The Penn State Nittany Lions have concluded their season with a strong showing at the BIG Swimming and Diving Championship. The meet, which took place on the Campus of the University of Iowa, featured some of the best swimmers in the country. BTN showed the highlights but unfortunately Penn State was not highly featured since they were not Michigan. Michigan has one of the perennial men’s teams in the country, and therefore, Rowdy Gains couldn’t stop himself from talking about them ad nasueum. But the meet did feature the Nittany Lions swimming some very good races and even earning themselves a sixth place finish overall and breaking several Penn State records.
On the first night of competition the Nittany Lions had a very strong showing in the 200 Medley Relay. Entering the finals with a third place time, the Lions swam a good race (not without some questionable stroke technique) and walked away with a school record and a second place finish. The team of Nathaniel Savoy, Mitchell Scherer, Sean Grier, and Brian Alden finished second with a time of 1:25.61, which was 2 seconds faster than their qualifying time. The race was close throughout and came down to the final lap and even the finish. Penn State lost to Michigan by .03 but beat Ohio State for second by only .01. The Lions time was good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time. The Lions did not fare that well the rest of day one, but did end up getting very close to breaking another school record in the 800 free relay. The team of Matt Salig, Scott Marino, Seth Wensel and Shane Austin finished in 6:28.99, just .88 off the school record, set at last years’ Championship meet.
Day two saw a better showing by the Nittany Lions with two Nittany Lions would finish strong in the 200 IM. Scott Marino finished second with a time of 1:44.97 which was good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time, also 3 seconds faster than his seed time. Savoy would finish in sixth place with a time of 1:46.46 which was also good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time. Salig also earned an NCAA ‘B’ time, finishing in 16th place with a time of 1:47.91. In the 50 free, Shane Austin would finish in a three way tie for second place in the B final with a time of 19.96 and an NCAA ‘B’ time. Freshman Nick Ankosko broke his personal best time in the 500 freestyle, finishing in a time of 4:20.99. He won the C Final by over two seconds and lowered the second-fastest time in PSU history for the event.
The Lions would finish the day is good fashion in the 400 medley relay. The team of Savoy, Sherer, Grier, and Austin would finish second overall with a time of 3:09.09, 3 seconds off their seeding time, and good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time and a new school record.
The final day was a strong finish for the Lions at the BIG’s. Marino would follow up his 200 IM second place finish with a sixth place finish in the 400 IM. Marino’s time of 3:49.48 was good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time. This race showed the disparity between the top swimmers in the conference as compared with Penn State. Michigan’s Scott Whitaker took first place with a time of 3:41.04, better than 2 seconds faster than the second place finish. Whitaker has a chance to make it to London this summer, along with a few of his fellow teammates.
Sean Grier would have a strong showing in the 100 Butterfly, with a sixth place finish and a time of 46.83, an NCAA ‘B’ time. The event was a close race from start to finish with .81 separating first and seventh. The 100 Breaststroke had a duo of Nittany Lions finish in the top five. Scherer would finish fourth with a time of 53.21 and teammate Brian Alden taking fifth in 53.51, both good enough for a NCAA ‘B’ time. In the final individual event of the day, the Lions would take third and fourth overall when Nittany Lion’s Savoy would finish in third with a time of 46.60 and fellow Lion Grier would finish fourth with a time of 47.16, both good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time.
The final day of the meet, would also see a few Penn State school records fall and the crowning of a new Big Ten Freshmen of the Year award going to a Nittany Lion. Nick Anskosko would take seventh overall in the 1650, dropping 33 seconds off his seed time which also was good enough to become Penn State’s new record holder in the event as well. Anskosko’s time of 15:05.32 was also good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ time. Nathaniel Savoy would continue his strong performance at the BIG with a second place finish in the 200 Backstroke. Coming in with a time of 1:42.56 was also good enough for a NCAA ‘B’ time. Along with Savoy, Scherer also continued his strong swimming with a fourth place finish in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 1:56.78 and good for an NCAA ‘B’ time. The Nittany Lions would finish the meet with a seventh place finish in the 400 free relay, dropping almost 4 seconds off their seeding time, finishing with a 2:56.72 and NCAA ‘B’ time.
Overall the Nittany Lions would finish in sixth place with 332 total points. The meet was really going to be won by two possible teams, Michigan and perhaps Ohio State. But Michigan would have a very strong meet and dominate the field taking home their 36th BIG Championship meet title overall with a score of 738.5 points, followed by Ohio State (552.5), Indiana (549), Minnesota (403) and in fifth place Iowa (395). Michigan this year was head and shoulders above the rest of the field, having at least one swimmer in each final, but also having strong showings in the B and C finals to earn more points.
When the meet was over the first and second team All-Big Ten were announced. Brian Alden, Shane Austin, Sean Grier, Nate Savoy, and Mitch Scherer were all selected to the second team All Big Ten team for their excellent seasons. Along with these honors, Penn State took home their first ever Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Nate Savoy became Penn State's first Big Ten Freshman of the Year award recipient. For the meet the Lions took 25 new Top 10 times in school history to the record books. Overall it was a very good showing for the Nittany Lions, and was great to see Savoy be recognized for his strong season. As I mentioned in the other post for the women’s meet, Penn State will not be able to compete, especially in the men’s meet, with the rest of the BIG until they build their new natatorium. It will be very hard to get the best swimmers to come to Penn State when Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana are in the conference. Each year these schools have at least a few swimmers who could not only win the NCAA’s but also, considering this year, make a push to join the National team in London. Overall, a very good meet and year for the men’s team.
For the Glory.
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