The Penn State Women’s Swimming and Diving team recently wrapped up their 2011-2012 season with a fifth place finish in the Big Ten championship meet held on the University of Iowa campus from Feb 15th – 18th. The Lady Lions could have taken as high as third place, except for a tie in the 400 free relay, a DQ in the 200 free relay and the absence of star swimmer, Amy Modglin.
The Lions started the meet with a team record in the 200 medley relay, with a time of 1:38.59; which actually ties with the previous Penn State Record set in last year’s championship match. The team of Paige Whitmire, Merritt Krawczyk, Mackenzie Powers and Sam Palser all teamed in the event to earn an NCAA `B' standard time. The Lions would end the first day in 5th place with 54 points.
Day two saw a heartbreaker for the Nittany Lions. The Lions 200 yard free relay would be disqualified for a false start; if they had not been it would have placed the Lions in great position to be on the medal stand for the relay. However, the Lions would bounce back with strong performances throughout the rest of the day in the 200 IM and 50 free. The big event of the day for the Lions was the 200 IM, where three Lions made it to the finals. Overall, the Lions would place 2nd and 6th in the A-Final event and 5th in the C-Final. Junior Merritt Krawczyk earned the second best overall time with a `B' standard time of 1:57.77. Sophomore Chelsea Weedman would finish 6th overall as she earned a time of 1:59.30, which is also a `B' standard, however it was a slower time than her prelim times coming into the final.
Following the IM, the Nittany Lions would have a strong showing in the 50 Free. Leading the way for the Lions was Senior Samantha Palser who took 2nd overall with a time of 22.41 good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time. Junior Paige Whitmire came in 4th with a time of 22.67, also good enough for a NCAA ‘B’ qualifying time. Senior Katherine Pulos added a 14th overall place tied finish of 23.12 to add a few points to the Lions strong day in the pool. The Lions would finish the day in fifth place with 118.5 overall points.
The final day of the Championship saw the Lions pull off a stunning win in the 400 Medley Relay. Sophomore Mackenzie Powers had a big day for the Nittany Lions. She was part of the 400 medley relay team that blew away the field and set a school and pool record for that event. Powers with fellow teammates Whitmire, Krawczyk and Palser earned a time of 3:33.50 to earn the Big Ten title. This time was also good enough for a team record along with an Iowa pool record, and a ‘B’ NCAA qualifying time. This was a good race, after the backstroke leg, the Lions were not in contention, but strong showings in the breaststroke, and especially the butterfly allowed the Lions to come from behind to shock the pool and take the gold.
One of the biggest individual races and finishes for the Lions came in the 100 butterfly when Mackenzie Powers took first place with a meet, and pool record as well as ‘B’ NCAA qualifying time of 52.25. Powers was seeded second going into the final but out touched Michigan’s Caitlin Dauw for the gold. The 100 breaststroke saw a very tight race where 0.16 separated second from the fourth placed finish of Lions own Krawczyk, which was again good enough for a ‘B’ NCAA qualifying time.
Similarly to the 100 breaststroke, the 100 backstroke was a tight race; in this case 0.24 separated second from the Nittany Lions own Whitmire’s fourth place finish of 53.26 and a ‘B’ NCAA time. Palser also had a strong showing in the 100 free, with a fourth place finish (only 0.40 separated second from fourth again) with a time of 48.97, another "B" time. Whitmire had an eight place finish but was not a good showing, her time of 49.88 was slower than her finals qualifying time, but was good enough for a ‘B’ time. Continuing their strong final day showing, Sophmore Chelsea Weedman finished fourth in the 200 fly with a ‘B’ time of 1:57.26.
The Nittany Lions would finish the day in dramatic fashion. The 400 free relay saw the Lions tie with the Wisconsin team for first place. The team of Samantha Palser, senior Erin Thomas, senior Katie Pulos and Paige Whitmire posted a time 3:16.12 more than a 5 second drop than their seeding time. That time for the Lions was a pool and school record.
The Lions would finish the Big Ten Championship in fifth place with a total score of 379.5 points. Overall the meet championship went to Minnesota with a point total of 680.5, followed by Indiana with 651, OSU with 560 and Wisconsin with a total of 411. This was a very strong showing for the Lions, their races looked real good, even though they did not win many events, they were able to place many swimmers in several finals and gain points where they could. Whitmire, Krawczyk, Powers, Palser, Pulos and senior Erin Thomas were all named to the First Team All-Big Ten.
Amy Modglin was not present at the meet, having been scratched before the meet began. The exact reason for this is not entirely known, or at least I couldn’t find the exact reason, but it has been reported that she was in the hospital the day the meet began and wasn’t released until a few days later. Hopefully Amy can bounce back from this and try and hit a last chance meet to gain entry into the NCAA’s. Having been able to watch at least some of the meet, whatever the BTN allowed me to watch, it shows that the Nittany Lions have some talent on this team, and should be even better next year. On the season the Lions had a 7-3 dual meet record, and placed many swimmers in the NCAA’s, mainly in the B pool. One aspect of this team that is holding them back a bit is outdated facilities on the campus of Penn State. Recently the Athletic Department is undertaking to raise money for a new pool; you could have the pool named after you if you provide a mere 20 million, along with this there is a long list of different areas of a new Natatorium that can be named after you, provided you give them money. A new pool will help bring in better recruits and possibly be able to hold some large meets on the campus once again, like the BIG Championships or even the PA state championship meet once again. Also recruiting in the state of PA will be a key to help the Lions out in the future. PA has some amazing swimming talent throughout the state. Just last year at the State meet, one male swimmer from Hersey beat Michael Phelps National record. If the Lions can tap into and really exploit some of this talent, the Nittany Lions, especially the women can compete and win more titles.
Coming up is the men’s BIG Championship meet. Once I can watch it and check out our men’s team (BTN will broadcast it next weekend) I can provide updates, and commentary on the team as a whole. The men’s team will not show as well as the women, since the BIG is stacked with men’s swimming teams, especially Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana.
For the Glory.
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