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Dec. 10, 2012
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's swimming and diving team is off to a strong start its season. With a rigorous preseason, several meets and then an invitational against some of the best teams in the country, there is no stopping the Nittany Lions from working extremely hard at reaching their goals.
Head coach John Hargis said the athletes have done very well up until this point, but there is still some room for improvement.
"I think we've shown good progress through the year," Hargis said. "We've shown a good adaptation to the training this year. I think there are still some areas to improve that were glowing when we were down in Georgia racing against the very best."
The women started the season off with a win against West Virginia in October, then hosted Villanova at home, also ending with a win. The swimmers and divers continued to gain in season racing experience as they went to Indiana to race Indiana and Virginia. With each meet, the times continued to come down and their confidence levels continued to go up leading into the Georgia Invitational.
Their most recent competition featured teams from all across the country, including Auburn, Georgia, Harvard, California, Virginia Tech, and Virginia. The Nittany Lions took advantage of the opportunity to race against some of the top ranked teams in the country.
"The best part so far has been being able to race and keep up with some of the top teams in the nation at the Georgia Invite," Caitlyn Karr said.
For Hargis, the highlight of the season has been seeing the success and rewards of their hard work pay off after each race.
"I've enjoyed watching the kids succeed," Hargis said. "The hard work the kids go through on a daily basis, seeing them swim well, seeing them smile, and seeing them enjoy the process has been exciting."
Since the swimming and diving teams are well into the season, the freshman are starting to get used to this style of racing and training. Megan Siverling has noticed this especially in Alyson Ackman.
"Aly Ackman has been a huge contributor to the team so far," Siverling said. "She's ranked first in the Big Ten in the 100 free, 200 free, and 500 free and posted several NCAA B cuts."
The NCAA comes up with two sets of time standards at the beginning of each season called A cuts and B cuts. An A cut guarantees the person a chance to swim at the NCAA Championships in March. The time standards for A cuts are much faster and very few swimmers across the nation reach this standard. At that point, swimmers with B cuts will be selected based on their times from fastest to slowest until the designated number of spots are filled.
Ackman swam to three individual NCAA B times in the 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, and 500-yard freestyle. She was also part of the 800-yard freestyle relay (along with Kaitlin Jones, Caitlyn Karr, and Gabi Shishkoff) and 400-yard freestyle relay (along with Carolyn Fittin, Kaitlin Jones, and Paige Whitmire) that posted times under the NCAA B time standards.
"This season has been really fun for me but also hard," Ackman said. "I've loved the support of the team. I was the captain of the last team I was on and there were problems with negativity and I saw the difference being positive makes. I've been trying to bring that experience to make a difference on this team."
Looking ahead for what's to come later in February, Ackman is already excited for Big Tens.
"I can't wait to see where we place against the other Big Ten teams," Ackman said. "After seeing what I went in season at Georgia, I can't wait to see what will happen when I'm rested and fully tapered."
The College Swim Coaches Association of America has released the latest NCAA Women's Division I rankings, and the Penn State women have moved up to the 12th spot.
Hargis said he tries not to pay too much attention to the rankings that came out this past week, although he has seen them.
"I think it's a compliment to the program and the kids and the hard work they put in," Hargis said. "Ultimately no matter where you're ranked, we've got to be ready to swim fast in February and March and I think the kids understand that."
Up next for the swimmers is a trip to Naples, Fla. for their annual training trip. After several days of hard work, the Nittany Lions will take on the North Carolina on Jan. 5 while still in Florida. The divers will spend a few days in Knoxville, Tenn. for the Tennessee Collegiate Diving Invitational.