Early meets go swimmingly for Gannon

Gannonsports.com
(Gannonsports.com) Senior swimmer Sarah Lewton (above) posted a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference qualifying time in the 100-yard backstroke during the team's victory over Penn State Behrend.

After rocky starts, the Gannon University men’s and women’s swimming teams have found their sea legs at the midpoint of the season.

Swimming and diving coach Nathan Walters characterized the teams’ sudden hot streak as “timely,” as the women improved to a 4-2 record in dual meets to go along with a win at the Westminster Relay meet. The men carry a 2-2 dual meet record with a pair of first-place finishes to their credit.

Walters said he believes this group has shown enough to reach new heights.

“We have done a nice job of focusing day to day and week to week,” the third-year coach said. “This is the most coachable group of athletes I have had at this program thus far, and even when we lose a bit of focus we have done a nice job of bringing it back quickly, which is something that is necessary in an enduring sport such as this one.”

After the Gannon women had to contend with a brutal beginning to their 2010-11 schedule facing off against four Division I programs at the Cleveland Invitational, the Knights have hit their stride, besting the six-team field at the Westminster Relay meet before claiming a pair of wins over regional foes Allegheny College and Penn State Behrend.

The wins not only gave the Knights some confidence heading forward, but also qualified numerous swimmers for the PSAC championships.

In just the last two dual meets alone, the women have qualified 14 times for the conference championships, while the men have met the requirements 13 times.

Before a close 116-114 loss to Penn State Behrend Nov. 22, the Gannon men had taken first place in each of their previous four competitions.

The most impressive of the Knight’s wins was a dramatic 160-139 victory over D-I Niagara University in the season-opening Cleveland State Invitational on Oct. 15.

With the Knights heading into the final race of the night trailing, the 200-yard freestyle relay team placed second with a time of one minute and 28 seconds to beat Niagara by 0.62 seconds.

Although Gannon’s triumphs may seem sudden to the casual fan, for Coach Walters, they are a long time in the making.

Walters said he has pushed his swimmers to new levels of in preparation in hopes to prime his team for the long haul as well as instill a new mindset.

“These athletes are conditioned very well to handle the long season and thus they are swimming tired,” he said. “With that in mind, their performances have been on par with the difficulty in the training.”

With the Mid-Season Invite this weekend at Wooster, Ohio, the Knights’ mettle will once again be tested and Walters said he will be watching closely.

“This weekend will be a very accurate assessment of what we need for the second half of the year as well as a progression measure of the first half,” he said. “I’m excited for them.”

JOE CUNEO

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