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Men's Swimming & Diving Sweeps Villanova

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the first home meet of the season, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team topped Villanova by 130 points, 211-81.


swimming 5.jpgThe dual meet followed a 16-event format featuring the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Freestyle Relay, 500 and 1,000 Freestyle, 200 Individual Medley, and 100 and 200 of each stroke for the swimming side. Diving included the 1-meter and 3-meter boards.  The Nittany Lions dominated by winning all 16 of the events.

Head coach John Hargis was pleased with how the swimmers raced and looks forward to racing even faster next week against IU and UVa.

"As a whole, I thought we raced well today," Hargis said. "I thought we were looking forward a little bit too much and didn't fully embrace the opportunities. We swam through it too much. For

next weekend, we have to find a way to get a lot faster."

Hargis saw standout performances from sophomore Nick Ankosko and junior Sean Grier who helped contribute to Penn State's high score.

"Sean Grier and Nick Ankosko both had really good swims," Hargis said. "Nick was solid all the way through and that was his best racing since he's been here. Grier's backstroke was a really good race and he was a little bit upset about his fly but that goes to details."

Sophomore Nick Ankosko has been leading the distance events in the past two meets and won the 500 and posted a time of 9:16.50 in the 1,000 Freestyle, improving 9.85 seconds from the meet against WVU. Junior Sean Grier was also a standout for the men where he won the 100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke, setting a new pool record of 48.00. This time currently ranks Grier with the second fastest time in the country on collegeswimming.com.  

"The atmosphere today was awesome," Grier said. "I love when people get into it and that makes it easier to get up and swim fast. I'm looking forward to racing Big Ten competition and to go against the top ACC team next weekend to see where we are at and where they are at and this will give us good perspective leading into mid-season."

When the freshmen enter college, the number of events they swim in one-day changes, there's shorter amount of time in between events, and there are numerous resources available to help the athlete's body recover. Hargis says that the freshmen are starting to understand these changes and are adjusting well to competing in dual meets.

"The freshmen are getting more used to it and improving meet to meet," Hargis said. "They are learning to understand how to warm up and how to swim as much as they do. These meets go on for three hours and they're learning how take care of their bodies through a long meet, and figuring out what it takes to be primed and ready to go."

Freshman Shane Ryan is new to the collegiate racing scene but uses being a part of a big team to his advantage.

"It's a lot of fun being up here with a big team," Ryan said. "I haven't had that before and it just makes it a lot easier mentally. I came here because I knew they would be a really really good team this year and wanted to be a part of that. I have some things to work on for Indiana but mentally I'm in the right mindset."

The divers swept both events with sophomore TJ Schenkel leading the way. The divers have added more practices, which sophomore Joe Spinelli says contributes to their success.

"I thought I did pretty well today," Spinelli said. "We've been practicing more than usual and I think that's paid off for everyone. We've had longer practices which let's us do more dives. We are just going to keep doing what we've been doing, do more repetitions to help get us more in control of the dives and help us finish them better."

The Nittany Lions will be back in action on Friday Nov. 16 in Bloomington, Ind. They will compete against IU, which will give them a preview of the Big Ten competition for this year and they will also compete against UVa. 

Women's Swimming & Diving Defeat Villanova

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the first home meet, the Nittany Lions knocked off the Villanova Wildcats at McCoy Natatorium on Saturday morning by a score of 177-166.  This victory marks the 19th win for the Nittany Lions against Villanova in their last 20 dual meets.

women 1.jpgThe dual meet followed a 16-event format featuring the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Freestyle Relay, 500 and 1,000 Freestyle, 200 Individual Medley, and 100 and 200 of each stroke for the swimming side. Diving included the 1-meter and 3-meter boards.  Of the 16 events, the Nittany Lions placed first in 13 of them.

Head coach John Hargis was pleased with how the swimmers raced and looks forward to racing faster next week against IU and UVA.

"As a whole, I thought we raced well today," Hargis said. "I thought we were looking forward a little bit too much and didn't fully embrace the opportunities. We swam through it too much. For next weekend, we have to find a way to get a lot faster."

Hargis thought Megan Siverling's 1,000 Freestyle was a standout swim for the women's side and said that Gabi Shishkoff's, Alyson Ackman's and Jones' performances today could be added to that list.

"Siverling had a great thousand," Hargis said. "Shishkoff continues to swim well and had a great 500. She's been battling injuries so we've been managing that. Alyson Ackman and Kaitlin Jones are doing well for the freshman. We're starting to see kids develop and that's what's fun about this part of the year."

Shishkoff has continued to step up with a win in the 500 Freestyle and 200 Individual Medley as well as finishing third in the 200 Free with a new best time. Winning the 1,000 Freestyle with a time of 10:06.24 and finishing second in the 500 Freestyle, Siverling helped to contribute to Penn State's second win of the year.

"I was nervous because I knew Villanova had a couple of girls who are fast distance swimmers but I was also excited because I saw it as a challenge," Siverling said. "I felt like it was an even paced race and I was happy to see that I improved a little from West Virginia."

Adjusting to college training and meets is not an easy task for any freshman, but for Ackman it has been even tougher since she is from Canada and has never swum yards before.

"I've never raced yards and I've been told that the comparison times from short course meters to yards isn't very accurate so I'm starting to see where I am compared to everyone else and starting to understand what the times mean," Ackman said. "I thought I did pretty good in the 200 back and it was nice to get good jobs from everyone to reassure that I was doing well. The 500 is tricky because it's a completely new race for me. I'm getting better I just need more experience."

The divers also made significant contributions with junior Megan Springsteen leading the way and winning both the 1-meter and 3-meter events.

"My dives were the best out of the season or in my whole career today," Springsteen said. "I was really consistent and didn't have any missed dives. I concentrated on things that I needed to do for my dives and stayed focused with a good attitude."

The Nittany Lions will have a few days to get back into training before they have the chance to race against Big Ten competition and one of the leaders of the ACC. They will take on IU and UVA in Bloomington, Ind. Action starts at 5 p.m. on Friday Nov 16.

Swimming and Diving Welcomes Villanova

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The Nittany Lions will host their first home dual meet of the season against Villanova on Saturday Nov. 10 starting at 11 a.m. in the McCoy Natatorium.

After a victory on the road against WVU, the men and women's swimming and diving teams have momentum going into the meet. Both teams will look to improve their record and have another victory early in the season.

8288253.jpegHaving more time to prepare for this weekend will benefit the athletes and will set them up well for the racing opportunities that this weekend will present. Junior Shane Austin used the time to his advantage to train more specifically for his events and looks forward to the opportunity to race some of the events he normally does not swim.

"I expect the team to swim better than against WVU since we've had more time to train for our specific events over the past three weeks," Austin said. "I want to improve on my times for the same reason. I am getting a chance to swim events that I don't always get to swim and expect to do well in those."

The Villanova Wildcats defeated LaSalle and James Madison but fell short against West Virginia on the women's side. For the men, Villanova lost to both LaSalle and West Virginia. This will be the third meet for the Wildcats since the scheduled quad meet in New Jersey against Connecticut, Georgetown, and Rutgers was rescheduled due to weather.

Saturday will mark the first home meet for the Nittany Lions and for several of the swimmers it will be one of their last home meets. Senior Jeff Gomez plans to seize one of his last opportunities with the supportive Penn State fans in the stands.

"As a senior, it's weird knowing it's my last year," Gomez said. "I'm going to take advantage of all the home meets we have left. I like home meets better because we have a bigger fan base and we have home folks to cheer you on."

While Gomez is well versed in how the dual meets work, many freshmen are still learning how collegiate competitions work. Leadership from upperclassmen plays a key role in helping the freshmen adjust. As a junior this year, Chelsea Weedman has noticed a difference in her role on the team this year.

"As upperclassmen we know how everything goes and what meets are like," Weedman said. "We know what it's like to step up in dual meets and we have to take on a leadership role and guide the freshman. We take them under our wing as they adjust."

This meet is the first annual "THON" meet that will help raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund, which will go towards helping kids fight pediatric cancer. The swimmers will wear caps made especially for the event that says "FTK" on one side and the Four Diamond emblem on the other side.

Several of the swimmers and divers are excited to swim for such a good cause and represent the university in this way. Gomez says that this is one of the reasons he is excited for Saturday.

"I'm excited it's the THON meet because it's a good cause," Gomez said. "It's always good to have something to swim for."

Weedman agrees with Gomez that this meet will be more exciting since it is supporting THON in addition to the opportunity to race in a dual meet atmosphere.

"I'm excited to get up and race," Weedman said. "I'm swimming the 200 free which isn't one of my best events so it will be a chance for us to mix up some of our events. It's also the THON meet so it will be exciting and more meaningful. We are all going wear caps that say 'FTK' on them."

Swimming and Diving; 'Having a Why'

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - To motivate the athletes during preseason and into the season, head coach John Hargis drew inspiration from the former football player Eric Thomas.

He shared the idea behind what it means to have a "why" with the swimmers and divers and encouraged them to find the reason as to why they get up every morning and continue to train at the level that they do.

Hargis creates a theme every year that provides guidance towards what the athletes should be striving towards to achieve the goals they have set for the end of the season.

"You go back and look through all the one's I've used, they all kind of add up and stack upon themselves and they all kind of mesh in the same way," Hargis said. "This year whether it be sacrifice or whether it be using why, we got to have a why."

Hargis and the student-athletes explain more about what "having a why" means to them and how they use it to motivate themselves each and every day. 

Women's Swimming and Diving, Shishkoff Makes an Impact

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Waking up at 5 a.m. for practice and coming back to the pool in the afternoon after lifting at some point during the day is something junior Gabi Shishkoff has been well accustomed to.

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Since this will be her 16th year as a competitive swimmer, Shishkoff knows what it takes to be a committed athlete at the varsity level while still maintaining the grades needed to stay in Schreyer Honors College.

"I started swimming on a summer league team where I would just do 12-and-a-halfs," Shishkoff said. "I wanted to get faster and one of the coaches from the summer league team was also a coach for a year-round team. He said we should try it out so the next season I practiced with a year-round team and really never looked back."

Jumping into the pool at just 4 years old, Shishkoff did not know where her swimming career would take her. When it came time to go through the recruiting process during her junior year of high school, it was an easy decision to go to Penn State.

"I couldn't imagine myself going any where else because of both the school and team atmospheres," Shishkoff said. "There's nowhere I could go that could compare to the school spirit that Penn State has."

In addition to the school spirit, Shishkoff noted strong team dynamics while she was visiting that helped to separate Penn State from the other schools she was interested in.

"I chose Penn State because we spent a lot of time with the team on my recruiting trip and I could tell the team had a family atmosphere," Shishkoff said. "I also liked how well the guys and girls teams got along and how well they trained together."

Entering college can be an intimidating feeling, but knowing there are 50-60 other teammates that are going through the same challenges and are there to help along the way makes the whole experience different.

"My favorite part about this team is having a built in support system and just a group of friends that is always around," Shishkoff said. "Whenever I have a good swim, my teammates are happy for me and if I have a bad swim there's always someone there to tell me not to give up and to keep going."

Along with the other juniors and seniors on the team, Shishkoff says a change to her role on the team this year is that she is expected to help guide the underclassmen.

"It's been different being expected to be a leader versus being an underclassman," Shishkoff said. "You're the one telling people what's going on and being positive for them."

Helping to lead the underclassman has not been the only difference this year. Shishkoff has also enjoyed the variety of the dryland the coaches have incorporated.

"We did different types of dryland at the beginning of the year like running up hills and Tussey Mountain," Shishkoff said. "I liked it better because it made practices more exciting and we all felt like we accomplished more when we were done with it."

With the Blue-White Intrasquad and a dual meet against WVU already behind the swimmers and divers, Shishkoff won all three of her events at both meets. The rankings on collegeswimming.com show Shishkoff is ranked with the sixth fastest time in the nation so far.

"I have already gone a best time and in-season bests in everything else I've swum so far," Shishkoff said. "I feel like I'm off to a good start and it's a really good sign for the rest of the year."

Swimming requires both physical and mental training to have success. Shishkoff's best racing comes when she has a relaxed frame of mind.

"When I'm at my best, my mindset is to have fun and just to see what I can do," Shishkoff said. "I want to see what happens and not worry about the results before the race."

Shishkoff has had plenty of experience with traveling to meets as well as staying at home for dual meets. She explains that they both have their own unique advantages to them.

"Whether I prefer home or away meets really depends on the meet itself," Shishkoff said.  "For dual meets, they are more fun at home because of the atmosphere. Traveling makes the meets bigger and I definitely prefer them for our end of season meets or bigger meets that we rest for."

As a part of the middle-distance training group, Shishkoff trains for distance freestyle events, individual medley events, and the 200-yard butterfly. Of the events she swims most, the 400-yard individual medley is her favorite to race.

"My favorite is the 400 IM," Shishkoff said. "I think it's more fun to race and it's an interesting event because it mixes things up and you get to change up the strokes."

With a few more meets and an invitational between now and the end of December, Shishkoff is already looking forward to the annual training trip that the swimmers go on right after Christmas in Naples, Fla.

"I'm really excited about our training trip because it's fun to be in Florida and just focus on swimming," Shishkoff said. "Being in a different location makes the training better and you are surrounded by all of your friends for over a week." 

In order to stay focused and motivated through months of training and competitions, Shishkoff reminds herself of the goals she wants to reach at the end of the season and the feeling of accomplishment when she reaches them.

"I stay motivated during practice and meets by thinking about how amazing of a feeling it is when I finish a race in a meet and meet my goal time, or do really well," Shishkoff said. "I think any swimmer could tell you that seeing your work pay off at a meet is the best feeling in the world."

As the swimmers and divers get further and further into the season, having goals and communicating what needs to be accomplished at checkpoints throughout the year is crucial. Shishkoff has already set goals that will help the team succeed against the other Big Ten opponents.

"My goals this season are to score at dual meets because it's such a great opportunity to contribute to the team, to score top eight at Big Tens, and to make NCAA's for the first time," Shishkoff said.

Swimming and Diving Blue-White Intrasquad

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion swimmers and divers had their first opportunity to debut all of the hard work they have put in so far this season at the Blue and White intrasquad meet Friday night. 

Throughout the week, the two teams had challenges during practice that created team bonds and added more competition to prepare for the intrasquad. The challenges included performances on main sets, kick sets, and even a dance off, which the White team won.

Going into the intrasquad, the White team was in the lead with 20 points while the Blue team had 10 points. The White team continued their lead at the intrasquad where they came out victorious with a score of 319 to 265 points.

The 16-event format included the one-meter and three-meter diving events, the 100 and 200 yards of each stroke, 200-yard Individual Medley, 50-yard Freestyle, 500-yard Freestyle, the 1000-yard freestyle and two relays.

The diving events took place prior to the swimming events. Junior Megan Springsteen and Sophomore T.J. Shenkel both won their events for the Blue team.

The Blue-White meet not only created an opportunity for the swimmers and divers to perform, but it also gave the coaches and athletes a chance to see where they're bodies and minds are so far this season.

A stand out winner on the women's side was Junior Gabi Shishkoff, who won the 200-yard butterfly, 200-yard Individual Medley, and 1,000-yard Freestyle by large margins for the White team. On the men's side Junior Matt Salig won the 200-yard Butterfly and the 200-yard Individual medley, adding to the Blue team score. 

"It's a good start for me," Salig said. "There is still a lot of room for improvement and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season to continue improving on these areas. The atmosphere has been good and the captains have done a good job being positive and carrying that into our training. It's a fun group of guys to be with."

For several people on the team, this was their first chance to experience this type of atmosphere that Salig has been accustomed to for the past two years. Freshman Casey Fazio got her first taste of what to expect from collegiate competitions.

"It was really exciting seeing fast swims," Fazio said. "It was nice to see everyone compete and cheer like they did. I've never really been in that type of atmosphere before. This intrasquad shows where we are at and helps us see what we need to do for our meet next weekend."

Transfer student, Ryan Magee, was also excited to experience this atmosphere for the first time.

"I had a lot of fun and I've enjoyed how close the team is," Magee said. "This meet gives us the opportunity to see where we are in reference to our training and what we have been doing. It was also nice to get to see family here."  

The coaching staff looks at the Blue-White meet as an opportunity to get back into racing and figure out the lineup for their upcoming meet against West Virginia in a week.

"It opened our eyes to a few kids," head coach John Hargis said. "We were mainly watching the youngsters. It gave the swimmers an opportunity to knock rust off, some did and some need to improve to be able to beat West Virginia next week. As a staff, this helps us come up with the best line up to beat them and look at the people still in question to make sure we are making the right choices."

Follow the Penn State swimmers and divers next week as they take on West Virginia University in Morgantown, W. Va.

Swimming & Diving Big Cat Day

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Entering his fifth year as head coach of the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, John Hargis has established a tradition to cap off the intense preseason dryland that starts each year.

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The highly anticipated day, known to all swimmers as "Big Cat Day", happens after five weeks of Saturday circuits and is built up to be one of the hardest challenges they will face throughout the year.

The captains are in charge of partnering the swimmers and each pair goes through 44 different dryland stations that are set up around the three pool decks. The exercises vary anywhere from doing cleans with sandbags to flipping tires to side crunches and dips. The coaches make sure that every muscle is worked to fatigue in this circuit.

"The day originated on it's own," Hargis said. "The inspiration came from when I was an athlete at Auburn and we would go through circuits similar to this but ours were based around the weight room. I wanted to do something like that when I became head coach so I sat down with the coaches that were here my first year and we came up with it."

Hargis has designed the dryland circuits to build up to the final "Big Cat Day", making it the most significant day of the five-week program. The first Saturday of the circuit the swimmers are introduced to each exercise and only go through the stations once. The second, third, and fourth weeks, the swimmers go through the circuit twice and in the fifth week, they are challenged to go through all 44 stations three times.

"The time for how long they stay at each station differs each week," Hargis said. "Week three and four, we give them more rest because we want to make it more about quality versus rushing through it. If they are not doing things right, we'll back up stations and redo it because we know they can do better."

Even before the fifth week arrives, all the swimmers are talking about "Big Cat Day" and know they are going to be challenged in ways they did not know were possible. However, not everyone knows the meaning behind the name and where it originated.

"We make the very last one extremely meaningful and call it 'Big Cat Day'," Hargis said. "At the time when we came up with the circuits, the club team was named 'Big Cat' so we took that name. We wanted to know who's the toughest, who's the biggest, and who's going to be the bigger animal. It has become a tradition where you can create your own attitude. Every year the kids talk about it and the kids know what to expect."

In addition to being physically tested, "Big Cat Day" creates a sense of confidence that the athletes can use later in the season.

"They take their bodies beyond what they ever thought they could do," Hargis said. "They know it's a huge feat they got through and they have that in their mind that they can always look back on and reflect."

After "Big Cat Day" is over, the coaching staff comes together to choose a male and female pair to be named the "Big Cat" of the preseason.

"We go through the past five weeks and look for who has improved the most, who gave the best efforts and decide which group deserves the acclaimed title," Hargis said. "Within that is hard work, accountability, and who works hard all the way through. We haven't had the chance to sit down as a staff and decide the winners yet for this year."         

Leading a Team: The Captains' Perspective

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At some point during the spring, the swimmers and divers come together for a meeting. Index cards and pens are handed out and it's time to vote for captains for the remainder of the spring and into following year.

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These individuals are selected to step up in any situation and become leaders. They are responsible for coordinating recruiting events, acting as the liaison to communicate between the coaches and swimmers and they are expected to create a positive atmosphere no matter what the circumstances may be.

Teammates and coaches selected senior Amy Modglin and senior Paige Whitmire for the women's team while junior Chris Cipolla and junior James Wilson were chosen for the men's team.

Modglin, who was also a captain last year, has enjoyed the opportunity to be a leader and has grown from the experience.

"From last year, I learned a lot about what makes the team click and which approaches work and which ones don't," Modglin said. "I've been constantly learning from others and trying to improve in any way that I can."

Even though there are four people chosen to take on leadership roles, Modglin knows how important it is for everyone to do their part in order for the team to work together.

"Making sure that there are not just four leaders is how we keep unity in the team," Modglin said. "Everyone on the team has their own role and it's important that each person figures out what that means they have to do in order to meet our goals at the end of the year."

Helping Modglin lead the team, Whitmire is a captain for the first time this year and has already made an impact.

"Being selected as a captain this year means a lot to me," Whitmire said. "It was a goal of mine since I became part of this team to be a leader and it means so much to have teammates that think of me in that way. I care a lot about the team and want to do whatever I can to make it better."

Whitmire has also gained more insight into not only what it means to become a leader, but also what it takes to be a captain of the swimmers and divers.

"I've learned a lot since I've been a captain, but one of the biggest things I've learned is everything you do matters," Whitmire said. "From your body language to what you say, you are being watched all the time. You have high expectations and there are no excuses where you can just take a day off. You always have to be positive and working hard."

After learning from past captains, Cipolla felt honored to take on this role as a junior, especially for a program that continues to excel.

"On the papers, we have one of the best classes Penn State swimming has seen yet and it's an honor that I will be able to lead this team," Cipolla said. "I looked up to the captains that we had my freshman and sophomore year and they helped make me the person I am today. Hopefully I will be able to do that for the underclassmen this year."

Welcoming the freshmen and making sure everyone is on the right track is one of the many responsibilities captains are in charge of coordinating. Cipolla and Wilson have made sure that the freshmen have adjusted well and feel comfortable with the team.

"When the freshmen come to town for their FTCAP days, we try to see them and invite them over just to hang out before they're even at school," Cipolla said. "Just about every weekend so far this year we have had some sort of team activity where we get dinner or go to a football game together. We are just as close with the freshmen as we are with our own class."

The common goal that all of these captains hope to achieve is helping out their teammates. Modglin does this through her actions and hopes to inspire underclassmen.

"I believe leading by example is the best way to be a leader," Modglin said. "You can talk all you want, but people will respect you for how you act and they're also more apt to listen to you. I hope to leave footprints for younger swimmers to follow in and guide them to where they want to be. If I could help just one person this year, I would be happy knowing I made a difference."

Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Team Dynamics

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Walking onto the pool deck of McCoy Natatorium on any given day, there will be five coaches and two managers standing over the lanes of the men's and women's teams. Some programs have separate practice times and schedules for the men and women, but the program at Penn State benefits from having a combined team where they all train and travel together.

Head Coach John Hargis has designed a program that can manage a team of 66 swimmers - 35 men and 31 women. Everyone starts out together at the beginning of the year, but later into the season, Hargis assigns everyone to a group based on their individual events and the style of training that works best for them. He manages such large numbers by having sprint, short-middle distance, long-middle distance, and distance groups. This allows for the coaches to have a chance to make a more individualized training environment.

"I only see positives out of having a combined team," Hargis said. "There's obviously a difference in males and females work load and the training styles can be different, but it's up to the coaches to recognize that and make those changes. We do have more staff that allows us to spread the work out."

Combining the two teams creates a variable of competition that otherwise would not be as strong.

"It ups the intensity of practice," Hargis said. "Girls go faster to catch the guys and the guys go faster because they don't want to get beat by the girls. Anytime you put athletes together they're going to push each other and make a better environment."

Since most club teams across the country have teams with men and women, the recruits that visit are used to this aspect of the sport. Having a combined team makes the adjustment into college easier because it is something they are already familiar with.

"The recruits come from age group programs that have combined teams so they are used to the environment," Hargis said. "Occasionally you will get an athlete who is looking for a single-sex program, but it's very rare. I always tell recruits - the swimmers can tell you this too - that we are a big family and that you always have big brothers and big sisters to push you through."

Although the men and the women train together and travel together throughout the year, when it comes time for championship season, there are two separate Big Ten Championship meets. The women's championship is one week before the men's and usually at separate locations.

"The way it is now gives both teams an individual championship and they don't have to share that focus," Hargis said. "With the numbers we have of 12 women's teams and 10 men's teams a combined championship would be too big. It could be fun to combine but it would be very long, very crowded and lots of heats. They would have to reduce the travel squad and I'm not in favor of that."

When Junior Mackenzie Powers would compete during her high school season, she had separate teams and would only be around women. She has had the opportunity to experience both types of atmospheres. Since coming to Penn State, she has enjoyed being in a combined team setting.

"I do like having a combined team because it gives you more opportunities to push yourself and creates more competition since there are more people to race," Powers said. "The boys balance out the girls well and keep the environment fun."

When it comes to how well the coaches manage all of the swimmers and their different needs, Powers feels that the coaches do a really good job of handling it all.

"They have the same expectations for the girls and the boys," Powers said. "Being able to have five coaches and four different groups creates an atmosphere that gives the swimmers more attention and allows the coaches and swimmers to get to know each other better."

Freshman Jon Seiferth has only been around the team for a month, but can already tell the strong bond that the two teams share.  He also notices that despite having two different rosters, the school theme "One Team" describes Penn State swimming and diving well.

"Training together brings the team together as a whole," Seiferth said. "You can build new relationships, you have more training buddies, and you push each other. The guys don't want to lose to the girls and everyone is cheering for each other."

A major difference between club swimming and swimming at Penn State is the amount of coaches that are on deck. Seiferth has enjoyed having the extra coaches, allowing the team to split up into different groups.

"When we split up into groups, the coaches help to make it much more individualized and they know what you can do," Seiferth said. "It's a big motivator knowing that they are at the end of your lane and cheering you on during sets."          

Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Tackle Tussey Mountain

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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When fans come out to the Natatorium for competitions to see the hard work that the swimmers and divers have put in, most spectators understand that the practices involve repetitive laps of swimming back and forth and that the divers practice dive after dive on the boards. What many do not realize, however, is that the Penn State Swimming and Diving teams incorporate an intense dryland program early in the season to ensure the athletes are in the best shape.

The coaching staff took a new approach towards getting the swimmers and divers back in shape. To create a team-bonding atmosphere this past week, the athletes spent Thursday morning running up and down Tussey Mountain.

After early alarm clocks went off and a short commute to the mountain, the swimmers and divers were ready to start this new adventure at 6 a.m. Standing in front of Tussey Mountain, which has an elevation of roughly 2,700 feet, everyone was ready to conquer the task at hand. Mental toughness became a factor when they realized they were going to be running it four or five times.

Freshman Kevin Glenn was not sure what to expect going into this practice, but pushed through the difficult practice with the help of his teammates.

"Our mentality when we got to Tussey was that we were going to do this challenge no matter what and we were going to get through it together," Glenn said. "Afterwards we knew we had all tried hard and it felt good knowing that I helped push others to be able to run up the mountain five times. Coming together as a team like this is one of the biggest differences between club swimming and college swimming."

Senior and captain of the women's team, Amy Modglin had a similar take on the whole experience and thought this practice showed how much the women's team supports each other and will help the team in the future of this season.

"Overall, it was a great experience as a team," Modglin said. "Knowing that your teammates are always behind you is what climbing a mountain together showed us. It will definitely help us at the end of the season and will give us a lot of confidence going into the season."

As opposed to past years, the divers have been joining the swimmers in dryland practices to create more unity between the two teams. Sophomore diver Meredith Harbison has enjoyed the unity factor over the past couple of weeks.

"In past years, the divers and swimmers were separate," Harbison said. "We had our own circuits and dryland, but this year we are more of one team and are doing everything together. We are getting in good shape and everyone has been really supportive."

Harbison also noticed a strong team bond form after running the mountain with the swimmers.

"Some of the girls ran the mountain four times while the faster runners went up a fifth time to support the girls that were falling behind," Harbison said. "It really showed our team bond of not leaving anyone behind and we all cheered to try and keep everyone motivated."       

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