30th on the women's 3-meter board with a score of 213.45.  On the second day, she finished 42nd on the 1-meter with a final score of 180.35.

"On the first day I did really well and was happy with my performance," Springsteen said. "The second day, a lot of things went wrong and I wasn't able to execute the dives the way I knew I could. I'm chalking it up as experience and motivation to train harder for next year."

Shenkel has been the top scorer for the Nittany Lions all year. He qualified for this championship meet against Villanova where he finished with two first-place scores. At this meet, he earned a score of 301.05 on the 1-meter board and 332.92 on the 3-meter board beating both of his personal records.

Shenkel competed in the same events as Springsteen in Blacksburg, Va. except in opposite order. He finished his season by placing 31st on the 1-meter and 42nd on the 3-meter.

"It means a lot to me that I qualified because it's what I've been working towards all year," Shenkel said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't my best performance this year, but that gives me another thing to work towards for next year."

Looking ahead to next season, Shenkel hopes to learn from the experience and use it to continue improving his career after he spent this season rewriting his personal records.

"For next year, my first goal is to re-qualify for Zones and then I'm just going to concentrate on improving all around and staying more consistent with my dives," Shenkel said.

Next on the schedule for Penn State, the women swimmers who have qualified for the 2013 NCAA Championships will travel to Indianapolis, Ind. to close out a strong season. Competition starts on March 21 and ends on March 23.

Swimming and Diving Teams Close Out Big Ten Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the opportunity to race in one of the fastest conference meets in the country, the Nittany Lion swimmers and divers took advantage of the atmosphere seeing their fastest races and best dives.

5870500.jpegAlthough the men and the women train and compete together during the regular season, when it comes time for Big Tens, the men traveled to Bloomington, Ind. while the women went to Minneapolis, Minn. The men, who competed this past weekend, finished eighth in a conference known for its depth in every event.

Junior Sean Grier was not one to disappoint this championship season. He consistently put up top times all throughout the year and continued to do so in Bloomington. On Friday night, Grier took on the challenge of a tough racing schedule where he competed in two events fairly close together. During the finals session, he added a relay to his list of races making a statement in three events over just a couple of hours.

"The double on Friday was pretty tough with that relay at night," Grier said. "Three events in one session is a lot on the body, but I think having the experience under my belt now in my third year has a lot to do with being able to handle it. I practice doing it a lot throughout the season and the coaches did a really good job helping me know how to take care of my body in between the races."

Rewriting his own records set earlier this year, Grier continued to lower his marks in the 100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke. Not only did he place third with a new team record, but he also set a new pool record in the morning in the 100 Butterfly. Moving even higher up, Grier placed second in the 100 Backstroke minutes later, breaking yet another school record.

"I was really happy with my performances of the day," Grier said. "Knowing you lowered some records is always a good feeling, plus I moved up a good amount in placing compared to last year. I was pretty happy knowing I was able to help the team out with some points."

Another key swimmer for the Nittany Lions was backstroke specialist Nate Savoy. He finished third in the 200 Backstroke barely missing the school record and he finished fifth in the 100 Backstroke, just a few tenths behind Grier. 

The week before the men competed, the women swam to a third place finish in the Big Ten conference. This marks the highest finish for the Nittany Lions since 2009.

Contributing to moving up in the rankings this year compared to their fifth-place finish last year were swimmers Paige Whitmire and Alyson Ackman who both brought home gold in one of their individual events.

Senior Paige Whitmire, who has competed in the 100 Freestyle at the Big Ten Championships for the past 4 years, reached her ultimate goal of winning an event. After finishing second in the 50 Freestyle on the second night, Whitmire was determined to make it to the top of the podium.

"My number one goal was to win the 50 and when that didn't happen I just had to use it as motivation to win another race instead," Whitmire said. "When I got third in the 100 Back it was even more motivation for my last chance in the 100 Free, then during the race I just kept thinking about how it felt getting second and third and how badly I wanted to win."

A career of hard work and reaching all of her goals came down to her last individual race. Whitmire was hesitant to look at the scoreboard immediately after her race, but when she did, she was in shock.

"When I hit the wall it took me a second to look at the clock because I was nervous I didn't win, but I heard the announcer say my name and that I had won so I looked and saw the 'one' next to my name and just couldn't believe it," Whitmire said. "The race was painful but worth it to have won my last individual race."

Few freshmen made as big of an impact for their respected teams as Alyson Ackman made for the Nittany Lions. Wasting no time, Ackman won the 500 Freestyle during her first Big Tens appearance and added 20 points to the overall score for the women. 

With a few weeks to recover and get back into training, the Nittany Lions who qualify will head out to NCAA Championships to finish out a program-changing season for Penn State. The NCAA Championships will start on March 21 for the women and March 28 for the men where the swimmers will race against the very best across the nation. 

Men's Swimming and Diving Looks Ahead to Big Ten Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With just a few days left before the Nittany Lion men's swimmers and divers pack their bags and travel to Bloomington, Ind. for the 2013 Big Ten Championships, the athletes are ready to put their hard work and their past six months of training to the test.

8620808.jpegConsistently ranked by the College Swimming Coaches Association throughout the course of the season, the Nittany Lions have climbed as high as 17th in the nation. The rankings released on Feb. 20 show the swimmers and divers ranked 24th. They have used this recognition as motivation throughout the season and as a confidence builder for the team as a whole.

"We've been more confident going into this Big Tens compared to last year because we had such a good season and have been in the rankings," Andrew Sideras said. "We have a lot of new people contributing this year, so the atmosphere is a lot more positive and we're all motivated to reach our goals."

Penn State added 11 new freshmen to the roster this year and they have all made a difference to the team atmosphere in their own way. As a young team, they will have to follow the lead of the upperclassmen to be successful in their first college championship meet.

"The freshmen have made a pretty big impact especially on the attitude of the team," captain Chris Cipolla said. "They're awesome guys that have made this whole year fun. They've worked hard all season and most of them have stepped up in dual meets. They're going to be the one's who have to step up in the spots that we need them to in order to make a difference in how we finish at Big Tens."

With two championship meets already behind him, Cipolla now understands what it's going to take to improve from their sixth place finish last year. Leading the way in the 200 Breastroke and 400 Individual Medley, Cipolla added points to the overall team score last year by getting into the scoring heats in prelims.

"The key is going to be swimming fast in the morning and getting it done then," Cipolla said. "Getting those top eight spots and stepping up in the morning is where the points come from. Other than that we'll just have to stay relaxed and keep doing what we've been doing with a positive mindset and go from there. We've worked really hard, it's just a matter of time before it pays off."

Of the newcomers, Will Lee has been a part of the class to help change the direction of the team. With his first Big Tens coming up, Lee has relied on the experience from the upperclassmen to help him prepare for the week of racing to come.

"The older guys just have more experience than us," Lee said. "They've been to Big Tens before and they've told us how everything works. They've also stressed that it doesn't matter how we feel during the meet physically, we can still have great swims."

One aspect that Lee has noticed this past week is a change in the team's frame of mind going into this meet compared to dual meets. This past week with the women away at their own Big Ten Conference meet, the men had a chance to get excited for fast swimming and bond even more.

"There's a whole different mentality going into this meet and over the past week compared to any dual meet," Lee said. "We've been hyped up for this meet throughout the whole year and it has been our focus since August. We just swim through dual meets, get our times and keep training. But this is much bigger. Everyone's excited and getting anxious to leave."

Sean Grier has been a standout performer all year rewriting several of the team records as well as McCoy Natatorium pool records. According to, Grier is currently ranked fourth in the nation in the 100 Backstroke and 13th in the 100 Butterfly. He will be one to watch throughout the weekend as a huge contributor for the Nittany Lions.

Additionally, Grier has been a part of the 200 and 400 Medley relays along with James Wilson and Nate Savoy. These events will be crucial to the team since they add double points to the team score. The 400 Medley relay stands 14th nationally while the 200 Medley relay is ranked 16th. Ohio State and Michigan are the only Big Ten Schools ahead of Penn State.

Championship action for the men starts on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind. Competition continues through Saturday night in the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center where the Nittany Lions look to end one of their best seasons yet on a high note. 

Women's Swimming and Diving Eager for Big Ten Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With excitement running through every swimmer and diver, the Nittany Lions have the opportunity to exhibit all of the hard work they've put in over the past six months as they travel to Minneapolis Minn. to kick off the 2013 Big Ten Championships meet.

8536010 (1).jpegThe Nittany Lions have fought their way up the rankings and have put together one of the best teams that Penn State has ever seen. Currently ranked 24th in the nation according to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, the swimmers and divers are eager to prove themselves in the Big Ten conference.

"The rankings just show us that we can do it," Gabi Shishkoff said. "We're already near the top so we just need to keep doing what we've been doing. It's made us really excited because we're not used to seeing that. We still feel like other teams are underestimating us but we find it really motivating to prove ourselves."

Going into the meet, the Nittany Lions are seeing their best rankings for each event on paper. The psych sheet, which shows a complete list of every event and the times that the swimmers have gone so far this season ranking from fastest to slowest, helps build the swimmers confidence. However captain Amy Modglin says it's important to keep in mind that the swimmers can't focus too much on it.

"It's definitely motivation to see your rankings," Modglin said. "But I'm a firm believer that a psych sheet is just a piece of paper and you can't get too caught up in it. You should definitely use it as motivation to see how well of a season you've had and how you're stacking up going into the meet, but it's just a piece of paper. The places we get at the meet are what's really going to matter."

Of the 18 swimming events at Big Tens, there is at least one swimmer in the top eight for 17 of those events. Opening the meet up on Wednesday night, the swimmers are seeded second in the 200 Medley Relay and first in the 800 Freestyle Relay. Throughout the rest of the meet, they are seeded third in the 200 Freestyle Relay, second in the 400 Medley Relay, and to close out the meet on Saturday, they are ranked first in the 400 Freestyle Relay.

Senior and captain Paige Whitmire has been a huge contributor to the team in the sprint events and relays over her four years and will compete on several of the relays during the Big Tens Championships. With a raised amount of pressure, Whitmire says reminding her how many times she has raced through out her career helps her handle what's coming her way.

"Relays score double points than any other event so they are extra important, especially since we don't have extra points from diving," Whitmire said. "We need to do the best we can in relays to get every point possible. Staying calm is something I'm still working on but just remembering I've done this a million times and that there's no reason I can't do it again. Also thinking about how cool it would be to win gets me more excited than nervous."

Shishkoff, who is ranked first in the 400 Individual Medley, fourth in the 200 Individual Medley, and seventh in the 200 Fly, has similar feelings as Whitmire on how to stay calm during one of the most nerve-racking meets that these swimmers experience. She also uses the coaches' advice to keep everything in perspective.

"Lately I've tried to tell myself that it's just a race and I've done it so many times before," Shishkoff said. "The coaches keep telling us this is the easy part and this is the fun part so I've been trying to take that to heart and just do what I know how to do."

Figuring out how to handle pressure and compete in the moment is a huge accomplishment, but one of the hardest skills to learn, especially as a freshman. The upperclassmen have given them advice on how to handle a championship atmosphere and have been impressed with how they have done so far this season. Modglin says she has been reminding the freshman it's just about racing.

"The freshman have been doing extremely well," Modglin said. "One of the things we've been telling them is it's not about how you feel - it's all about getting your hand on the wall first. I know how easy it is to get caught up in how you feel but that's the beauty of Big Tens. It's about getting out there and just racing other teams. It's like a big dual meet but you're rested and suited up."

Since Modglin's freshman year the team has drastically moved up in the rankings. They finished seventh in the Big Tens in 2010 and now she can say she has been part of building a team that could finish in the top three. She says a major difference between now and the past four years is the team dynamics.

"Every year is different because you have different groups of people with different personalities making the team dynamics different," Modglin said. "Being a senior now and seeing the team grow over the past four years, I can say this is the team that has the most promise for winning a championship. A lot of that comes from everyone stepping up and the freshman really buying into the program. I think if everyone is on the same page then we'll have a shot at being a championship team. I truly believe that everyone is and that everyone's working towards the same goals."

As a junior, Shishkoff has spent three years with these seniors and has been motivated by them sharing their past experiences.

"Obviously, a lot of them are big point scorers," Shishkoff said. "I think that their freshman year didn't go as well as they had hoped and that's made them really motivated to make sure that won't happen again. They've told us what needs to be different and pretty much everyone has listened."

With only a few days left until show time, the team's moral has been extremely high and mostly filled with excitement.

"It's been the best I've ever seen it of my four years of being on this team," Whitmire said. "Everyone's really excited and it's exciting to see everyone has the same goals and is on the same page. Everyone's pretty nervous but really psyched up and ready to be there."

Follow along with the results as the Nittany Lions begin their journey to close out one of their best seasons yet. Action begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday Feb. 20 at the University Aquatic Center in Minneapolis, Minn.  

VIDEO: Men's Swimming THON 2013 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch several members of the Nittany Lion men's swimming team show off their dance moves at the THON 2013 Pep Rally.  The Lions took home the crowd as the champion with a creative dance that involved a swimming prop mid-routine.

THON 2013 raised a record $12.34 million in the fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to the more than 700 dancers who stood for 46-straight hours over the weekend and to all those involved with the fundraising efforts.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Women's Swimming THON 2013 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch several members of the Nittany Lion women's swimming team show off their dance moves at the THON 2013 Pep Rally.

THON 2013 raised a record $12.34 million in the fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to the more than 700 dancers who stood for 46-straight hours over the weekend and to all those involved with the fundraising efforts.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Penn State Athletics THON 2013 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 41st IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

More than 700 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 went to new heights on Sunday when a record of more than $12.37 million was raised for 2013.  To date, more than $100 million has been raised by THON.

Several Penn State student-athletes spent 46 hours on their feet in the annual dance marathon.  Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were Kristin Carpenter from the women's volleyball team and Annie Abdo from the field hockey squad.  Katlyn Elliott from women's golf and Marika Racibarskas from women's volleyball represented Penn State Hockey this weekend.

Additionally, Perry Hammershlag and Nicole Symeonides from the Lionetts squad and Paige McManus and Nicole Camporeale 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 wish student writers Matt Allibone and Kelsey Detweiler, along with Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Angelis Lau the best of luck as they dance over the weekend, and the several student assistants actively involved with THON.

From start to finish, take a look through the updates from the involvement Penn State Athletics had in THON over the weekend on 

Friday Coverage:

4:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pre-Dancing Interviews with Student-Athletes
Just over one hour from beginning the quest of spending 46-straight hours on their feet, we caught up with Marika Racibarskas from women's volleyball and Katlyn Elliott from women's golf for their final thoughts before the start of THON 2013. 

5 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Chambers Addresses Crowd, Donates $14,200
Head coach Patrick Chambers pledged to donate $10 to THON 2013 for every student in attendance at Penn State's clash against Iowa on Thursday night in the Bryce Jordan Center.  On Friday evening, just before heading to the airport with the Nittany Lions for their trip to Michigan, Chambers addressed the crowd at THON and presented a check for $14,200.  Take a look.

Saturday Coverage:

8 a.m. - VIDEO: Hour 14 Interviews from Penn State Athletics Dancers caught up with women's volleyball student-athletes and 2013 dancers Marika Racibarskas and Kristin Carpenter just before 8 a.m. on Saturday morning for an update on how things were going 14 hours into the 46-hour dance marathon.  Additionally, we talked with student writer and broadcaster Kelsey Detweiler, who is also dancing, for an update.  In addition to an interview, we asked all three what time they felt like it was.  Dancers are normally asked to avoid looking at the clock, and they rarely know what time it is.  Take a look at an hour 14 update from three Penn State Athletics representatives dancing in THON for the fight against pediatric cancer.

2 p.m. - VIDEO: Football Hosts THON Make-A-Wish Event
Seventy members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed 28 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 photo in the locker room.

Head coach Bill O'Brien spoke to the group after it received the facility tour and signed autographs with the THON kids.  Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish

4:10 p.m. - PHOTO - Teams Participate in Athlete Hour
Student-athletes from across Penn State Athletics spent time with THON families and children inside the practice gym of the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday afternoon for Athlete Hour.

10:10 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, 11 different teams competed in the 2013 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, largely thanks to its use of a prop pool to create a swimming scene mid-dance.  We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON.  Take a look.

Photo Gallery - THON 2013 Pep Rally

Sunday Coverage:

12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach O'Brien Addresses THON 2013

Head coach Bill O'Brien took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to push through the "fourth quarter" of the 46-hour marathon.  O'Brien spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center.  Take a look.

4:12 p.m. - VIDEO: THON 2013 Reveal - $12,374,034.46
THON 2013 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $12,374,034.46 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Watch a truly inspiring moment in front of a capacity crowd in the Bryce Jordan Center during the revealing of this year's total.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2013.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Relays Play Huge Role in Championship Season

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In a sport with predominately individual events, the impact that relays make at Big Tens becomes a crucial component that not only adds points to the overall swimming and diving team score but also creates an atmosphere that no other events can create.

pool.jpgBig Tens opens the championship meet season on Feb. 20 for the women and Feb. 27 for the men with the 200 Medley Relay and the 800 Freestyle Relay. Winning an individual event gives the team 20 points, however winning a relay gives them 40 points. With this doubled score, taking the top spot on the podium after a relay can be the difference in placing first out of all the Big Ten teams or coming in much further down the rankings.

Head coach John Hargis says that relays are extremely important because they are double the points, they help gain momentum, and they build the teams' confidence.  

"Especially at Big Tens when we do the two on the Wednesday night, it just sets the tone and sets the mood of the meet," Hargis said. "If we start off with two great relays that night fast swims are just going to come. The team walking in the next day is going to be walking in a little more confident. Double points in those five events are huge."

With only four spots on each of the five relays, competition between the swimmers is always high and goes on all through out the year. These events make swimming into more of a team sport where they rely on each other to perform their very best.   

"The kids want to be on these relays," Hargis said. "In our sport that is the pure definition of team. You've got your four best athletes up there depending on the relay. They're swimming for the 19 others on the side cheering them on. I think they take pride in that. It's a competition all year when they're fighting for that relay spot."

Making the decision of who goes on what relay is not an easy task. Hargis takes into account how the swimmers have trained, opinions from the other coaches, and how they have been competing throughout the weekend.

"I rely heavily on the assistant coaches to help me decide on who goes on what relay and we think about how they've trained up until that point," Hargis said. "The first night you haven't seen anyone swim yet but as the meet goes on you can see how certain swimmers are competing and make changes based on that. You always want to have the best 4 swimmers on the relays. I just have to be confident with whatever decision I make."

Last year at Big Tens, the Nittany Lions had a huge showing with the women where they tied for first in the 400 Freestyle Relay, won the 400 Medley Relay, and finished fourth in the 200 Medley Relay. The men finished high in the rankings as well in the 200 and 400 Medley Relay.

Junior Mackenzie Powers took part in the 200 and 400 Medley Relay at Big Tens last year swimming the 50 and 100 Butterfly legs. With her experience, she has learned that the first couple of relay events helps determine the mood and helps build confidence for the next few days.

"It was really exciting to be a part of the relays last year," Powers said. "We always talk about starting the meet off with a bang and relays help us do that. They also set the tone for the meet."

With doubled points on the line, the amount of pressure goes up for the swimmers. Junior Shane Austin uses that pressure as positive energy to do well in those events.

"Relays to me are more important than individual events because there are three other guys counting on you for that event as well as knowing it's double points at Big Tens," Austin said. "The added pressure for that really gets me going for those races and I feel faster on relays than individual events."

The swimmers who are relay contenders will spend the next week perfecting their take-offs and exchanges to ensure they are ready for the exciting events at Big Tens. The five relays provide an opportunity for the Nittany Lions to make their mark in the conference and gain points to raise their overall place throughout the weekend.

Lions Win Last Dual Meet for Seven Swimming & Diving Seniors

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Family, friends, fans, and alumni filled the stands of McCoy Natatorium this past Saturday as seven swimmers and divers saw their last competition in their home pool against Towson on senior day.

8536010.jpegBoth the swimming and diving teams defeated Towson with final scores of 186-109 on the women's side and 186-101 for the men. However, the score was not the focus of the meet as much as honoring the seniors who have dedicated their last four years to bettering the program.

"Today was about the seniors being able to reflect back on their past four years," head coach John Hargis said.  "We see them now as seniors and remember them as freshman and we think about the entire process they've been through. These guys are leaving with the program in unbelievable shape and it's because of people like them. That's what this meet was about and letting those guys race again in McCoy for the last time."

When the seniors made a commitment to be a part of Penn State's program, they knew the direction and goals of the program were changing. Each one of them brought something new to the program and grew into leadership roles that would impact the team for years to come.

"They've had a tremendous impact," Hargis said. "The leadership they've brought to the program to all aspects across the board have meant so much to the program as a whole. Every class is different with the character traits they bring and there's so many positives you can take from every single class that help develop the program. What these guys have brought is phenomenal and will be truly missed."

The leadership that this class brings everyday has contributed to the success that the team has seen throughout the year. Along with guiding the team, the seniors have provided a positive example for the other swimmers and divers to follow for next season.

"What they've taught the young people is going to continue to move this program forward and that's what you want out of these classes," Hargis said. "They're going to be missed in so many ways and remembered for what they've done for Penn State. They're always going to be a part of Penn State. The only thing that will change is that they won't always be student-athletes."

When sophomore Katelyn Miller came to campus for the first time, these seniors were among the upperclassmen that helped her find her way in a new environment.

"They're all positive role models, extremely hard workers, and they want to help the whole team out," Miller said. "During my freshman year, they were the one's there to help us through the first few months and continued to be there the next two years."

One of the aspects of the annual senior meet that makes it so special is the traditions that are passed down each year. The underclassmen decorate the locker room and make signs for each senior. Before the meet all of the swimmers and divers make a human tunnel for the seniors to walk through with their parents. At the end of the tunnel they receive flowers and a blanket.

"Today has definitely been overwhelming," Amy Modglin said. "When you're a freshman, sophomore, or junior it's sometimes annoying because you have to do so much to prepare for this meet, but once you're a senior you're so appreciative. It's worth doing the traditions for the seniors the other three years. It means so much to have the girls do all of this for you."

Transitioning from watching the traditions to actually being a part of them, Alex Marchinski enjoyed participating in them as a senior.

"It's definitely different having the traditions be for you," Marchinski said.  "I never thought I'd reach that point and knowing how hard I worked to get to this point makes it nice to be recognized for the work I've put in."

For captain Paige Whitmire, experiencing senior day from the other side still does not seem real to her.

"It hasn't hit me yet that it's me as a senior," Whitmire said. "You go along wondering if I'm ever going to get to that point or if I'm ever going to make it to the end. It felt so good to be recognized, but I was sad. I tried to make the most of the situation rather than getting upset, but it feels good to know that it's finally me."

As a sophomore, Meredith Harbison saw this day as motivation for what's to come at the end of her career.

"It was sad to watch," Harbison said. "It's so hard while you're going through the practices but you see what they have done and what they have accomplished and it motivates me to keep pushing through. All of these seniors have led by example and we've really gotten to know them through their leadership."

With a short break from competition, the next time the Nittany Lions dive off the blocks will be in Minneapolis, Minn. for the women and Bloomington, Ind. for the men at Big Tens where the seniors will participate in their last championship season. 

Swimming & Diving Set to Recognize Seniors

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the past four years, seven swimming and diving seniors have set their alarm clocks for 5 a.m., made the sacrifices necessary to excel both in the classroom and in the pool, and they have put in countless hours of work each season. This weekend family, friends, and alumni will come together to honor these seniors in the meet against Towson on Saturday.

5962635.jpegAlthough there may have been hard times along the way, they only have a few more weeks before they can say that they've made it through all four years as a student-athlete. These seniors have made sacrifices day in and day out, they've learned what it means to be a team player, they've paved the way for underclassmen to follow for years to come.

All of the seniors have their own reasons for getting started, but they all have the same reasons for sticking with it for so long. Whether it be the relationships they've built along the way or a pure passion for the sport, the seniors have stuck together through it all and have grown together from their experiences over the years.

When Merritt Krawczyk first jumped in the water when she was 5 years-old, she had no clue that her career would take her to NCAAs, give her the opportunity to compete at U.S. Olympic Trials, and have her name written on the record board next to the 100 breastroke and 200 individual medley.

"I started swimming with a summer league team just for fun," Krawczyk said. "I didn't really start thinking about swimming in college until I was in middle school."

When Krawczyk started looking at schools, her recruiting trip to Penn State was last minute.

"I didn't have a trip planned," Krawczyk said. "I cancelled one of my other trips and I hadn't really heard of Penn State but decided to go on a trip anyway. When I got here, I fell in love with it and it really felt like home."

Captain Amy Modglin started swimming when she needed a change from ballet lessons. However, she knew that swimming would be a part of her life right from the start.

"I thought I would stick with swimming almost immediately," Modglin said. "I loved swimming and just being in the water, I never really saw it ending."

Now that her career is actually coming to an end, Modglin says that she's going to enjoy these last few moments with her teammates.

"It's really a bittersweet feeling," Modglin said. "We're sad it's coming to an end and we're excited to start the next chapter. There's no greater feeling than touching the wall and seeing that time that you've worked all year for so I'm going to take advantage of all the opportunities and not wish it all away. I've been given great opportunities so I want to use the rest of the meets to give back to the program that has built me as a person and given me so much."

Of the four schools Modglin looked at, Penn State had the best combination of academics and athletics. She also wanted to be a part of a team on the rise.

"I knew the team was building and John (Hargis) made that clear that it would be a building process," Modglin said. "He said if you want to be part of that process, this is where you want to be and he definitely held true to his word."

Modglin made an immediate impact her freshman year as the only female to make NCAAs and continued to contribute as she represented the U.S.A in the 2011 World University Games in China. She was also voted team captain for the past two years.

Co-captain with Modglin, Paige Whitmire has grown into her leadership role and has noticed a significant change in her role as a senior compared to her freshman year.

"When I was a freshman, I had a negative attitude and I didn't feel like I had any leadership," Whitmire said. "This year being a captain I always want to set a good example and not let any bad attitude be shown. I've learned to put others first and focus on the whole team."

Whitmire has become a huge contributor and leader in the sprint events where she holds the school record in the 50 free. However, she didn't always think that it would be possible to swim at Penn State.

"I grew up as a Penn State baby going to all of the football games but I never thought it was a possibility to swim here. When the coaches gave me the opportunity, no other school compared to how beautiful the campus is or the opportunities that come with swimming and after I graduate."

As these athletes finish this chapter of their life, Amy Lewis has to remind herself to take advantage of every opportunity over the next few weeks.

"We are given so much and it makes me thankful that I could be apart of this team," Lewis said. "I gained a family, sense of pride, discipline, how to work with others and learning time management. There's so much we learn that you can apply to everyday life that I sometimes take for granted."

Similar to Lewis, Ann Ragan Kearns will take the experiences she's had over the past four years and apply them to other areas of her life.

"The most rewarding part of being on this team was not necessarily my times or meets that I attended, but the lifelong friendships I created as well as the life long lessons that I have learned from being a member of a D-1 program," Kearns said.  

Looking ahead to the weekend, Kearns is excited to be on the other side of the senior meet as it will be her turn to enjoy the traditions.

"I'm looking forward to all of the traditions that come along with the senior meet," Kearns said. "I've always participated in them when I was an underclassman but honestly I never thought this day would come and it's exciting that it's our turn now."

On the men's side, Jeff Gomez and diver Alex Marchinski will be recognized during this weekend's senior meet.

Marchinski has proven leadership for the divers over the course of his career as a main contributor for the Nittany Lions. He led the team on the one-meter boards at the Tennessee Invitational and put up several outstanding performances along the way.

Sticking with a sport for 14 years is no easy task, but through all of his experiences, Gomez has learned a great deal of commitment.

"I always remind myself of a saying - no matter how hard it gets, always finish what you started," Gomez said. "I know when I finish there will be a certain sense of gratification that you can't experience any other way."

The meet this weekend will give the seniors one last chance to represent Penn State at home. The swimmers and divers are excited to see their parents, family, friends, and alumni come out and support them this Saturday as they compete against Towson at McCoy Natatorium. Competition is set to start at 1 p.m.