UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 2014-'15 season drawing to a close, six Nittany Lions have the opportunity to race one last time. After a quick turn around from the Big Ten Championships, Penn State is headed back to Iowa City for the Men's NCAA Championships.
Coming off a seventh place finish at Big Tens, the Nittany Lions have spent the past three weeks preparing for this meet and making the appropriate changes to their training. The main focus for NCAAs will be strong morning swims in order to score in finals.
"We are focusing on getting a second swims in our races," said senior Nate Savoy. "We know we have to swim really fast in the morning in order to do that."
The NCAA competition is the most selective meet in college swimming. In order to participate, swimmers must reach or surpass a specific time standard. At the beginning of the season, time standards are released for each event, which are referred to as "A" and "B" cuts. In order to receive an automatic invite to the meet, a swimmer must achieve an "A" cut. Once conference meets are finished, swimmers with "B" times are then invited based on their ranking in an event. Typically the top 37-40 swimmers in each event receive a bid for NCAAs.
Two swimmers who qualified individually for Penn State are senior Nate Savoy, and junior Shane Ryan. Both Savoy and Ryan have qualified for NCAAs in years past, and have led the Nittany Lions in points this season.
Savoy will be competing in the 100 and 200 backstroke, which he placed second in at the Big Ten Championships. Savoy is also the current record holder for the Nittany Lions in the 200 backstroke.
Ryan qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyles, as well as the 100 backstroke. At Big Tens Ryan took home a bronze in the 50 freestyle and a gold medal in the 100 backstroke. He also had the eighth fastest time in the 100 freestyle.
The four other Nittany Lions to compete at NCAAs are: senior Kyle Madley, junior Matt Grillo and sophomores Bob Bantley and Andrew Schuehler. The trio will participate in Penn State's relays alongside Savoy and Ryan.
Last year Penn State had its best finish in over a decade, finishing 17th place. The Nittany Lions were within 10 points of their finish at the 2001 NCAA Championships, which was their strongest in history.
This year the Nittany Lions look to improve upon that finish, and are focusing on scoring big in relays.
"We have a good chance to score in our relays which will be huge points for the team," said Savoy.
Relays rack up the most points for teams. A first place finish in a relay is worth almost double the points as a first place individual event. Strong relay performances can make a huge difference on a team's total score as well where they finish in the meet.
Currently, the Nittany Lions are seeded in the top 20 for the 200 and 400 medley relays and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Live results for the meet can be found online at hawkeyesports.com throughout the duration of the meet.