The Gannon University men’s and women’s swim teams wrapped up their seasons by finishing third and seventh, respectively, in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championships last week at York.
But two members of the men’s team might not be done yet, as there’s a chance they’ll move on to the NCAA Division II meet, which begins March 13 in Indianapolis.
Brent Benedict and Robert Bolmanski both have made what is referred to as “B-cut” times in specific events, which means they could qualify for the national meet depending on the number of swimmers who had notched those times this season.
Benedict has B-cut times in the 50-yard freestyle, 200 backstroke and 100 butterfly while Bolmanski has a B-cut time in the 500 freestyle.
The NCAA is scheduled to release a list of qualifiers Wednesday.
Benedict, who took a year off from swimming after competing at Virginia Tech for two seasons, said he was pleased with how his season went individually.
“There was some worry about how I would perform after that much time out of the water, but it was exciting to still be able to compete,” he said.
However, he said he was much more excited about how well the team performed during the season, noting that a number of school records fell and the fact that the Knights managed to take third at the PSAC meet with a relatively small roster.
Benedict called that third-place finish “an insane accomplishment.”
Benedict said the team had the mindset to grow together and push each other to be better. “That created an environment that demanded improvement and I think that shows,” he said. “It was more than one person stepping up and having a good year, but an entire program stepping up to rewrite almost the entirety of the record board and putting Gannon swimming in the forefront of the PSAC conversation.
“To piggyback off that environment is what pushed me to be able to place as well as I did at the meet.”
The PSAC Championships began on Feb. 20 and concluded Saturday at the Graham Aquatics Center.
The men´s team wound up the meet Saturday with six podium finishes, led by the 400-yard freestyle relay team, which set a school record with a time of 3 minutes, 3.73 seconds.
Swimming on the relay were Thomas Marshall, Allan Collins, Jon Ekas and Benedict.
Benedict, meanwhile, wound up fourth in the 100 freestyle and tied teammate Marshall for eighth in the 100 freestyle. Ekas placed fifth in the 200 backstroke, two places ahead of Collins.
Bryce Ebel finished eighth in the 1,650 freestyle. As a team, the Knights wound up with 434 points while West Chester took the top spot at 858, followed by Bloomsburg with 699.
On the women´s side, Silvija Taraska earned an individual medal for fourth place in the 100 freestyle but was the lone individual to place among the top eight Saturday.
Taraska also joined Celia Kottakis, Allison Ahl and Courteney Hubert to place fourth in the 400 freestyle relay.
Gannon’s women finished seventh among 12 teams. West Chester took home the title with 1,913 points, followed by Indiana (Pa.) at 1,175 and Bloomsburg at 1,078.
Earlier in the meet, Gannon’s 200-freestyle relay team of Zoe Snyder, Ahl, Hubert and Taraska sped to a fourth-place finish with a time of 1:36.63.
Taraska also finished fourth in the 200 free at 1:53.81 and fifth in the 50 free at 24.07.
Gannon’s 800-free relay team of Ahl, Kottakis, Hubert and Taraska wound up fourth at 7:47.52.
For the men, the 200 medley relay team of Benedict, Ekas, Luke Engel and Collins raced to a third-place finish in 1:32.31, a school record, on the meet’s opening night.
Bolmanski finished fourth in the 1,000 freestyle, three spots in front of Joseph Deemer. Benedict finished fourth in the 50 free while Ekas was sixth in the same event.
Gannon’s 800 free relay team of Bolmanski, Marshall, Deemer and Benedict wound up second with another school record of 6:51.22.
On Thursday, the 200 freestyle relay team of Benedict, Engel, Collins and Ekas set a school standard of 1:23.35 to place third. Individually, Bolmanski finished third in the 200 free while the 400 medley relay team of Ekas, David Gallion, Engel and Bolmanski finished fourth.
Bolmanski continued to shine Friday as he placed second in the 500 free with an NCAA B-cut standard of 4:34.16.
Other medal winners Friday were Benedict, who was second in the 100 backstroke with a school record time of 49.42; Gallion, who placed third in the 200 butterfly; Ekas, who finished fourth in the 100 backstroke; Collins, who wound up seventh in the 100 backstroke; and Ebel, who was eighth in the 500 free.
Benedict wasn’t completely satisfied with his fourth-place finishes.
“While fourth is good, it was not exactly what I was hoping for, but next year is a new opportunity,” he said. “I wouldn’t have accomplished what I did without the rest of the team. We have a solid group of guys that are excited to be at practice and who are not afraid to step up at practice and push themselves, in turn pushing me.
“When we get tired we grind it out and embrace that pain, which is what makes us so good when we get to these big meets. Times are nice, but more often it is about getting your hand on the wall first, which is what we practice every day.”
cristina del diego