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Feb. 26, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Culminating nearly five months of intense training and hard work, the No. 24 Penn State men’s swimming and diving team will head to Bloomington, Ind. on Wednesday, Feb. 27 for the 2013 Big Ten Championships. The Nittany Lions (5-2, 0-1 Big Ten) look to capture their first conference championship since 1999 after a season full of individual accomplishment, relay excellence and a slew of broken records. Competition begins on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., and all events can be followed via Live Results.
The Penn State men’s swimming program boasts 15 overall individual Big Ten champions, with hopes to increase that number immensely with the heap of talent the 2013 roster holds. The Lions kicked off the season with one of the highest premiere rankings in years, named the No. 17 team in the country in late October. Head coach John Hargis, who has helped the squad flourish in his five years at the helm, looks forward to a successful run in the Big Ten Championships.
“I think what the men are going to do, it’s going to be exciting,” said Hargis. “We have opportunities to do some pretty special things. Hopefully, we’ll be breaking a lot of team records, as well, and hopefully we’ll be winning events. That’s the goal. All in all, I think it should be a very good week for us.”
After a sixth-place showing at the 2012 Big Tens, the Lions came away with 15 Top-Eight performances and three new school records, including a stellar second-place feat from the 200 medley relay squad of sophomore Nate Savoy (Reading, Pa.), junior Sean Grier (Hummelstown, Pa.) and Penn State alums Mitchell Scherer and Brian Alden. That team still currently holds the all-time school record for the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:25.61. Additionally, Savoy, Scherer, Grier and junior Shane Austin (Kennett Square, Pa.) earned second place in the 400 medley relay, posting the best Penn State finish and time in the event with 3:09.09. The same squad holds the all-time school record with a time of 3:07.62, set in 2012.
The 2012-13 Penn State relay squads have been leaving their mark in the school record books, as well. On Jan. 26, Savoy, junior James Wilson (Nottingham, Pa.), Grier and Austin set a new McCoy Natatorium pool record in the 200 medley relay, posting a time of 1:28.20. The Lions have also recorded NCAA B cuts in both the 200 medley (1:27.30) and 400 medley (3:12.17) relays, with each time currently resting at 16th in the nation.
Veteran experience will anchor the Lions going into the Big Ten Championships, with the members of the relay squads greatly contributing to the 21 NCAA B cuts produced so far this season. Grier has stepped up immensely in his junior campaign, demolishing four Penn State records this year alone, including his own record in the 100 fly. At last year’s conference championship, the Hummelstown native recorded personal best times in the 100 back (47.16) and the 100 fly (46.83), placing fourth and sixth, respectively. His performance in the 100 fly moved to the top of the record books, topping a 10-year old record originally set by Eugene Botes in 2002. However, Grier would wait less than one year to surpass that record once again.
On Dec. 1, 2012, Grier broke not one, but two school records in one day of competition at the Georgia Invitational. A time of 46.79 topped his own record by .04 seconds in the 100 fly, and the junior broke a three-year old record in the 100 back with a time of 46.38 seconds. Grier did not stop there, setting a new McCoy Natatorium record of 47.98 seconds in the 100 fly against Navy on Jan. 26 and breaking a 13-year old pool record in the 100 back with a time of 48.00 seconds on Nov. 11, 2012 against Villanova. Undefeated this season in both events and holding six individual NCAA B cuts, Grier currently sits at fourth in the nation in the 100 back and 14th in the nation in the 100 fly.
Also having a remarkable season, Savoy will head into the 2013 Big Ten Championships after being named the 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. In his first ever championship competition, the then rookie took third in the 100 back with a personal best time of 46.60 and placed second in the 200 back with a personal best time of 1:42.56. This season, Savoy has continued to push to best himself, recording three NCAA B Cuts between the two events. His season best time of 47.36 seconds in the 100 back rests at 27th in the nation, while his time of 1:43.83 in the 200 back sits at 32nd.
Wilson, one of the 2012-13 captains of the Lions, continues to contribute on the relay teams, as well as individually. Recording a season best time of 55.23 seconds in the 100 breast, the junior qualified for the NCAA Championships on Dec. 1, 2012 at the Georgia Invitational. Wilson has a history of performing well at the Big Tens, notching his personal best time of 54.88 in the 100 breast at last year’s championships. The time is fourth-best in school history. Likewise, relay teammate Austin holds the fifth-best all-time performance in the 100 free (43.85), which was recorded at the 2012 Big Ten Championships. Additionally, the Kennett Square native holds the fifth-best school time in the 50 free with 19.80 seconds.
Individually for Penn State, sophomore Nick Ankosko (East Brunswick, N.J.) has recorded two NCAA B cuts in the 500 free (4:22.28) and the 1,650 free (15:14.80), which is the 35th-best time in the nation. Ankosko holds the all-time school record in the 1,650 free with a time of 15:05.32, which earned him seventh-place at the 2012 Big Ten Championships. The sophomore also has the second-best Penn State time in the 500 free, also recorded at the 2012 Big Tens, with 4:20.99. Junior Matt Salig (Downingtown, Pa.) joins the distance swimmer in qualifying for the NCAA Championships, swimming the 200 fly in 1:47.63 at the Georgia Invitational on Dec. 2, 2012. Salig currently holds the Penn State record for the 200 fly with a time of 1:44.18, set in 2012.
On the diving side, sophomore T.J. Schenkel (Richboro, Pa.) has exceeded qualifying scores on both boards a combined three times. On Nov. 10, 2012, Schenkel recorded a personal best score of 332.92 on the three-meter board, and went on to post a score of 301.05 on the one-meter board to win both events. Additionally, the sophomore again qualified on the three-meter board on Jan. 12 against Missouri State with a score of 321.10. On the platform dive, Schenkel’s season best score rests at 212.60, recorded on Jan. 5 at the Tennessee Diving Invitational.
Expected to also step up for the Lions, co-captain Chris Cipolla (South River, N.J.) has won the 100 breast three times this season. The junior holds the fourth-best time in school history in both the 200 breast (1:59.74) and the 400 IM (3:51.57). Both times were recorded at the 2012 Big Ten Championships. Emerging as another leader this season after transferring from Maryland, junior John Hauser (Pottstown, Pa.) has led Penn State all season in the 200 free and has been consistent in his performance in the 500 free. The junior has won the 200 free four times this season and posted a season best time of 4:25.71 in the 500 free at the Georgia Invitational. Rounding out the experienced swimmers for Penn State, junior Andrew Sideras (Philadelphia) and sophomore Jeff Young (Hershey, Pa.) add depth to the freestyle events, as well.
Armed with an immense pool of talent, Hargis expects big things from the Lions at the 2013 Big Ten Championships, possibly including the program’s first individual Big Ten Champion since 2006. “We just need everyone to come together and need everyone to be on point at the same time,” said the head coach.
For complete Big Ten Championship coverage and the complete order of events, click here.
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