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MINNEAPOLIS – Eight Nittany Lions advanced to finals events on the third night of competition in the Big Ten Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships Thursday in Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.
The first to advance was Hector Garcia Boissier (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain), who reached the consolation finals of the 3-meter springboard, placing 14th with a score of 369.90.
Sophomore Kaelan Freund (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) became Penn State’s second-fastest performer all-time in the 100 breaststroke preliminaries, just missing the A-final in 53.14 seconds, and he placed 13th in 53.44 in the finals. Junior Gunther Cassell (Huntington, N.Y.) also swam in the event, posting a season-best and NCAA B-cut time of 54.76 in the prelims and placing 22nd overall at night in 54.84 seconds.
Freshman Hayden Harlow (Bentonville, Ark.) became the fourth-fastest Nittany Lion all-time in the 400 IM shaving more than six seconds off his personal best to place 15th with an NCAA B-cut of 3:50.29. Also joining him in the finals of the event was Nathan Bledsoe (Carmel, Ind.), who swam a season-best and B-cut of 3:53.10 in the prelims and placed 24th in 3:57.61 in the bonus final.
“Hayden did a nice job making it back to consols in the 400 IM,” said Penn State head coach Tim Murphy. “That was a big swim.”
Senior Ryan O’Neill (Howell, N.J.) swam an NCAA B-cut and personal best of 1:36.87 in the 200 freestyle preliminaries, ultimately placing 22nd in 1:37.17. He was honored as the team’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award recipient prior to the final heats. Just missing an evening swim in the 200 free was freshman Nathan Schiffmann (France), who swam a personal-best and B-cut time of 1:37.71 to rank 26th.
Penn State had two in the C-final of the 100 backstroke, as Liam Veregin (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) and Tomer Zamir (Gesher Haziv, Israel) posted season-best and B-cut times in the prelims of 48.03 and 48.07, respectively. Zamir moved ahead of Veregin in the finals though, placing 21st in 48.18 seconds, while Veregin was 24th in 48.83.
The Lions concluded the evening with a seventh-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay, as Gabe Castano (Allentown, Pa.), William Roberson (Fulshear, Texas), O’Neill and Austin Wilson (Grove City, Pa.) combined to finish in a season-best 1:19.21. O’Neill, Wilson and Roberson posted lifetime-best splits.
In total, Nittany Lions swam 14 best times for the night.
Penn State ranks eighth as a team with 292.5 points, trailing Iowa for seventh (377.5 points).
“Everybody accept one person swims tomorrow,” said Murphy. “We had some bumps and bruises today, but that kind of comes with the territory. We have a lot of big swimming tomorrow. In the miles, we need guys to really step up tomorrow morning, as we get our last opportunities to get points on the board.”
The meet resumes with preliminary heats at noon Saturday, with the finals scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. All sessions will be streamed live via BTN Plus on BTN2Go. Complimentary access to BTN2Go is available to viewers connected to the internet network of a Big Ten university. Fans elsewhere can sign up for the pay-per-view webcasts.
Thursday, a fifth-place finish and school-record score by Garcia Boissier led Penn State. Garcia put on his best performance in the 1-meter springboard, totaling 431.95 points to break his own school record of 405.15 set in February 2017 against Villanova.
Garcia was one of four individual finalists for the Nittany Lions Thursday evening, as a pair of freshmen led in the swimming events.
Freshman Gabe Castano (Allentown, Pa.) placed 12th in the 50 freestyle in 19.77 seconds, improving two places despite losing two-hundredths of a second off his preliminary time of 19.75, which was a personal best, NCAA B-cut and good enough to place him in a tie with Brian Hostetler (1999) for fourth all-time in the event.
Schiffmann also ascended to fourth in the Penn State annals in an event, winning the bonus final of the 500 freestyle in a personal best and B-cut time of 4:20.99. He placed 17th overall, but swam the ninth-fastest time in the finals.
“Nate got it started off really nice this evening winning the bonus heat,” said Murphy. “It was a heck of a swim for a freshman in his first Big Ten final. He just did a really good job racing and got us off to a good start.
“To have two freshmen getting points on the board like that at Big Tens is impressive.”
Also swimming in the finals was Freund, who placed 18th in the 200 IM in a season-best 1:46.69. Senior Connor Scanlon (Laurel, Md.) also scored in the 1-meter springboard, placing 21st with a total of 323.90 points.
Additional notable swims included a pair of Penn State all-time top-10 performances in the morning. In the 500 free, junior captain Robbie Dickson (Greenwich, N.J.) posted a personal-best swim of 4:24.90, moving up to eighth in school history. In the 200 IM, Harlow posted a personal-best and NCAA B-cut of 1:47.94 to rank ninth in school history.
The Nittany Lions totaled 12 best times on the day.
Wednesday, a pair of sixth-place finishes in the opening two relays marked the evening Veregin, Freund, Zamir and Castano opened the night for Penn State with a season-best time in the 200 medley relay, finishing in 1:26.16. Schiffmann, Ryan O'Neill (Howell, N.J.), Eben Krigger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Matthew DiNunzio (Murrysville, Pa.) also posted a season best in the 800 free style relay, touching in 6:27.26.
Saturday, Feb. 24 - PRELIMS at Noon
Platform Diving - Trials (1 p.m.)
Platform Diving - Consolation Final
1,650 Freestyle (Approx. 4:15 p.m.)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - FINALS at 7:30 p.m.
400 Freestyle Relay