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Feb. 3, 2013
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Family, friends, fans, and alumni filled the stands of McCoy Natatorium this past Saturday as seven swimmers and divers saw their last competition in their home pool against Towson on senior day.
Both the swimming and diving teams defeated Towson with final scores of 186-109 on the women's side and 186-101 for the men. However, the score was not the focus of the meet as much as honoring the seniors who have dedicated their last four years to bettering the program.
"Today was about the seniors being able to reflect back on their past four years," head coach John Hargis said. "We see them now as seniors and remember them as freshman and we think about the entire process they've been through. These guys are leaving with the program in unbelievable shape and it's because of people like them. That's what this meet was about and letting those guys race again in McCoy for the last time."
When the seniors made a commitment to be a part of Penn State's program, they knew the direction and goals of the program were changing. Each one of them brought something new to the program and grew into leadership roles that would impact the team for years to come.
"They've had a tremendous impact," Hargis said. "The leadership they've brought to the program to all aspects across the board have meant so much to the program as a whole. Every class is different with the character traits they bring and there's so many positives you can take from every single class that help develop the program. What these guys have brought is phenomenal and will be truly missed."
The leadership that this class brings everyday has contributed to the success that the team has seen throughout the year. Along with guiding the team, the seniors have provided a positive example for the other swimmers and divers to follow for next season.
"What they've taught the young people is going to continue to move this program forward and that's what you want out of these classes," Hargis said. "They're going to be missed in so many ways and remembered for what they've done for Penn State. They're always going to be a part of Penn State. The only thing that will change is that they won't always be student-athletes."
When sophomore Katelyn Miller came to campus for the first time, these seniors were among the upperclassmen that helped her find her way in a new environment.
"They're all positive role models, extremely hard workers, and they want to help the whole team out," Miller said. "During my freshman year, they were the one's there to help us through the first few months and continued to be there the next two years."
One of the aspects of the annual senior meet that makes it so special is the traditions that are passed down each year. The underclassmen decorate the locker room and make signs for each senior. Before the meet all of the swimmers and divers make a human tunnel for the seniors to walk through with their parents. At the end of the tunnel they receive flowers and a blanket.
"Today has definitely been overwhelming," Amy Modglin said. "When you're a freshman, sophomore, or junior it's sometimes annoying because you have to do so much to prepare for this meet, but once you're a senior you're so appreciative. It's worth doing the traditions for the seniors the other three years. It means so much to have the girls do all of this for you."
Transitioning from watching the traditions to actually being a part of them, Alex Marchinski enjoyed participating in them as a senior.
"It's definitely different having the traditions be for you," Marchinski said. "I never thought I'd reach that point and knowing how hard I worked to get to this point makes it nice to be recognized for the work I've put in."
For captain Paige Whitmire, experiencing senior day from the other side still does not seem real to her.
"It hasn't hit me yet that it's me as a senior," Whitmire said. "You go along wondering if I'm ever going to get to that point or if I'm ever going to make it to the end. It felt so good to be recognized, but I was sad. I tried to make the most of the situation rather than getting upset, but it feels good to know that it's finally me."
As a sophomore, Meredith Harbison saw this day as motivation for what's to come at the end of her career.
"It was sad to watch," Harbison said. "It's so hard while you're going through the practices but you see what they have done and what they have accomplished and it motivates me to keep pushing through. All of these seniors have led by example and we've really gotten to know them through their leadership."
With a short break from competition, the next time the Nittany Lions dive off the blocks will be in Minneapolis, Minn. for the women and Bloomington, Ind. for the men at Big Tens where the seniors will participate in their last championship season.