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Swimming & Diving Set to Recognize Seniors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men's Swimming and Diving Defeat Navy

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's swimming and diving teams defeated Navy with a final score of 188-112 on Saturday.

up above.jpgGoing into the meet, the men knew they were going to have to win close races to come out with a victory. Last time they faced Navy, the men let too many of those close races get away from them; however that wasn't the case this time around.

"The biggest thing I saw in terms of change was we're winning close races," head coach John Hargis said. "That's a good habit for us to get into. It's an area that we've needed to improve all year and it seemed today we were winning some close races where we needed to."

The swimmers and divers knew what it felt like to lose by only 10 points last year and they fought to make sure they wouldn't have a repeat of the last time they raced Navy.

"The guys as a whole were not going to get beat today," Hargis said. "That was the mentality they came in with and they did what they needed to do. They had a chip on their shoulder and they wanted to set a statement. I think they did that today. They swam well and we had some of the best in-season swims that we've had all year."

The Nittany Lions kept the loss from last year in the back of their minds and used that to help them mentally prepare over the past week for this meet.

"As a whole, I thought we did really well today," Nick Ankosko said. "Last year we had a big upset so we came into this meet prepared and we wanted to make sure that they knew that we are here and ready to do work."

The swimmers did not waste any time making a statement as they opened the meet by setting a new pool record in the 200-medley relay. Nate Savoy swam the backstroke leg and got them off to an early lead. James Wilson followed with the breastroke leg to Sean Grier, who swam butterfly. Shane Austin anchored with a strong freestyle leg.

"It was an awesome feeling getting the pool record," Wilson said. "It's a big deal for me but most of the other guys already have a pool record. We are where we want to be in this event for right now and this will help our confidence for Big Tens. We were top five last year and we want to be even better this year."

Setting two pool records in one day, Grier reached another goal of his in the 100 Butterfly by getting under the 48-second mark by .02 seconds.

"It feels good to get another pool record," Grier said. "I've been looking at that time for the past two and a half years so it's nice to finally get it. Coming into the meet I was just thinking about swimming fast. We only have this meet and one more meet so I just thought about breaking the 48-second barrier."

With another meet coming up next weekend, the swimmers and divers will spend the next few days fine-tuning their technique and preparing to race again on Saturday.

"We're going to get more rest with taper coming up," Ankosko said. "We're also going to pay more attention to the details of our racing. We've already put in the work so now it's time to look at the little things like starts and turns to help us improve."

The Nittany Lions will be back in action at McCoy Natatorium on Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. as they host Towson. This meet will be the annual senior meet and there will be a short ceremony to honor the seniors before the meet starts. 

Women's Swimming and Diving Bounce Back

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's swimming and diving team came out with a win over Navy on Saturday, finishing with a final score of 185-107.

women.jpgThe last time the Nittany Lions competed, they fell short to a strong Arkansas team. However, the women did not let this loss keep them down for long. They opened the meet going 1-2-3 in the 200-medley relay.

"It sets the tone," head coach John Hargis said. "You win that first relay, the momentum continues at that point. A couple weeks ago in Arkansas we lost that first relay which is not something we're used to doing. It immediately deflated them and you could see that in the next few swims."

Senior Paige Whitmire also noted how crucial winning the first relay is in order to set up the rest of the meet, especially since the 200-medley relay is the first event at Big Tens.

"It's important to set the tone for any meet and it's also good practice for Big Tens because that's the ultimate goal," Whitmire said. "We want to get out fast so the other girls are psyched up to go fast too."

Building off of the momentum of the first relay, the women gained confidence to close out the meet strong by re-establishing the strength they have shown throughout the whole season and were able to walk away from the meet with a 78-point victory.

"I think today they swam with a little bit more confidence than they did at Arkansas," Hargis said. "I think they remembered that loss at Arkansas and wanted to re-evaluate, move forward and get passed that."

One aspect of competing that the coaches have continued to stress is the importance of finishing races strong and capitalizing on the closer races. In some meets, the difference between a win and a loss can come down to one close race.

"The biggest thing I saw in terms of change was we're winning close races," Hargis said. "That's a good habit for us to get into. It's an area that we've needed to improve all year and it seemed today that we were winning some of the close races that we needed to win."

The divers also saw success on the boards with Megan Springsteen leading the way. She finished the meet winning both the 1-meter and 3-meter events.

"The meet went well for us today," Springsteen said. "I had a new dive on the 3-meter that I've been working on and I was happy to be able to do it successfully. We've been breaking down dives and making little improvements that add up to big differences. All of this will help my confidence going into Big Tens."

With only one dual meet left for the season, emotions are starting to set in for some of the seniors. Whitmire, who started swimming 15 years ago, has a mix of emotions especially as the end gets closer and closer.

"Swimming D-1 is really hard while you're doing it and your waiting for it to be over, but when it comes down to the end you really don't want it to be over," Whitmire said. "I'm sad, I'm excited, I'm nervous because I want to end on a good note, but I'm mostly sad."

The Nittany Lions have a quick turn around with another meet coming up next weekend. Resting when they are not training and focusing on small details will help them prepare for another opportunity to race.

"We're going to need to focus on the little things in practice," Chelsea Weedman said. "We'll need to continue working on our nutrition and getting enough sleep to prepare for the next few weeks."

The swimmers and divers will take on Towson on Feb. 2. The six senior women will be recognized in a ceremony before the meet starts at 1 p.m.

VIDEO: Hauser, Shishkoff Look Ahead to Navy Dual

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Both teams enter the weekend ranked among the top-20 in the latest College Swimming Coach Association of America Poll and are focused on continuing their stead improvement as the championship portion of the schedule approaches. The women's squad (4-2) is ranked 14th by the publication, while the men's team (3-2) enters the dual meet with Navy as the 19th ranked squad in the country.


Nittany Lion Swimming and Diving Welcomes Navy

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion swimming and diving teams are back in action this weekend as they take on Navy and host one of their last dual meets of the season.

8505219.jpegComing off of a travel meet to Fayetteville, Ark. the swimmers and divers took the last two weeks to sharpen their skills and put in more hard work while keeping in mind their goals for the end of the season. Navy last competed against the University of North Carolina on Jan. 12 and looks to rebound after tough loses to the No. 16-ranked team.

Welcoming Navy to McCoy Natatorium, the swimmers and divers will use the opportunity to race in a dual meet setting for one of the last times this year before they shave and taper for the championship meets.

With Big Tens right around the corner, the Nittany Lions' practices have not lightened up for these next two dual meets. Senior Amy Lewis says that they have already started a countdown for Big Tens and that has remained the focus of their training.

"We've been doing a lot more fast sets in practice with high intensity," Lewis said. "We're going into this meet with a mindset that it's going to be fun to get up and race, but our mind is more on Big Tens. That's where we will get our excitement from."

This meet marks the second season in a row that Penn State will face Navy. Last year, the women came out victorious over Navy but the men fell short losing by a small margin of 10 points. This year, Navy will come into the meet with a 6-2 record for the women's team and a 5-4 record on the men's side.

Helping to lead the men's side, sophomore Nate Savoy has stepped up throughout the season and swam to four NCAA "B" cuts at the Georgia Invitational in December. Hoping to finish the season strong, Savoy says his goal is to swim towards his fastest in-season best times.

"I'm excited to get the chance to race and be in a home meet environment this weekend," Savoy said. "We have to be able to finish the season on a good note so we're aiming to go some of our fastest times in-season. It'll be fun to have parents and fans in the stands, which we don't always get when we travel."

In addition to a strong home crowd, having a supportive group of more than 60 swimmers and divers helps to set up an exciting environment that is different from the usual practice setting. Freshman Jenna Bickel noted this aspect of the team right away.

"I love how supportive this team is," Bickel said. "We're a close team and the upperclassmen have always been welcoming. We try to stand and cheer for the whole meet because it creates a much more exciting environment and one that will help us race faster."

For several seniors on the team, this meet brings up mixed emotions since they will only have two more opportunities to race in the pool that they have spent countless hours training in over the past four years.

"I'm glad our last two meets are at home especially since it's right before Big Tens," Lewis said. "I'm excited for this weekend but it also gives me chills knowing I don't have many meets left."

This meet will be a Code Blue Blast event to encourage more students to attend. They will earn points towards the reward system and can be entered to win Bon Jovi tickets. Competition starts at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Jan. 26. 

Dual Meets Set Up Championship Season

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The countdown begins until the Penn State swimmers and divers have the opportunity to put all of their hard work to the test at the 2013 Big Ten Championships. Until then, the Nittany Lions will have two more chances to compete in dual meets over the next few weeks.

8322128.jpegThe women start their championship season in 32 days in Minneapolis, Minn., while the men compete 39 days from now in Bloomington, Ind. The swimmers and divers will use the dual meets against Navy and Towson to fine-tune all the details they have been practicing day in and day out to ensure they are prepared for Big Tens.

Junior Mackenzie Powers looks forward to the dual meets coming up and plans to use them as rehearsals for competing in one of the top championship meets in the nation next month.

"I think having the opportunity to race and work on the small things, like starts and turns, throughout the season helps us prepare for when Big Tens comes around," Powers said. "These last two meets will be especially important because they are some of our last chances to race before we rest and taper."

Throughout the season, the swimmers and divers have traveled to five different states not only for competition, but also to feel what it will be like to swim in an unfamiliar setting after spending a day traveling.

Powers says that their travel trips to Indiana and Georgia earlier this season were good indications for what is to come at the end of the season.

"As a team we've had a lot of really good meets where we came together and we could all see that we were going in the direction of the goals that we have set," Powers said. "The next two meets will be important for us as well in that aspect to see where we are compared to how much time we have left before Big Tens."

In addition to getting used to traveling and competing at new sites, dual meets also help to prepare the athlete mentally for the challenges that Big Tens will bring. The swimmers and divers must be ready to compete for four days despite any fatigue they may feel from racing multiple times.

Matthew Salig says that dual meets help him prepare mentally as well as physically for the end of the season.

"Dual meets have three to four races on one day whereas the events at Big Tens are spread out a little bit more," Salig said. "This helps us mentally prepare for Big Tens knowing that we were able to race more times in one day at other meets earlier in the season."

An important aspect that the Nittany Lions established early in the season is creating an exciting atmosphere by standing on their feet and cheering their teammates on throughout the whole meet.

"Dual meets gives us a different kind of energy than if we just raced each other in practice," Salig said. "Our goal at dual meets is to create an atmosphere that is similar to Big Tens by getting behind each other."

Powers agrees with how important it is to use the atmosphere that her teammates create to help get through some of the tough dual meets throughout the season.

"Dual meets are just fun to get behind each other, especially in the meets where we are tired and we have to use the energy from our teammates to get us through," Powers said. "It's important situations like these where we see everyone is in it together and that we are all working towards a common goal that is going to help us reach our goals at Big Tens."

Starting the pre-season in August and ending the championship season in March with NCAA Championships, the swimmers and divers have to find ways to stay motivated through smaller meets before they get to the big shave and taper meets.

"I try to remember feelings I've had in the past like dropping a good race for my team to stay motivated," Salig said. "Knowing that you have teammates going through the same practices with you and racing with you at the end of the season helps me stay focused on our goals."

Next on their schedule, the swimmers and divers will welcome Navy to McCoy Natatorium on Jan. 26. The following weekend continues the tradition of the annual senior meet, which is against Towson on Feb. 2.  Then the women will have 18 days before they open their championship and take what they have learned through dual meet season to compete against other Big Ten contenders.

Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Open 2013

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the fall season behind them and the championship season still to come, the swimmers and divers traveled to unique locations to focus on quality training during the winter break.

The swimmers took an eight-day trip down to Naples, Fla. where they got the opportunity to train outdoors. The divers went to an invitational meet at the University of Tennessee where they spent four days competing against some of the top SEC schools.

The annual training trip and invitational meet has become a tradition for the men's and women's swimming and diving teams that helps the team bond, enjoy a different location, and gear up for the end of the season meets that are just a few weeks away.

"While we were in Florida, our goals and competing at Big Tens were always on our minds," said sophomore Allie Roberts. "Training trip is so hard that we use Big Tens as a way to push through the week and remember what we are working towards."

Sophomore Megan Siverling agrees with Roberts that Big Tens was a major focus of training trip, but Siverling adds that the training trip will help the confidence of everyone on the team when it comes time to compete.

"Training trip really prepares us for Big Tens because spending eight days doing nothing but hard training gives you the physical base and the confidence to do well at Big Tens," said Siverling. "There's been a huge difference from my freshman year to this year because I know what to expect. It helped me prepare better for what was coming."

The Nittany Lions finished off the tough training regime by competing against the University of North Carolina while still in Naples. The event format for this year was unusual but still provided the swimmers a great opportunity to compete against a top ACC school.

The events took relay styles, but only one of the events would actually be swum at Big Tens - the 200 medley relay. The other events were 3x100 relay of butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke, a 500 freestyle relay, and a 3x500 freestyle relay.

Although the meet was not scored, the women won the 200-medley relay and the 3x100 breaststroke relay. The men won four out of the six events, including the 200 medley relay, 3x100 butterfly relay, 3x100 backstroke relay, and the 3x100 breaststroke relay.

While the swimmers were competing in Florida, the divers started their competition in Tennessee. Megan Springsteen and Emily Stotesbery both participated in the one-meter and three-meter competitions. Alex Marchinski led the men's side finishing 22nd while T.J. Schenkel followed close behind with a 30th place finish on the three-meter boards. Diver Joe Spinelli enjoyed the opportunity to gain confidence in a competitive environment while learning from some of the best divers in the country.

"I enjoyed meeting divers from other teams and seeing what I can learn from them," said Spinelli. "This helps for the end of the season because I get to compete in another meet setting and the extra practice during the break let me solely focus on diving."

With another meet coming up this weekend, Roberts looks forward to taking the work she put in over training trip and using it to help her race.

"Coming off of training trip, we will have a lot more confidence since we put in so much work," Roberts said. "We can take that training and put it towards the meet and competing against the other schools.

The swimmers and divers will be back in action on Jan. 12 as they travel down to Fayetteville, Ark. where they will compete against Arkansas and Missouri State. Competition is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.

Men's Swimming and Diving Fall Recap

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The men's swimming and diving team continues to build momentum after exceptional dual meet performances that led up to the Georgia Invitational in early December.

Head Coach John Hargis said that he is pleased with how the year has gone so far. 

7401123.jpeg"I think we've done really well. We've shown good progress through the year," Hargis said. "We've shown a good adaptation to the training this year. I think there are still some areas to improve that were glowing when we were down in Georgia racing against the very best."

The swimmers and divers came out with a win against West Virginia for their first dual meet. Then the Nittany Lions stayed home to host Villanova with another easy victory. After that, they traveled to Indiana to take on a top ACC team and another Big Ten contender at the tri meet against Virginia and Indiana. They came up just short of wins against these two schools.

The swimmers and divers did not let that stop them from performing well most recently at the Georgia Invitational in Athens, Ga. The men had one of the best opportunities they have ever seen to race several top ranked teams in the country. They came in fifth against Auburn, Georgia, Harvard, California, Virginia Tech, and Virginia.  

"We've been doing really well for both the guys and the girls," Andrew Sideras said. "It's good to be ranked so high because we've been working so hard. We have a lot of new kids that are already making an impact."

The results of the Georgia Invite led to a jump in their ranking in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll (20th).

Hargis said that he tries not to pay too much attention to the rankings but knows what they do during championship season is what really matters.

"I did see them and I think it's a compliment to the program and the kids and the hard work they've put in by being identified by outside people for their hard work," Hargis said. "Ultimately no matter where you're ranked we've got to be ready to swim fast in February and March and I think the kids understand that."

The men finished the Georgia Invite with 15 NCAA B cut performances. The NCAA comes up with two sets of time standards at the beginning of each season called A cuts and B cuts. An A cut guarantees the person a chance to swim at the NCAA Championships in March. The time standards for A cuts are much faster and very few swimmers across the nation reach this standard. At that point, swimmers with B cuts will be selected based on their times from fastest to slowest until the designated number of spots are filled.

Sophomore Nick Ankosko was among those who raced past the NCAA B time standards in the 500 free and 1,650 free.

"These B cuts mean a lot to me," Ankosko said. "It's a relief to have gotten two cuts out of the way at this point in the season. Now I can focus more on moving closer to getting my A cuts at the end of the season."

Ankosko has also faced changes in his training this year, but is excited to see these changes pay off in his racing.

"I have been really happy with how this season has gone for me so far," Ankosko said. "The coaches have me trying a type of training that is different than what I'm used to and I feel it has been working great for me in meets."

Hargis has enjoyed watching the swimmers succeed and working together as a team, but is also eager to continue working on the weaknesses to end the rest of the season strong.

"Seeing them really relate to their teammates and get behind them and really bond as a team has been fun to watch," Hargis said. "Seeing the rewards of their work each time we race was exciting. We will continue to make the proper adjustments that we have to make and continue to train at a level that is in relation to the goals that the kids have in front of them."

With a successful start to their season, the men will continue to put in the work that they've been putting in all year. The swimmers will have the opportunity to do this at their annual training trip in Naples, Fla. starting Dec. 28 and ending Jan. 5.  While they are there, they will take on the North Carolina on Jan. 3 in a dual meet. The divers will compete in Knoxville, Tenn. Jan. 3-5 for the Tennessee Collegiate Diving Invitational.  

Women's Swimming and Diving Recap of Fall

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's swimming and diving team is off to a strong start its season. With a rigorous preseason, several meets and then an invitational against some of the best teams in the country, there is no stopping the Nittany Lions from working extremely hard at reaching their goals. 

8396389.jpegHead coach John Hargis said the athletes have done very well up until this point, but there is still some room for improvement.

"I think we've shown good progress through the year," Hargis said. "We've shown a good adaptation to the training this year. I think there are still some areas to improve that were glowing when we were down in Georgia racing against the very best."

The women started the season off with a win against West Virginia in October, then hosted Villanova at home, also ending with a win. The swimmers and divers continued to gain in season racing experience as they went to Indiana to race Indiana and Virginia. With each meet, the times continued to come down and their confidence levels continued to go up leading into the Georgia Invitational.

Their most recent competition featured teams from all across the country, including Auburn, Georgia, Harvard, California, Virginia Tech, and Virginia. The Nittany Lions took advantage of the opportunity to race against some of the top ranked teams in the country.

"The best part so far has been being able to race and keep up with some of the top teams in the nation at the Georgia Invite," Caitlyn Karr said.

For Hargis, the highlight of the season has been seeing the success and rewards of their hard work pay off after each race.

"I've enjoyed watching the kids succeed," Hargis said. "The hard work the kids go through on a daily basis, seeing them swim well, seeing them smile, and seeing them enjoy the process has been exciting."

Since the swimming and diving teams are well into the season, the freshman are starting to get used to this style of racing and training. Megan Siverling has noticed this especially in Alyson Ackman.

"Aly Ackman has been a huge contributor to the team so far," Siverling said. "She's ranked first in the Big Ten in the 100 free, 200 free, and 500 free and posted several NCAA B cuts."

The NCAA comes up with two sets of time standards at the beginning of each season called A cuts and B cuts. An A cut guarantees the person a chance to swim at the NCAA Championships in March. The time standards for A cuts are much faster and very few swimmers across the nation reach this standard. At that point, swimmers with B cuts will be selected based on their times from fastest to slowest until the designated number of spots are filled.

Ackman swam to three individual NCAA B times in the 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, and 500-yard freestyle. She was also part of the 800-yard freestyle relay (along with Kaitlin Jones, Caitlyn Karr, and Gabi Shishkoff) and 400-yard freestyle relay (along with Carolyn Fittin, Kaitlin Jones, and Paige Whitmire) that posted times under the NCAA B time standards.

"This season has been really fun for me but also hard," Ackman said. "I've loved the support of the team. I was the captain of the last team I was on and there were problems with negativity and I saw the difference being positive makes. I've been trying to bring that experience to make a difference on this team."

Looking ahead for what's to come later in February, Ackman is already excited for Big Tens.

"I can't wait to see where we place against the other Big Ten teams," Ackman said. "After seeing what I went in season at Georgia, I can't wait to see what will happen when I'm rested and fully tapered."

The College Swim Coaches Association of America has released the latest NCAA Women's Division I rankings, and the Penn State women have moved up to the 12th spot.

Hargis said he tries not to pay too much attention to the rankings that came out this past week, although he has seen them.

"I think it's a compliment to the program and the kids and the hard work they put in," Hargis said. "Ultimately no matter where you're ranked, we've got to be ready to swim fast in February and March and I think the kids understand that."

Up next for the swimmers is a trip to Naples, Fla. for their annual training trip. After several days of hard work, the Nittany Lions will take on the North Carolina on Jan. 5 while still in Florida. The divers will spend a few days in Knoxville, Tenn. for the Tennessee Collegiate Diving Invitational. 

Men's Swimming: A Look Into Grier's Career

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
- After receiving All-American honors, qualifying for NCAA Championships his freshman and sophomore year, and setting pool and team records throughout his career, Sean Grier can add his most recent achievement of being named Highmark Student-Athlete of the Week to the list.

6249178.jpegThe junior from Hummelstown, Pa., did not know he was going to be a swimmer right from the start. It was not until Grier was 11 years old that he made the decision to jump in the water and practice for the first time.

"When I was 11, one of my friends got me into it for something fun to do in the summer," Grier said. "I originally played hockey and I went with him and checked it out. From there, the coaches told me that I had natural talent and said you should try year-around swimming since winters are more competitive. It kind of took off from there."

Little did Grier know that listening to those coaches and sticking with the sport would lead to a collegiate career at Penn State. Grier had several options for what schools he could attend and represent their swim program, but when it came time to make the decision Penn State won him over.

"I looked at Ohio State, Tennessee, and University of Massachusetts," Grier said. "But the team here reminded me of my team at home. The bonds here made it seem like a brotherhood rather than just teammates and I felt like I belonged after my recruiting trip here."

Based on his experiences of traveling and watching other teams, Grier could not imagine competing for any team other than Penn State.

"Everyone here is so close," Grier said. "From what I've seen I feel like other teams aren't that close and they don't share the bond that we have."

Transitioning from club swimming into collegiate practices and meets two years ago, Grier noticed a change in the level of intensity he was expected to give every day.

"I had the same coach for high school and age group and I thought he did a really good job of training us," Grier said. "But when you come to the college level it's completely different and there's a whole new intensity. That was the hardest thing to get used to."

Grier has also taken advantage of having teammates there for him the moment he stepped on campus his freshman year and developing a strong connection with them that only student-athletes can experience.

"My favorite part of my career is just being able to be a part of something rather than being a regular student here and having that bond before anything else," Grier said. "Your teammates are your teammates from the start and that's been the best part."

For any athlete, the daily grind presents challenges both mentally and physically. Grier handles the mental side of swimming by staying focused on his goals and what he wants to achieve for that season.

"I think about where I want to be at the end of the season because as much as a set can suck, I tell myself that the coaches know what they are doing and it's all going to pay off at the end of the season," Grier said.

On race day, Grier changes his mentality to relaxing and having fun with the opportunities in front of him.

"I do whatever I need to do for that day," Grier said. "I always swim my best when I'm having fun and laughing behind the blocks, but when the whistle blows it's time to focus in."

With two meets already down, Grier says that he is on the right track to meet his goals not only for himself, but also for the team.

"For me, I think that's going well for how I've been training and doing at meets," Grier said. "This season will be successful if we reach our goals that we set at the beginning of the year. Being able to reach most of these goals includes placing at Big Tens, NCAA's, and at dual meets. It would also be nice if we could have an undefeated dual meet season."

Looking ahead, Grier is already excited for the championship meets at the end of the season and having the chance to represent Penn State on a national level.

"I don't want to skip over the rest of the season but this year we have one of the best teams that we've ever had and I'm hoping we can make a statement not only in the Big Ten, but in the nation as well," Grier said.

Last year Grier broke a 10-year old team record in the 100 butterfly. He also swam the butterfly leg of the 400 medley relay that placed eighth nationally at NCAAs.  This past week he has been named Highmark Student-Athlete of the Week, which is voted on by members of the athletic department.

"I think it's cool to be recognized in this way because usually swimming isn't a sport that's always on top," Grier said.

Grier's performance at the meet against the Villanova contributed to being named Highmark Student-Athlete of the Week where he broke a 13-year old pool record in the 100 Backstroke and he is now ranked second nationally on in this event.

"I know all of the pool records of the events I swim so every time I get in there I have something to strive for," Grier said. "Breaking this record means a lot for right now and for where we are in the season. It's a good sign that I can get up and swim that fast at this point of the year. For the short term, I think it's a pretty good achievement."


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