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MINNEAPOLIS – Penn State concluded competition at the 2018 Big Ten’s Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships, placing eighth to conclude the four-day meet at the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Center.
The Nittany Lions accumulated 389.5 points. No. 3 Indiana (1,684 points) fended off No. 7 Michigan (1,617.5) for the team title, and was followed by No. 16 Ohio State (1,300.5), Purdue, (735.5), No. 21 Minnesota (712.5), and Wisconsin (696.5), in order.
Nittany Lion swimmers posted 47 career-best times during the meet, and 18 of the 25 that traveled to the meet scored. Junior diver Hector Garcia Boissier (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain) set school records in the 1-meter springboard on Thursday and the platform on Saturday.
“We did a lot of good things, but now we have to move forward and turn those best times into points,” said Penn State head coach Tim Murphy. “We had three freshmen, Gabe Castano, Hayden Harlow and Nathan Schiffmann who both contributed individually and on relays, and additional contributions from freshmen on relays.
“It was a good meet for us. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Penn State finished the meet with a seventh-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay. William Roberson (Fulshear, Texas), Ryan O’Neill (Howell, N.J.), Kaelan Freund (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) and Gabe Castano (Allentown, Pa.) all swam lifetime-best splits to finish in a season-best 2:56.00. O’Neill was the only upperclassman on the team, as Freund as a sophomore, and Roberson and Castano are both freshmen.
“It was a nice way to finish the meet,” said Murphy.
Particularly impressive was the senior captain O’Neill, who was honored as Penn State’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award recipient, as he set a personal-best time in every individual and relay event that he swam during the meet.
“I am very proud of Ryan O’Neill,” said Murphy. "To come in here and do that is not easy. That’s really just a reflection of who Ryan is and the work and time he has put into being a good teammate and a good competitor.”
Saturday featured nine Nittany Lions scoring with 17 best times. Freund posted the highest individual finish, placing 13th in the 200 breaststroke in 1:56.97, while freshman Hayden Harlow (Bentonville, Ark.) was also a finalist, placing 22nd with an NCAA B-cut time of 1:59.24. Harlow swam a 1:59.23 in the prelims to become the ninth-fastest performer in the event all-time at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions had three tally points in the 1,650 freestyle. Freshman Nathan Schiffmann (France) led the trio with a personal-best time of 15:23.59 to place 17th, while JP Cervone (Sao Paulo, Brazil) was not far behind in 21st with a personal-best of 15:26.80. Both times were NCAA B-cuts. Junior captain Robbie Dickson (Greenwich, N.J.) also scored with a personal-best 15:33.11.
Matthew DiNunzio (Murrysville, Pa.) and Sterg Dikos (Mohnton, Pa.) both made the C-final of the 200 butterfly, placing 19th (1:46.27) and 20th (1:48.19). DiNunzio’s time was a B-cut and both were season bests.
Additionally, Castano placed 23rd in the 100 free in 44.21 seconds after eclipsing the B-standard and his personal best in the preliminaries with a time of 44.09.
On the tower, Garcia Boissier placed 18th with a school-record score of 357.10 points.
“We finished the competition with solid performances by all three diving athletes,” said diving coach Dennis Ceppa. “Hector brought home a new school platform record while earning a few more points for the team. Jack Crow was consistent across all six of his dives in one of his strongest platform events to date. Bryce Hoch learned a dive on location to be able to compete with his teammates showing just how much of a team player he has become. We're very proud of these gentleman and their efforts!”
Eight Nittany Lions advanced to finals events on the third night of competition Friday.
The first to advance was Garcia, who reached the consolation finals of the 3-meter springboard, placing 14th with a score of 369.90.
Freund 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.
Harlow 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.
O’Neill swam an NCAA B-cut and personal best of 1:36.87 in the 200 freestyle preliminaries, ultimately placing 22nd in 1:37.17.
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 Castano, Roberson, 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.
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.
Castano 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.
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 Dickson 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, O'Neill, Eben Krigger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and DiNunzio also posted a season best in the 800 free style relay, touching in 6:27.26.
The Penn State men will next consider sending select student-athletes to participate in a “last chance” meet next Sunday. Otherwise, next up is the men’s and women’s NCAA Zone A Diving Regionals March 3-5 hosted by Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J.