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Nittany Lions Set to Compete in NCAA Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
As the first season under head coach Tim Murphy comes to a close for the men's swimming and diving team, the athletes will have one more chance to compete at the highest level of the sport as they travel to Austin, Texas, for the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Coming off of a strong showing at Big Tens and taking huge steps in the right direction, the Nittany Lions have spent the past three weeks making adjustments to ensure they will be ready to compete in one of the toughest competitions of their careers. The athletes will be taking what they learned from Big Tens, working on their technique, and solidifying their race plans before competing against the best in the nation. 

Shane Ryan will be one swimmer to keep an eye on while he competes in his first NCAA's. After historic performances at Big Tens in his individual events, the sophomore has made a name for himself and got people in the swimming community talking.

"It definitely got my name out there. Before I went to Big Tens, there was no mention of where I would stand in the mix so that really got me riled up. Going into NCAA's, my name is out there and I think we really made a statement at Big Tens that Penn State is coming to NCAA's and we're coming in with a fight," Ryan said. 

In order to qualify for this highly competitive meet, the swimmers had to swim to certain times in order to be considered for the event. All year, the swimmers are aiming for an "A" cut hoping to automatically qualify for the meet.

The NCAA releases time standards at the beginning of each year with "A" and "B" cuts. If the swimmer goes equal to or faster than the "A" cut, then they will automatically have a spot to compete in the NCAA Championships.  However, if the swimmer goes a "B" cut, they are not guaranteed to make it into the meet. Swimmers with "B" cuts must wait until all of the conference meets across the country are over to see if they will be invited to the meet based on how they rank compared to others in the event.

Qualifying for the meet individually are swimmers junior Nick Ankosko, Ryan, and junior Nate Savoy. In addition, the swimmers competing in the relay events are James Wilson, Shane Austin, Scott Heil, and Mathew Stasiunas.

Here's a closer look at each of the swimmers and where they rank in their individual events going into this national level meet.

Nick Ankosko

-        200 Freestyle - 54th

-        500 Freestyle - 26th

-        1650 Freestyle - 32nd

Ankosko swam in his first NCAA Championships last year where he competed in the 1,650 Freestyle and was a part of the 800 Freestyle Relay. With this experience, he will be competing in the 1650 again as well as the 200 Freestyle and 500 Freestyle. At Big Tens, the East Brunswick, N.J. native finished sixth overall in the 500 Freestyle and broke his own school record in prelims. The junior made the C final in the 200 Freestyle at Big Tens and finished 18th. On the last day in Michigan, Ankosko was the top finisher for the Nittany Lions in the 1650 Freestyle where he brought back an 11th place finish. Building off of a strong Big Tens, Ankosko looks to compete in his second NCAA's of his career and is invited in with "B" qualifying times.

Shane Ryan

-        50 Freestyle - 17th

-        100 Backstroke - 1st

-        100 Freestyle - 4th

After swimming in his first Big Tens, Ryan will now make the transition into representing Penn State in his first NCAA Championship. After putting up some of the best performances the Penn State program has seen historically, the sophomore enters NCAA's ranked first in the 100 Backstroke. This is a feat that separates Ryan from the rest of the swimmers and only a few athletes can accomplish this throughout their careers. The sophomore won the 100 Backstroke at Big Tens in route to being the first swimmer to stand on top of the podium since 2003. After this performance, his time automatically qualified him for NCAA's. In the 100 Freestyle on the final day of Big Tens, he won another individual title, setting the Penn State school record, Big Ten Championship meet record, and the overall Big Ten record. He enters NCAA's with an NCAA "A" qualifying standard.

With his outstanding performances, he left Big Tens as the first Penn State swimmer to ever be named the Swimmer of Big Ten Championships. Taking the name he made for himself at Big Tens just a few weeks ago, the Havertown, Pa. native will take his experience to represent the swimming and diving program on the national level. In addition to the 100 Backstroke and 100 Freestyle, Ryan will also compete in the 50 Freestyle. The sophomore is ranked 17th and is right in the mix to qualify for finals and see a second swim in this event. Hoping to close out a historic season on a high note, Ryan will finish out his sophomore season at NCAAs.

Nate Savoy  

-        100 Backstroke - 6th

-        200 Backstroke - 14th

-        200 Individual Medley - 45th   

Savoy enters the meet with two NCAA "A" standard qualifying times in the 100 Backstroke and 200 Backstroke. He will also compete in the 200 Individual Medley where he reached a NCAA "B" time. Savoy finished second at Big Tens in the 100 Backstroke adding to a historic night and will enter the meet seeded sixth in one of his best events. In addition, in the 200 Backstroke, Savoy was the first Nittany Lion in this event and finished fourth at Big Tens.

This will be the junior's third NCAA appearance. Last year, he was named two-time All-American and two-time All-American honorable mentions for his performances. He swam in the 200 Medley relay, which finished sixth in the nation in addition to the 400 medley relay. Individually he swam to a 14th place finish in the 100 Backstroke and 16th-place finish in the 200 Backstroke, scoring huge points for the Nittany Lions. Taking this experience and knowing what it's like to compete at this level, the Reading, Pa. native will close out another strong season in Austin, Texas.

Prelims start at 11 a.m. and finals begin at 7 p.m. each day. Follow the results as the Nittany Lions start competing Thursday, March 27. Below is the order of events for the 2014 NCAA Championship meet.

200 Freestyle Relay
500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
400 Medley Relay
One-meter Diving

200 Medley Relay
400 Individual Medley
100 Butterfly
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
Three-meter Diving
800 Freestyle Relay

200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
Platform Diving
400 Freestyle Relay

Nittany Lions Close Out Season at NCAA Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Competing to a third place finish at the Big Ten Championships, the women's swimming and diving team came back to McCoy Natatorium already looking ahead to the challenge of one of the most competitive meets out there - the 2014 NCAA Championships.

After anxiously awaiting the preliminary psych sheet to see where the Nittany Lions stack up against the top competition in the nation, 12 swimmers found out they would represent Penn State and compete in 17 events in Minneapolis, Minn.

The NCAA releases time standards at the beginning of each year with "A" and "B" cuts. If the swimmer goes equal to or faster than the "A" cut, then they will automatically have a spot to compete in the NCAA Championships.  However, if the swimmer goes a "B" cut, they are not guaranteed to make it into the meet. Swimmers with "B" cuts must wait until all of the conference meets across the country are over to see if they will be invited to the meet based on how they rank compared to others in the event. 

The 12 swimmers making the trip to Minneapolis include: Alyson Ackman, Mackenzie Powers, Melissa Rodriguez, Katie Rowe, Gabi Shishkoff, Megan Siverling, Katelyn Sowinski, and Chelsea Weedman will all be competing in individual events while Katelyn Miller, Carolyn Fittin, Haley Sinatro, and Caitlyn Karr will be representing Penn State as relay swimmers.

The Nittany Lions automatically qualified in all five relays. With relays counting as double points towards the team score race, Penn State will have to take advantage of the relay opportunities. Four swimmers will compete in each relay in the 200 and 400 Freestyle Relay, 200 and 400 Medley Relay, and the 800 Freestyle Relay.

Here's a closer look at each of the swimmers and their seed in their individual events that they will be racing in on the national stage.

Alyson Ackman

-        200 Freestyle - 9th

-        100 Freestyle - 12th

The sophomore from Montreal, Quebec, holds the school record in the 100 and 200 Free, which were set at the Big Ten Championships this year. At Big Tens, Ackman won the 200 Free and finished second in the 100 Free. She led off the 400 Medley relay to a second place finish and was on the 800 Free relay and 200 Free relay swimming to fourth-place finishes. Hoping to continue the momentum she has built in her second year, Ackman will use her experience from last years NCAAs to help her prepare for this highly competitive meet.

Mackenzie Powers

-                100 Butterfly - 7th

-        100 Backstroke - 14th

-        200 Backstroke - 49th

After swimming to a first place finish with a new meet record, a new Big Ten record, and a new school record in the 100 Butterfly, Powers will compete in her fourth NCAA Championships. In addition to her record-breaking performance, she also finished second in the 100 Back and sixth in the 200 Back. She played an integral role helping the medley relays finish fifth in the 200 Medley Relay and second in the 400 Medley Relay. The Sycamore, Ill. native will head into NCAAs ranked well individually and continue building on her strong season in her last swim meet of her career.

Melissa Rodriguez

-        200 Individual Medley - 76th

-        100 Breaststroke - 27th

-        200 Breaststroke - 19th

From Chihuahua, Mexico, the sophomore made big contributions for the Nittany Lions at Big Tens. Rodriguez finished second in the 200 Breaststroke, fourth in the 100 Breaststroke, and 14th in the 200 Individual Medley. In her second NCAA Championships, Rodriguez will take her momentum from Big Tens where she set a new school record in the 200 Breaststroke and will make contributions on the medley relays as the Breaststroke leg.

Katie Rowe

-        200 Butterfly - 13th

-        100 Butterfly - 42nd

-        200 Individual Medley - 79th

In her first NCAA Championship appearance, Rowe will compete in both Butterfly events and the 200 Individual Medley. The sophomore from Glenville, N.Y. had one of her best Big Ten performances yet as she finished sixth in the 100 Butterfly, second in the 200 Butterfly, and fifth in the 200 Backstroke. Rowe's time in the 200 Butterfly puts her in the third-best mark of the program.

Gabi Shishkoff

-        400 Individual Medley - 20th

-        500 Freestyle - 37th

-        200 Butterfly - 43rd

Shishkoff will be competing in her second NCAA Championships meet in the 400 Individual Medley, 500 Freestyle, and 200 Butterfly. At Big Tens, Shishkoff had a strong showing in all of her individual performances. She finished fourth in the 400 Individual Medley, seventh in the 200 Individual Medley, and ninth in the 200 Butterfly. The senior will end her collegiate career in one of the most exciting atmospheres as she competes in Minneapolis, Minn.

Megan Siverling

-        500 Freestyle - 56th

-        1650 Freestyle - 30th

Ever since Siverling was a freshman, she has continued to move up in the rankings in the distance events. Competing in her third Big Tens, she swam to a fifth-place finish in the 1650 Free, 10th-place finish in the 500 Free, and a 19th-place finish in the 200 Free. She will look to close out another strong season and keep racing tough in the 1650 Free and 500 Free at the NCAA Championships.

Katelyn Sowinski

-        200 Butterfly -35th

-        500 Freestyle - 40th

-        1650 Freestlye - 43rd

Looking to cap off an impressive freshman year, Sowinski will swim the same three events in Minneapolis that she swam at Big Tens. The Severna Park, Md. native made big contributions for the team at her first Big Tens finishing sixth in the 500 Free, 10th in the 1650, and eighth in the 200 Butterfly. As Sowinski heads to her first NCAA's she will put everything she has learned to the test in one of the most competitive competitions she has seen up until this point of her career.

Chelsea Weedman

-        200 Butterfly - 48th 

-        200 Individual Medley - 51st 

-        400 Individual Medley - 39th

In Weedman's fourth NCAA's she will be competing in both Individual Medley events and the 200 Butterfly, which she placed 13th in at Big Tens this year. The senior from Poway, Calif., swam the same three events last year and will use her years of experience to capitalize and close out an outstanding collegiate career in her final chance to race as a Nittany Lion.

Prelims start at 11 a.m. and finals begin at 7 p.m. each day. Follow the results as the Nittany Lions start competing Thursday, March 20. Below is the order of events for the 2014 NCAA Championships meet.

200 Freestyle Relay
500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
400 Medley Relay
One-meter Diving

200 Medley Relay
400 Individual Medley
100 Butterfly
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
Three-meter Diving
800 Freestyle Relay

200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
Platform Diving
400 Freestyle Relay

Nittany Lions Take Strides Forward at Big Ten Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
The men's swimming and diving team traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., and brought back some of the best performances in school history, and proving that the hard work the athletes have put in since August paid off as the team continues to move in the right direction.

"I think the guys overall did a nice job," head coach Tim Murphy said. "We had numerous best times, we in some cases got better as the meet went on. Our relays were very competitive which was good for us and we had some people on the podium. All-in-all, I thought it was a big step forward from both the individual and team standpoint."

With some of the top competition in the country coming together for the Big Ten Championships, the team had no options other than to push each other through their events and take advantage of every opportunity in front of them.

"I told the guys at the meet that if they're fortunate, they will be a part of four Big Ten championship teams. It's an extremely competitive meet and there are just a few opportunities there. I saw them really come together as a team, they really fought for each other and fought with each other."

Allowing them to come together as a team and support each other was the pride that they share to be a part of the Penn State swimming and diving program while representing everyone who came before them and helped build the program.

"They displayed from a performance standpoint the work they've put in all year and from a team standpoint the pride that they have representing Penn State swimming and diving. We were able to do that, we left our mark on the meet and I think all the guys, similar to the ladies, did as a team swim fast. They had some fun and the team took a step forward," Murphy said.

One of the swimmers who helped the team take a step forward was sophomore Shane Ryan, who brought back two Big Ten titles in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke in addition to a second place finish in the 50 freestyle. Not only did he make it to the podium in all of his events, he was also named Swimmer of the Big Ten Championships, and set new Big Ten records and school records.

Even though this was Ryan's first time attending this style of championship meet, he didn't let anything get in his way from going after what he wanted to accomplish.

"(Ryan's) on a continuum," Murphy said. "This was his first opportunity at Big Tens and he didn't shy away from the moment. He made his way to the top of the podium, which was obviously something we had in mind. This is a growing process and a learning process and I thought he did a good job displaying the work he put in and his competitiveness."

The sophomore was able to handle any pressures or nerves that come with competing knowing that the work he put in throughout the year and his preparation would be there. Having a race plan and staying focused on only his race proved to be a successful approach.

"Every time before I went up to race, Tim told me a set plan," Ryan said. "He said 'If you do this, you'll be good' so I really didn't let the nerves distract me. I know that I have a lane and it's just me in that lane - that's what I think about whenever I race. Nerves really don't distract me - I really just use them to my advantage."

Ryan was part of making history for the Penn State swimming and diving program as his win in the 100 backstroke marked the first ever Nittany Lion win in that event. This swim also marked the first individual title the men's team has seen since 2003.

"In reference to the historical standpoint, anytime you have a first for a program that's a really important thing," Murphy said. "We all celebrated that and it was really fun to watch."

After the 100 back, Ryan wasn't the only person standing on the podium. To his left was his teammate Nate Savoy while Penn State's fight song played throughout Canham Natatorium.

"In the 100 back, it was awesome seeing number two and Nate Savoy's name right next to it. It was really good to get points for the team. I just wanted to show that Penn State was there and make sure that at this past Big Tens that Penn State left a statement. I was sick of hearing other school's fight song so to hear ours was a really nice feeling."

Although the team has taken huge strides of progress, both Murphy and Ryan know this is just a starting point and the team will continue to develop. This isn't the end of Penn State reaching new records.

"I just hope people know that even though we don't have the best facility, we have the best coaching staff," Ryan said. "We have so much untapped talent that this is just the beginning. There's going to be a lot more records coming down and people are going to hear a lot more about Penn State swimming and diving."

With the first meet of their championship season behind them, the Nittany Lions will have to shift their focus to the NCAA Championships starting on March 27. They swimmers and divers who qualify for NCAA's will get back to their training routine to get even faster between now and then.

"The idea now is to be faster in four weeks which is not easy," Murphy said. "It's probably a lot more difficult than it is at Big Tens, the size of the group is going to be smaller, we'll still have relays but we're pretty much right back to work. We'll try to find a way in the next month to be better - easier said than done but that's the goal."

Busy March Begins with Two Big Ten Team Titles

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The postseason push for Penn State teams in March is on.

The first weekend of the month kicked off in fine fashion with two teams tallying Big Ten championships to go along with an individual being named the top performer at the Big Ten Men's Swimming & Diving Championships.

In dramatic fashion, the Nittany Lion women's track & field team notched its third conference crown at the Big Ten Indoor Championships on Saturday afternoon.  It all came down to the 4x400-meter relay with the Lions leading Michigan by just half a point heading into the final event.  The Lions stormed to a victory in the relay to seal the title.

"The women were outstanding today," said Director of Track & Field and Head Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "Michigan pressed us hard throughout the weekend, but we kept our composure and competed great. This is a championship win to remember."

Roughly 45 minutes after the women's track & field team was crowned champion, the Lady Lion basketball team finished off a 77-62 triumph over Michigan to clinch a share of its third-straight Big Ten regular season title.  The Lady Lions join Ohio State and Iowa as the only programs to win three or more consecutive Big Ten titles.

"It's the first time in program history that we have won three Big Ten Championships in a row," head coach Coquese Washington said. "When this program has such a storied legacy, to be able to do something that this program hasn't done before, it's pretty hard. The program has accomplished so much and for this class and team to do something that sets them apart, that's really cool."

In the pool, sophomore Shane Ryan capped off a strong outing for the Nittany Lion men's swimming team by becoming the first Penn State men's swimmer to be named Swimmer of the Big Ten Championships on Saturday.  Ryan broke the Big Ten record in the 100m freestyle, topping a mark set by former Northwestern Wildcat and 2012 London Olympics medalist Matt Grevers.  Ryan is the first Nittany Lion to win two individual gold medals at the Big Ten Championships.  His efforts powered the men's team to fifth in the team standings.  The men's team's performance came one week after the Nittany Lion women's swimming & diving team took third at the Big Ten Women's Championships.

With a standout weekend in the books, the Nittany Lions are full steam ahead in postseason mode beginning on Friday when the Lady Lions kick off play as the No. 1 seed at the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis.  Penn State will meet either Northwestern or Ohio State at noon (BTN) on Friday.  The semifinals take place on Saturday, with the tournament final on Sunday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

On Saturday, the three-time defending NCAA champion Penn State wrestling team will begin its Big Ten title defense at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.  Head coach Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lions will look for their fourth-straight Big Ten title over the weekend.  Additionally, seniors Ed Ruth and David Taylor have an opportunity to become Penn State's first four-time Big Ten individual champions.  Junior Matt Brown is the third Nittany Lion in the lineup with a Big Ten individual title.  The Big Ten finals will air live on BTN Sunday at 2 p.m.

There are several marquee events on the horizon following the action this weekend.  The 2014 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament is slated to begin on March 13 in Indianapolis.  The Nittany Lion men's hoops team will finish off its regular season this week with games at Northwestern and Minnesota.  The Lions will learn their seed for the tournament on Sunday.

The track and field squads will also be in action during the third weekend in March.  Penn State will travel to Albaquerque for the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 14-15.

Head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lion football team will wrap up winter conditioning this week in preparation for the start of spring practice on March 17.  The Nittany Lions will practice 15 times before the Blue-White Game on April 12 (1:30 p.m.).

The fourth weekend of March will feature no fewer than six postseason events for Penn State teams.  The No. 1 wrestling team will begin its NCAA title defense on March 20 in Oklahoma City at the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships.  The finals will take place on March 22.  The ESPN family of networks will televise all six of the NCAA Wrestling Championships sessions.

In Happy Valley, the women's gymnastics team plays host to the Big Ten Championships in Rec Hall on March 22.  Across campus, the Bryce Jordan Center is slated to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship.  Games are slated for 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on March 23 and 7 p.m. on March 25.

Out of town, the first Big Ten Hockey Tournament will take place in Saint Paul, Minn., beginning on March 20.  The NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships begin on March 20 in Minneapolis, as well.  The Penn State fencing teams also kick of NCAA Championships competition in Columbus on March 20.

The month will wrap up with a weekend featuring the NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships, which begin on March 27 in Austin, Texas.  The Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships begin on March 28 in Lincoln, Neb.

With two titles already in hand, it will be a busy month ahead for Penn State teams competing in postseason competition.  Stay tuned for complete coverage of the postseason push on

Key Dates Ahead in March

March 7 -
Noon (BTN) - Lady Lions vs. Ohio State/Northwestern (Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals - Indianapolis)
March 8 - 11 a.m./6 p.m. - Big Ten Wrestling Championships (Madison, Wis.)
March 9
- 12/2 p.m. (BTN) - Big Ten Wrestling Championships (Madison, Wis.)
March 13-16 - Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament (Indianapolis)
March 14-15 - NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships (Albuquerque, N.M.)
March 17 - First Day of Spring Football
March 20-22 - NCAA Wrestling Championships (Oklahoma City, Okla.); NCAA Fencing Championships (Columbus, Ohio); NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships (Minneapolis, Minn.); Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament (Saint Paul, Minn.)
March 22 - 12/5 p.m. - Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships (University Park, Pa.)
March 23 - 12:30/3 p.m. - NCAA Women's Basketball First Round (University Park, Pa.)
March 25 - 7 p.m. - NCAA Women's Basketball Second Round (University Park, Pa.)
March 27-29 - NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships (Austin, Texas)
March 28-29 - Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships (Lincoln, Neb.)

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Notch Third-Place Finish at Big Tens

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The women's swimming and diving team brought back a third place finish in the Big Ten Championships just in time to send off the men's team as they take their turn to compete.

Coming together and getting behind each race proved to play a huge role for the women as they got off to a strong start with the 200 Medley Relay on the first night. From there, they kept the momentum building each day.

"As a team, we really rallied off of each other," senior Chelsea Weedman said. "The very first relay was awesome so after that, we just kept the ball rolling. I think we did a really good job cheering and getting everyone pumped up and motivated, but overall I think it was a very, very good meet for the team."

This championship season marks the first time that head coach Tim Muprhy would walk on the deck of a Big Ten Championship leading the Nittany Lions. After going through the meet, he couldn't be more proud of what the ladies accomplished.

"I was really proud of them and I was impressed with the way that they took on the challenge going into the meet. They weren't really predicted to have any kind of presence, but by the end of the last day we certainly left our mark at the meet in the pool and off the deck," Murphy said.

Although the women's swimming and diving team were not mentioned in the top three projections going into the meet, they did everything possible to change the outcome of that as they competed hard to finish in third place as a team. Murphy reminded the team to keep in mind who they are representing before they started competing.

"The main thing that we talked about was that everything we do needs to be done with the backdrop of Penn State pride," Murphy said. "In reference to not being mentioned or talked about beforehand, I think the pride was very evident in who they are and how they felt about each other and representing Penn State and I thought they did a nice job with that."

The Nittany Lions came back with new school records in the 200 Medley Relay, 800 Freestyle Relay, 100 Butterfly, 200 Freestyle, and 400 Medley Relay. In addition to a new school record in the 100 Butterfly, Mackenzie Powers also set a new Big Ten record in the event.

On the third day of competition, Powers (100 Butterfly) and Alyson Ackman (200 Freestyle) both fought their way to earn the top spot on the podium and a gold medal with their teammates cheering them on.

"The nicest part about it was watching them stand on top of the podium looking at their team and their team going nuts for them," Murphy said. "That was both during the race when they finished and turned around to look at the team and the team cheering them on and then when they got their medal on the podium and they played the fight song. It just doesn't get much better than that."

Freshman Katelyn Sowinski had the opportunity to experience her first Big Tens and really took in the moment when her teammates received their medals.

"That was one of the coolest things ever because they are your teammates and you train with them everyday," Sowinski said. "To see them accomplish something that great - there was just so much excitement and you felt like you were right there with them."

The wins for the team helped keep the momentum going and the energy up for the women as they headed into their fourth and final day. Having those two Big Ten titles to take back to the team motivated the swimmers and divers to close out the meet strong.

"That just creates so much excitement in general and Saturday morning is always the hardest to get up and swim fast because everybody's tired and your just trying to get to finals so with the two individual victories in mind - it was easier to keep motivated and keep our goals in check," Weedman said.

With an exciting start to the championship season behind them, the season is not over for the Nittany Lions. The team will have to shift their focus and get back to training as they prepare for the NCAA Championships on March 20 in Minneapolis, Minn.

"We're just going to go back to work," Murphy said. "We just came off of a big meet so we need to recharge and regain our focus for the NCAA Championships. It's not going to get any easier; in fact it's a step up so it'll get more competitive. I think they're excited about what they did and now we expect and our goal is to get better between now and then."

Men's Swimming and Diving Heads to Big Ten Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, 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." 

Penn State Athletics THON 2014 Coverage

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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

Friday Coverage:

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 talked with women's volleyball senior Maggie Harding on the floor about her experience during THON.

Saturday Coverage:

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

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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

Team Dances
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 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.

Sunday Coverage:

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's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Men's Swimming THON 2014 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch several members of the Nittany Lion men's swimming and diving team show off their dance moves at the THON 2014 Pep Rally.  The Lions took home the crown as the champion for the second-straight year.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Women's Swimming and Diving Excited for Big Tens

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By Chelsea Howard, 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.

8595965.jpeg"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." 

Tri-Meet Honors Seniors as Focus Shifts to Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
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.

9666088.jpegThe 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."


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