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."
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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."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Dividing the team in half, the swimmers and divers had the opportunity to race against each other in a competitive setting in the annual Blue and White meet and to see how they stack up against their teammates for the first time under head coach Tim Murphy.
While the swimmers and divers had the opportunity to compete against each other, coach Murphy, diving coach Dennis Ceppa, assistants Steve Barnes, Doak Finch, and Patrick Nalley all got the opportunity for the first time to experience the atmosphere that Penn State fans bring to McCoy Natatorium. The weekend has traditionally given parents the chance to spend the time with their athletes, watch them compete, and enjoy a potluck style gathering after the meet.
"I think it's awesome they're able to come out and the team can perform for them. They can see the program and the team," Murphy said. "In this case, it's all new and different for everybody. I'm really happy they could come out and watch what the team is doing."
With the support of parents and fans behind the program, Murphy's focus since becoming head coach has been to build a strong sense of team camaraderie through team building activities and improving the attitude of the swimmers and divers as a whole.
When the meet was over, the parents and fans could see the cohesive team that Murphy has spent the past six weeks building as he led everyone in a "We Are" chant at the end of the meet. The swimmers and divers then lined the side of the pool singing the Alma Mater together.
"Something we've been working a lot on is the team dynamics," Murphy said. "You got a sense of that when I said 'We Are' at the end. It's something we've been working on but could still do better with."
One swimmer who has helped bring the team together for the Nittany Lions is captain Claire Singley. After all of the changes the program has seen, Singley has been one of the upperclassmen to help make the adjustments that coach Murphy is looking for within the athletes.
"We work as more of a unit now than we did even four weeks ago," Singley said. "We've done a lot of team building things and Tim's brought out a lot of discussion about the team to us, even in the middle of practice. He's really opened our eyes to that. I think it's different attitudes than before and now since it's a whole new playing field, everyone's on the same level with new motivation and new energy."
This Blue and White meet marked the senior's fourth and final intrasquad. Singley helped lead the White team while having the opportunity to see where the whole team stands after training hard for several weeks.
"Today was bittersweet," Singley said. "It was exciting to be a in a different position and see the team do really well with the new swimmers coming up, which is exactly what we needed. I think we've filled the spots that were left behind by the seniors. We have a lot of practice to do but I'm excited and pumped for the season."
While Singley has been through the Blue and White meet before and several dual meet seasons, freshman Matt Stasiunas is experiencing it all for the first time as he makes the transition from high school into college swimming. He has also noted Murphy's efforts to improve the team atmosphere where the upperclassmen have been a huge help to those adjusting to the changes.
"The main thing is (Murphy) has brought us closer together as a team," Stasiunas said. "We've done a lot of things together that we wouldn't have usually done with the other coaching staff. The upperclassmen have just told us to relax. It's a big step up from what we're used to. They just say to do what you're used to and good things will happen."
Taking the advice of staying calm, Stasiunas was the top finisher in the 400 freestyle. He saw the support of the parents and fans in McCoy Natatorium while enjoying the opportunity to race against his teammates in a setting other than practice.
"I loved it. It's always been a dream of mine to come to Penn State. It's just a different feel to the college setting than back in high school. It's much more competitive. These guys work hard everyday and we work hard together so I'm looking forward to racing with them at every meet," Stasiunas said.
With the competitive dual meet season right around the corner, the Blue and White meet gave the swimmers and divers the opportunity to preview what's to come for this season and to see some of the areas they can improve upon. The depth on the women's side will prove to be a strong advantage for the Nittany Lions.
"There's a lot of strong girls in every event," Singley said. "That's really exciting because at the dual meets we need the girls all to be front runners. We're breaking into our training groups next week so that'll be exciting to see who we're with and who we'll race against in practice."
After racing against his teammates, the freshman knows that committing to hard work and following coach Murphy's lead will contribute to his success at the end of the season.
"I have to just keep training harder," Stasiunas said. "Tim's a great coach and so is the rest of the coaching staff. I'm excited to work with the rest of the team and to get new training partners that will push me throughout the rest of the season."