While Clarion seeks to earn the first place position at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference to beat the Golden Rams for all-time wins, the men’s and women’s swimming teams have proved their dominant status in the first two days of competition.
The men’s and women’s swimming teams expanded their leads and moved further away from Clarion at the PSAC’s on Thursday and Friday, at Cumberland Valley High School.
The men’s team, which is seeking their 25th overall win against nine teams in the PSAC’s, started the first day by breaking the record in the 200-yard medley relay. Alex Muraro, Dave McCormick, and returning members Calvin Starosta and Ryan Stahley finished with a time of 1:31.31 to defend their title and qualify for NCAA ‘B’.
Clarion’s medley team finished second place with a time of 1:33.22 which also qualified the team in NCAA ‘B’.
“Clarion has a rich and proud tradition,” head coach Jamie Rudisill said. “But this year in particular we have an unusual amount of depth. And that’s after losing one of our top men, freshman Andrew Miller, to a back injury. We have an honest shot at having all 18 men, the maximum allowable for the conference team, score in all three of their individual events. We’ve never done that.”
The men started the day off on a high note, as freshman Jared Haley and junior Tommy Rhoads gave WCU a substantial lead after the second event, finishing first and second, respectively, in the 1000 freestyle. Haley finished in 9:22.98, while Rhoads finished runner-up for the second consecutive year at 9:24.83. Both were NCAA ‘B’ qualifying times.
WCU’s Tommy McMahon and Tyler Adams finished 12th and 13th, respectively.
After day one, the men’s team took the lead with 85 points, followed by Gannon and Edinboro who tied for second with 49 points. Clarion, WCU’s biggest perceived competitor, trailed behind in fourth place.
Day two produced similar results for the Rams with four additional first-place finishes on Friday.
While Rhoads and Stahley took additional individual wins, they also contributed to 200-yard freestyle relay and the 400 medley relay wins.
Friday set the Golden Rams comfortably in first place with 303 points, followed by Edinboro with 184, and Clarion third with 177.
The 200 free relay team, comprised of Rhoads, Muraro, Starosta and Stahley, finished with an NCAA ‘B’ qualifying time of 1:22.17.
Starosta and Stahley returned for the 400 medley relay, along with Bogdan Grebenyuk and Muraro, and finished in 3:24.26—another NCAA ‘B’ qualifying time.
“I’d watch the 200 free and 800 free relays, with the possible emergence of the 400 medley relay,” Coach Rudisill accurately predicted the races to be the strongest group of swimmers. “Those would be the three with the best shots at moving on to nationals.”
Coach Rudisill’s predictions continued as he bet on Stahley in the 50 free. Stahley took the individual title, touching the wall in 20.6 seconds, which also qualified him for an NCAA ‘B’ time. Muraro finished in 21.41 seconds for fifth place while Starosta took seventh finishing in 21.58 seconds.
“This year I am going to do everything to defend my title in the 500 free,” Rhoads said before the competition. “I’ve won this event every year since my freshman year, so coming back and defending my title is something that I would love to be able to do.”
Rhoads succeeded with his expectations, as he and Haley extended the victories in the 500 free. Rhoads placed first with a time of 4:29.76 while Haley trailed just behind for second place with a time of 4:33.62. Both qualified for NCAA ‘B’ times.
“Rhoads should be the favorite in the 500, and will have to beat last year’s champ, Appleby from Clarion, in the 200 free,” Rudisill said.
McCormick took the runner-up slot in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:52.15, which also qualified for an NCAA ‘B’ time. Bogdan Grebenyuk placed sixth (1:55.72), Phil Letcavage took seventh (1:56.20) and Evan DeaKyne finished in 1:57.4.
Clarion’s earliest finisher did not qualify for nationals and finished in ninth place.
The women had similar success in the first two days, holding a strong advantage in first place against a total of 13 teams in the PSAC’s, also at Cumberland Valley High School on Thursday. The women look to earn their sixth straight championship at the PSAC’s.
Day one yielded 121 points for the Golden Rams, giving the women an early lead in the competition. Bloomsburg sat far behind in second at 46 points. Clarion sat in eighth place with a mere 31 points.
The Rams started the meet off with a win in the 1000 free from freshman Alexis Walley, who finished with a time of 10:12.20. Kacie McNichol finished second in 10:12.55 and Codyanne Murtaugh came in third with a time of 10:33.64. Freshman Kendall Somer finished fifth with a time of 10:29.54, while Mackey McGeary was 12th, finishing in 10:35.79. Each was an NCAA ‘B’ qualifying time.
The 200 medley relay team, comprised of Megan Winslow, Dani Doughty, Leah Varvo and Murtaugh, also took first, finishing in 1:45.55.
“We’ve built this team for this meet,” Rudisill said. “We have an honest shot, as with the men, of having the 18th best swimmer score in all three of her individual events. It’s never been done before.”
Day two offered continued success with wins in the 400-yard medley and an individual victory in the 500 freestyle for Murtaugh.
Murtaugh finished with an NCAA ‘B’ qualifying time of 5:00.29. McNichol also had an NCAA ‘B’ time of 5:02.17 for third. Walley finished ninth, while Kathy Gast and Skylar Doss were 12th and 13th, respectively.
Winslow earned second in the 200 individual medley final with a time of 2:06.7, and Amelia Buckley took sixth with 2:09.13. Lauren Carastro took ninth with a time of 2:08.8. Each had NCAA ‘B’ times. Kim Brownrigg finished 12th, while Jess Healy took 14th and Lauren Keenan took 15th.
“I think that everyone I will be swimming against is a great competitor,” Buckley said of the competition before the PSAC’s. In spite of the thick competition, her 400 medley relay team prevailed.
The 400 medley relay team consisted of Winslow, Buckley, Varvo and Murtaugh, which also took first with a time of 3:49.94, another NCAA ‘B’ time.
In the days ahead, the Rams are set comfortably to continue their domination of the PSAC’s.
“I believe the team this year is extremely strong and only becoming stronger,” Buckley said of the young team. “Last year we lost a huge group of seniors, but with all the new swimmers we brought in I feel confident about our success as a team.”
Rhoads is preparing for the remaining days in the competition by keeping focused on his events ahead.
“I don’t feel that there is just one person that is going to be my biggest competitor,” Rhoads said. “The PSAC conference has many talented athletes, and I just don’t want to let my guard down by just focusing on one individual.”
With the excitement in the first two days of the competition, Rudisill prepared viewers for more to watch over the next two days.
“Watch for the three best of our distance girls: McNichol, Murtaugh and Walley, to shine,” Rudisill said. “They’re head-to-head in the 500, 1000 and 1650. Buckley will be tested
by Cal’s National Champion sprinter, Melissa Gates, in the 100 breast, and by IUP Mitidieri in the 200 breast. Varvaro will lock horns with Clarion’s Oberlander and IUP’s Hynson in the 200 fly.”
Rudisill also discussed Winslow’s success as a sophomore, “A dark horse in the 200 IM could be Winslow. She hadn’t been under 2:17 coming out of high school, and is already down to a 2:07 this year, and she could drop some more.”
Rhoads discussed the strength in the young team and his confidence in their future success.
“The dynamic on this team has been a little different than past years,” he said. “We have no seniors on our team, which makes us probably one of the youngest teams in the conference. As a team I feel that we are a stronger team than last year. At our mid-season meet we had some very nice swims out of everyone, which has given us the confidence that we need going into conferences.”
The men and women will follow the same schedule on Saturday and Sunday, facing the preliminaries in the morning and the finals in the evening.
Brynn Dougherty is a fourth-year student majoring in economics and finance with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at BD670913@wcupa.edu.
*Note: This issue went to press before the results for Saturday and Sunday took place. The times of the races can be found online at www.wcupagoldenrams.com.