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Endless Pool Helps Nittany Lions Prepare for Championships

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B7-ANahCIAETh6X-1.jpgBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Imagine swimming in a pool controlled by a massive current, one that tugs from all sides and prohibits you from reaching the other end.  That is how it feels to swim in an Endless Pool.  

Endless pools have become increasingly popular in recent years and are used by competitive swimmers at all levels.  Shorter than a regulation 25 yards, endless pools are typically about 10 feet in length and around four feet deep.  They are a great tool for working on technique, and with enough room for only one swimmer, allow for individualized attention.

The Nittany Lions welcomed their own Endless Pool earlier this season.  With the rapidly approaching championship meets for both the men's and women's teams, the Endless Pool has become a key component in preparing for the Big Ten Championships.

"It's a great tool in helping us perfect technique," senior Caitlyn Karr said. "Especially with how close we are to Big Tens, every little thing counts at this point."

The first swimmer to use the Endless Pool was senior Katelyn Miller, who specializes in sprint freestyle events.

"It's actually pretty cool- it uses mirrors which is useful because the coaches can tell you something over and over again," MIller said. "But being able to actually see the things they're talking about makes the learning process much more effective.

With mirrors on the bottom and hanging over the sides, it allows swimmers to watch themselves swim and make adjustments based on feedback from coaches.

"It's a huge help with fixing strokes," senior Nate Savoy said. "The mirrors really make it easy to see what you're not doing correctly and to be able to fix it."

Prior to using the Endless Pool, the only way to breakdown technique from underneath was to use an underwater camera and to playback the film for the swimmer to make corrections.  The use of mirrors provide a much more effective and efficient way to make adjustments in stroke.   

As with any sport, technique plays a major role in swimming - even slightest change in stroke mechanics can lead to drops in time.  Additionally, strong technique is an important component of injury prevention, especially in strokes that rely heavily on shoulder movement, like freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.

With the Big Ten Championships less than a week away for the women's team, keeping the Nittany Lions healthy and ready to race is crucial.

Last year, the women placed third in the Big Ten and are looking to place higher this year.

Historically at Big Tens, the scoring system had a dependency on prelims swims. Although the top 24 swimmers would be invited back to finals, only those placed in the top 16 were eligible to score. Even if someone placed above 16th place posted a faster time than swimmers in the A or B heat at finals, they would not score.

But this year, things will be different.

"One of the biggest changes from last year is that the C Final will score," Karr explained. "That gives a chance for more girls to score and can definitely have an impact on the outcome of the meet."

The women are a strong contender heading into Big Tens.  Their only loss this season was to Michigan, and was by a very small margin.

Check back next week for a full Women's Big Ten Championship preview. 

Nittany Lions Say Goodbye to Seniors and Topple Naval Academy

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10722687.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fifteen seniors wrapped up their last meet in McCoy Natatorium with a win on Saturday against Navy. Seniors and families gathered on deck prior to the start of the meet where they passed through a tunnel of teammates and received a letterman's blanket as a sign of recognition for their four years of commitment.

Saturday's victory moved the women to 12-1 for the season, and they are currently ranked 17th in the nation. For the men, the win over Navy moved them to a 6-3 record.

Like any Division I sport, swimming requires an enormous amount of discipline and commitment. Each week consists of multiple two-a-day workouts in addition to time spent in the weight room. But the senior class' resilience and dedication throughout the past four years has not gone unnoticed.

"I appreciate their efforts and I appreciate their commitment," head coach Tim Murphy explained. "It's easy to stop doing this, this requires a lot of time, this is a long season. They have kept going and they have stayed with it. That in of itself, I admire and I respect."

In addition to commitment, another key component of the team is communication and working together. The Nittany Lions are a tight-knit group; the men's and women's team practice together every day and consider themselves a family. For senior Jonathan Ekstrom, one of the biggest takeaways he has from his time as Nittany Lion is the camaraderie amongst the team.

"There's a sense of teamwork you get," he said. "You're working with all different kinds of people to accomplish something like competing on a Big Ten squad means a lot not only on a personal level but in the professional level as well from what you learn from the experience."

While Saturday's meet was the final time seniors will race in McCoy Natatorium, the Nittany Lions' season is far from over.

Penn State will travel to two invitational meets in the upcoming weeks, one at Bucknell University and another at Virginia Tech.

"The seniors still have a month, some of them two months, to leave their mark." Murphy said. "I told them on training trip that every time they walk on the deck this is their opportunity to leave behind something that others can build on. I think they're in the process of doing that."

Despite the upcoming invitational meets, the Nittany Lions will spend the next month preparing for the Big Ten Championships. The women will travel to Ohio State University the week of February 18th and the men will venture to the University of Iowa the week of February 25th.

Last year the women finished third in the Big Ten while the men wrapped up their season with a fifth place finish.

Following the Big Ten Championships, those who qualify will compete at the NCAA Championships in March. 

Nittany Lions Send Off Fourteen Against Navy

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10456494.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
This weekend's swimming and diving matchup against the United States Naval Academy is more than just the final dual meet of the 2014-'15 season-- it is the last time 14 Nittany Lions will compete in McCoy Natatorium.  

This is the second group to graduate under head coach Tim Murphy after he took over as head coach in 2013.

"This group has a willingness and desire and with how much they have invested in this team for them to continue to do it is just a good mark of their character, their discipline, and overall their affection for what they're doing," Murphy explained. "Also where they're doing it and most of all, whom they're doing it with, that's what stands out."

Senior Day is historically the most emotional meet.  Each senior passes through a tunnel of created by their teammates where they meet the coaching staff at the end.  Next, they are then handed a letterman's blanket and flowers and are recognized for their dedication and hard work invested throughout their collegiate career.

For senior Katelyn Miller, her four years as a member of the team have flown by.

"It's crazy. As a freshman, I remember looking at the seniors and wondering if I was going to make it that far," Miller said with a laugh.  "It's surreal that it's finally here.  Walking down the pool deck with the whole team on either side of me is when I think it's going to hit me."

Miller is one of the five women graduating from the team, and one of the four seniors who competed and scored at the 2014 NCAA Championships for the Nittany Lions.  

Another senior member and scorer from the 2014 NCAA team is Megan Siverling. When asked about what she would miss most about competing for the Nittany Lions, Siverling had a great answer.

"I'm going to miss the fact that something that seems to trivial, like athletic performance, represents something so much bigger than ourselves," Silverling said. "Going a certain time isn't personal, I'm representing Penn State and it makes you better.  We're representing such an awesome institution that so many people love and follow so passionately. "

On the men's team, the Nittany Lions will lose nine, including captain Larry Virgillio.

"If you would have told me four and a half years ago if I would even think that I would be swimming for Penn State, I would have called you crazy," Virgilio laughed. "To be a captain at the end of four years, along with Nate (Savoy), it means more than words can describe."

But not all members of the 2015 class have spent the past four years as a Nittany Lion. Ryan MaGee spent his freshman year at Maryland before transferring to Penn State.

"Coming to Penn State has been awesome.  Being here has taught me the importance of working as one machine not just an individual," MaGee explained. "We really are a second family.  There's such a sense of unity here at Penn State, I'm definitely going to miss it."

Team unity is a key value among the men's and women's teams; it is something that has made the group stronger and contributed to their success.

"They each are making or have made are making a contribution to not only themselves but the program," Murphy said. "It's easy to stop doing this because this requires a lot of time, it's a long season but they've kept with it. That in it of itself I admire and respect."

A win this weekend would put the women at 11-1 on the season, and the men at 6-3.  But Coach Murphy is not worried about Senior Day affecting the Nittany Lion's performance in the pool.

"When they look up an see their parents, their family, their friends realizing that, this is the last time they're going to be swimming in a dual meet, in this pool - it'll hit them," Murphy said. "But we know what we have to do."

Saturday's meet begins at 11 a.m. with Senior Day beginning around 10:40 a.m. in McCoy Natatorium.

Nittany Lions Jump to No. 16 in Rankings, Reflect On Weekend

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8609624.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "There is still a difference between winning and coming in second," head coach Tim Murphy said; reflecting on the Nittany Lion's tri-meet this past weekend against Michigan and Virginia.

Both the men and women toppled the Cavaliers, but fell to the Wolverines. For the women's team, who was undefeated coming into the competition, it was a fight to the finish, ending with a tough three-point loss.

"I think how close the meet was, especially on the women's side with Michigan, needs to burn a little bit," Murphy said. "We have to go back to work, use it for momentum and keep the ball rolling,"

Coming into the weekend, the Nittany Lions were prepared to have to dig deep and hold off some tough competition. Prior to the tri-meet, the Michigan men were ranked first in the nation and the women were sixth.

"We knew they're both good teams and where they were ranked, how they did last season and we knew it was going to be a hearty task," Murphy said. "In a lot of areas we showed our ability to handle that and be up for that and in some areas we exceeded expectations."

College Swimming released this week's rankings with the Nittany Lions improving to No. 16 in both the men's and women's polls.  Prior to the tri-meet the men were ranked No. 18 and the women were ranked No. 20.

"Some people are just starting to show things and show a level of swimming boldy and not worrying about who it is but just flat out being competitive." Murphy said.  "Those are two things we need to work on: being bold-having high expectations for ourselves and learning to be more competitive."

The Nittany Lions head to the Georgia Fall Invitational next for a mid-season meet.  Competition kicks off on Dec. 5, which gives the team a little under a month to focus on training.

"Our main challenge is going to be what we do in practice," Murphy said.  "It's going to be more so how are we preparing ourselves, how are we challenging ourselves and just being flat out competitive. It's not easy. It requires coming in here with a different level of intensity. It's all about what goes down in the pool." 

While in Georgia, the Nittany Lions can expect top-notch competition; not only with other teams, but between teammates.  

"Georgia is trials and finals meet," Murphy explained.  "It's when we are really going to start putting our Big Ten team together. It's also sort of last real good test, we're going to be up against some strong teams to sort of figure out what we need to do on the home stretch."

Following the invitational, the Nittany Lions will have a few weeks back in Happy Valley and at home before heading to Florida for their annual training trip.  While in Naples, the team will face a tough training schedule of two-a-day practices and lifting sessions to gear up for the final months of their season.

When they return, the Nittany Lions will kick off 2015 in New Brunswick for a tri-meet against Rutgers and Yale.  The next home meet is scheduled for Jan. 24 against Navy at 11 a.m.

Pink Meet a Success, In and Out of the Pool

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8600863.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State swimming and diving teams swapped their traditional blue and white uniforms for pink caps and t-shirts in their meet against Villanova Friday afternoon.  The Nittany Lions held their annual "pink meet" to support breast cancer awareness.  

For senior captain Caitlyn Karr, the pink meet is more than just a change in shirt color.

"It means a lot to some team members, myself included, who have lost family members to breast cancer," Karr explained. "It really makes you dig deep down for that extra push to do well."

The Nittany Lions defeated the Wildcats on both the men's and women's sides.  The men's team improved to a 4-1 season; while the women's squad remained undefeated in dual meets and hold a 7-0 record. 

Sophomore Anna Farnsworth believes part of the women's team success comes from the tremendous team chemistry this season.

"You know that you always have someone behind you when you race," Farnsworth explained. "You're racing for a reason.  It's not about yourself, with how close we are this season, we all want to swim well for the team." 

Farnsworth won her first collegiate event against the Wildcats, posting an in-season best time in the 100 backstroke. 

"Of course it was exciting," Farnsworth said. "But I went into it very relaxed.  I raced the same people I compete with in practice all the time.  It's always great to win, and it was definitely a step forward."

Senior captain Caitlyn Karr also ended the meet victorious with wins in the 100 breaststroke and 500 freestyle.

"This meet was only my second time swimming the 500 this season," Karr explained. "I swam it last week and my goal was to build off of how I swam against West Virginia and improve.  I think I did that, and I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now."

Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions toughest competition is yet to come.  They host Michigan and Virginia for a two-day tri-meet this weekend.

"Staying focused is going to be key," Farnsworth said. "Our past victories have given us confidence but we need to stay steady and stay strong.  If we keep practicing how we've been practicing and focus, it should be a great meet."

"We haven't swam them in a dual meet recently," Karr added. "They definitely have some really fast swimmers.  But it's like any other meet.  We're going to be tired and broken down but we need to push through it.  It's going to be a great test, they're top notch teams."

Virginia is currently undefeated with a 1-0 record, while Michigan is 4-1 with a loss to Texas.   The meet is set to begin Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. in McCoy Natatorium. 

Get to Know Diver and Aspiring Engineer, T.J. Schenkel

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8693605.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "I feel proud that I'm representing Penn State in a different light than the majority of students," diver T.J. Schenkel explained.

During the 2013-'14 season, Schenkel was the top diver for the men, posting personal bests in both the 1 meter and 3 meter events.

In addition to spending hours at the pool each day, Schenkel is working towards a degree in energy engineering.

"It's pretty difficult, I have an extra 20 hours of things to do compared to most of my classmates," Schenkel said. "I pretty much have to get all my work done before 12:30 and practice."

When it comes to practicing, Schenkel has seen a change since his freshman year.  The turnover in coaching staff at the beginning of the 2013-'14 season brought a change in training.

"The training is definitely more intense," Schenkel explained. "It's not spending more time at the pool necessarily, but the time that is spent there practicing is more challenging- we went from three morning practices a week to six."

Schenkel especially has noticed a change in training this season. 

"The coaches have really hit their groove, and are pushing to take the program in the direction they saw fit from the beginning," Schenkel said. "It's different from last year, but it's definitely a positive."

Practices can consist of weight training, water training, or at times trampoline training to learn new dives.  

"Diving is all about staying consistent," Schenkel explained. "It's a lot drills and perfecting the basics.  The best way to do that is repetition- dives are built on the easy stuff."

Beginning at six, Schenkel has been diving for more than a decade.

"My mom wanted me to join the swim team," Schenkel said with a laugh. "But I said 'No, I'm joining the diving team.' We still to this day have no idea how I found out about diving but here I am."

Schenkel is the only senior diver on the men's team, and is looking forward to ending his final season on a high note.

"The toughest competition is definitely coming up," Schenkel said. "Michigan and UVa. are both great teams, I'm looking forward to that meet."

Schenkel is also looking ahead to Big Tens.  Last year, Schenkel finished 14th at the Big Ten Championships in the 3 meter and is looking to place again this year. 

"I'm really working towards scoring more points at Big Tens," Schenkel explained. "Last year I was the first diver to score in about five years, so I would really like to come back and place higher this year."

Although his collegiate career will come to a close in 2015, Schenkel plans to continue to dive.

"There's a big masters program," Schenkel said. "That kind of alleviates the grieving process of ending my career as a Nittany Lion. I'm definitely not ready to be finished with diving any time soon."

Catch Schenkel and the rest of the Nittany Lions on Friday as they take on the Villanova Wildcats in McCoy Natatorium at 3 p.m. 

Nittany Lions Take on Back-to-Back Travel Meets

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9423877.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are making a quick turnaround from the Virginia Tech Challenge this past weekend as they look ahead to another road competition.

The women returned home victorious, toppling Virginia Tech, Old Dominion, Liberty and James Madison. The men fell to the Hokies, but defeated Old Dominion. This was the first away meet of the season, and it followed the season opening win for both the men and women against Georgia Tech.

Following the trip to Virginia Tech, the Nittany Lions are travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, to take on the Mountaineers in a Thursday evening match-up this week.

"We've got recruits coming this weekend, and it's our last weekend for recruiting for the season," explained head coach Tim Murphy. "We had to move the West Virginia meet up so we could get back, get some training in and be ready to host."

The Nittany Lions have a strong record against the Mountaineers. The women have been undefeated against West Virginia for the past decade, while the men have been victorious in their past three meetings with the Mountaineers.

The biggest challenge for Penn State will be adjusting from back to back travel meets in a short span of time.

"It's definitely going to be hard on our bodies," senior Carolyn Fittin said. "But we know how to race and I think we will be ready to go once we get there."

Fittin had a strong performance at the Virginia Tech Challenge, posting a win in 50-yard freestyle and contributing to first place finishes in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.

"I think we had some really great swims this past weekend," said Fittin. "But, we definitely have some things to work on as a team in order to keep getting better."

This is an important part of the season for the Nittany Lions in terms of training. Between building endurance in the pool and lifting, they are focusing on the bigger picture-- their mid season meet in December and championship meet in February. Each dual meet represents an opportunity to race and improve under tough training.

Looking towards Thursday in Morgantown, Fittin shared some goals for the women's team.

"Some of us are going to be swimming off events," Fittin said. "We really have to focus on ignoring how tired we may be from a long week of traveling and get into racing, regardless of whether or not we're swimming one of our main events."

Following their meet against West Virginia, Penn State will have a week before Villanova visits Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions will host the Wildcats on the 31 at 3 p.m. for a Halloween match-up in McCoy Natatorium.

Meet Nittany Lion Local, Anna Farnsworth

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By Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "I've never lived anywhere else," sophomore Anna Farnsworth explained.

10431763.jpegThe State College native is studying health policy and administration on the University Park campus and comes from a family of Nittany Lions.

"My parents went here, my bothers went here, and it's such a great school," Farnsworth said.

Although Farnsworth grew up minutes from the University, she explained that Penn State and State College have a symbiotic relationship.

"I mean it has that small town feel," Farnsworth said. "But at the same time, you have all the students from the university and people on game weekends."

While State College at times is considered the third largest city in Pennsylvania on football game weekends, Farnsworth explained that while Penn State plays a local role, State College has its own culture away from the university. 

"I remember growing up when people would move here and the first thing they would notice is how big sports are in State College," said Farnsworth.  "Even playing soccer at young age, the theme around here is to pick a sport and 'get good.'"  

But it wasn't until high school that Farnsworth began swimming year-round.

"I played soccer and basketball through elementary and middle school, but in eight grade I tore my ACL. I couldn't get surgery at that point so swimming was how I stayed active," said Farnsworth.

Farnsworth found quickly that it was something she loved.

"I always knew I wanted to play a sport in college, and with swimming everything just came together," Farnsworth said.

Specializing in backstroke, Farnsworth has contributed to the Nittany Lions' success since she arrived as a freshman.  Last year she posted personal bests at the Big Ten Championships in the 100 and 200 backstroke.

One of the perks of being a few miles from home means always having a cheering section at home meets and spending time with family on the weekends.

"I'm spoiled a little when it comes to my mom bringing me groceries," Farnsworth said with a laugh. "I do try to go home and catch up with them.  But at the same time, I feel like I need to foster my independence."

Although she's spent her life in State College, being a student at Penn State is a different experience entirely. 

"I think people take for granted 'townies'," Farnsworth said.  "People think we know all the loopholes with college.  Really, this is a whole new setting for me. I just have the convenience of being five minutes away." 

Catch Farnsworth and the rest of the Nittany Lions in their next home meet on Oct. 31 as they take on Villanova in McCoy Natatorium at 5 p.m. 

Nittany Lions Defeat Georgia Tech in Season Opener

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10401366.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After weeks of preparation and practice, the Nittany Lions were able to put their hard work to the test in a meet against Georgia Tech on Friday. Both the men and women toppled the Yellow Jackets in the 2014-'15 season opener. The women finished with a score of 170-119, and the men had a 160.5-137.5 victory.

Flanked by multi-event winners and strong swimming on both the men's and women's side, the Nittany Lions improved their all time record against Georgia Tech to 2-0.

For the men, one of the most notable swims came early in the meet from freshman David Gross in the 1,000-yard freestyle.

"I was really happy with that swim, especially for this early in the year," Gross said. "But there's always room for improvement and that's what the rest of the season's going to be about. I have never swam the 1,000 and the 500 in the same day before, that was tough."

Head coach Tim Murphy was also pleased with Gross's performance.

"It's always interesting to watch freshmen," Murphy explained. "He put himself out there. It was a very bold swim. I've got no problem with someone putting themselves out there, we need to get better at being bold and doing that."

Another bold, standout swim came from the women's team with junior Haley Sinatro. Coming off an "in-season" best time and second place finish in the 100 breaststroke, Sinatro won the 200 individual medley.

"It was my best in season time by far and think the hard work I'm putting in the pool is really showing up, same with some other people on the team," Sinatro said. "It's a pretty early snapshot of what we've done so far and a lot of people are happy with today. But there is also a lot of work to be done as we move onto our next meet."

With two weeks of training until their next competition, the Nittany Lions have of time to make some changes before they race. Last year the team broke a combined 20 records and finished in the top 20 at NCAA championships for both men and women.

"This meet was a good wake up call for all of us," said Murphy. "We saw where we're at, what's showing up and what's not showing up. As always, we have a tremendous amount of work to do."

Current work goals include more racing in practice as well as technique work. The team recently broke up into their respective training groups, which caters to different swimmers and their events.

"We're tired and beat up, but skill wise, we've got to take it up a few notches if we expect to get better," Murphy said. "But it's only early October, we've got a long road ahead of us."

The Nittany Lions take on Virginia Tech on October 18 in Blacksburg.

Blue and White Swim Meet Strengthens Team Unity

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9745537.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Split into two teams, Blue and White, the Nittany Lions had the opportunity to race at their annual intra-squad meet on Friday. Swimmers and divers were able to see how they stack up against their teammates as well as strengthen team camaraderie.

The meet also gave head coach Tim Murphy, diving coach Dennis Ceppa and assistant coaches Steve Barnes, Doak Finch and Liz McMillan an opportunity to gauge where their swimmers and divers stand early in the season. With nontraditional distances, the meet was geared towards team unity and wrapped up with a tailgate in the natatorium with friends, family and fans.

For Murphy, he gave the team three things to focus on: their teammates, being competitive and race preparation.

"Competitively, we saw some good races," Murphy said. "We saw some spunk from the younger group, but we still have work to do. Overall, I think they did a good job."

The Blue and White meet typically takes place further into the year, but with an earlier meet schedule in 2014, the Nittany Lions were ready to race.

"I think it was a great experience for our first meet, we really saw how we fit as one team and it was great to race each other this early on," said junior Kaitlin Jones. "We definitely were able to see how in and out of shape we are."

For senior captain, Nate Savoy, the Blue and White meet marked the beginning of his final season.

"Time has gone by fast," Savoy said. "But I'm excited to get my last season started and it was really good to have an opportunity to race this early in the year."

When asked about his thoughts on the overall meet, Savoy responded with enthusiasm.

"I was really proud of how much energy and effort the team brought to the table," said Savoy. "I'm excited to see this team grow over the upcoming months."

The strong team dynamic was evident to fans when the team lined the pool deck following the final relay to lead fans in a singing of the Alma Mater. The team then gathered in for a final "We Are! Penn State!" cheer before warming down.

With three weeks until their first official meet, coach Murphy is planning how the team will prepare for Georgia Tech.

"We'll be doing more racing in practice," Murphy said. "We have to keep pushing the envelope but I think they are in a good place for now."

The newly-installed endless pool system will also help the team prepare to take on the Yellow Jackets. Endless pools are much shorter than competition pools and use propellers to generate currents. The currents prevent the swimmer from reaching the end of the pool and can be adjusted based on skill level.

For the Nittany Lions, the new addition to the pool deck will allow coaches to break down stroke mechanics and correct technique.

"The current really lets them feel what they're doing," Murphy said. "They're so used to just going up and down the pool, it's a great tool."

While there are a few tweaks to be made, Murphy and his coaching staff are excited to get it up and running in the near future. But for now, it's business as usual for the swimmers and divers as they look towards their next opportunity to compete.

Catch the Nittany Lions in action on Friday, Oct. 3 at McCoy Natatorium as they kick off the official 2014-'15 season against Georgia Tech.


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