Entering the 2019-20 season, the Penn State Altoona men's and women's swimming teams are comprised of largely young rosters. But despite having a majority of freshmen swimmers on both the men's and women's teams, second-year head coach Brad Brooks believes that his squads have the ability to accomplish some big things this year.
Penn State Altoona's men's team will be led by its five returners from last season: seniors Tanner Yaw (Palmyra, PA/Palmyra) and Greg Landis (York, PA/West York) and sophomores Bryce Bauer (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone), Michael Begany (Strongsville, OH/Strongsville), and Tyler Stauss (Voorhees, NJ/Eastern Regional).
Brooks knows that his returners will need to provide consistency in the pool and leadership that is expected of experienced collegiate swimmers, and the coach is happy with what he has seen. With a larger roster than last season's men's team, he believes that the returners can be utilized more efficiently, both in practice and during competition.
"We are really pleased with the returners this year, and they all really understand their roles as leaders on the team. We did a great job by the end of last season of taking the first major steps towards building a program that we want moving forward," Brooks explained. "With a larger roster this year, we'll be able to do more effective training in specific training groups, which will help us as we move towards the conference championships."
Brooks believes that all of this will equate to improved performances from his five returning swimmers.
"Look for Tyler to make major drops in the distance events after a great first few weeks of training. Bryce will continue to lead our sprint group, and Michael will hold down important spots on relays and backstroke events," he stated. "Both Tanner and Greg will look to finish their careers strong as captains and top swimmers on the team through a variety of sprint and stroke events."
Added to this year's roster are seven freshmen: Taylor Bohn (Chadds Ford, PA/Unionville), Aravind Gnanasekaran (King of Prissa, PA/Methacton), HaoYing Hsieh (Allison Park, PA/North Allegheny), Kieran McKee (York, PA/West York), Isaac Swanson (Clearfield, PA/Clearfield), Ben Tilmes (Hanover, PA/South Western), and Sidney Webb (Allentown, PA/Parkland).
"We have a really talented group of freshman swimmers that should lead us to multiple team records and 'A' final individual conference swims. Sidney, Aravind, and HaoYing all provide much-needed depth to our breaststroke group and can swim a variety of secondary events to help us out in dual meets and on relays. Taylor and Kieran come in with sprint free times that would have been tops on our team last year, and both have lofty goals in the 50 and 100 free that I really think they can achieve based on a strong work ethic," said Brooks. "Ben provides depth in all distances of the freestyle events, which we definitely need after losing Andrew Lesnett last year. Isaac comes to us after an accomplished career at Clearfield High School, and his times are already faster than our school records in backstroke and freestyle events. This class can take us to new heights, and we see a lot of potential that can develop with continued hard work at practice."
Brooks expects that continued improvement will lead to greater success for the individual swimmers and for the team as a whole. He knows that this success will continue to establish a winning culture for the Penn State Altoona men's swimming program.
"Our focus remains to keep getting better each year and to build a culture of success, growth, and development of our athletes. We have a larger roster this year with even more talent than last year, and we have the potential to move up in the conference standings and break team records," Brooks explained. "All of the work that we are doing this year is setting us up for continued success moving forward with recruiting and individual athlete development within the program. With new teams competing in our conference, the speed and talent of other rosters will challenge us, but also act as a motivator to avoid becoming stagnant and continue to push the limits of what the program can become."
Sophomore Kaitlin Heil (Pittsburgh, PA/CAPA) returns for the Penn State Altoona women's swimming team this season, and Brooks is excited for what his second-year swimmer can achieve this year.
"We are really excited to have Kaitlin back this year. Last year, she was making a return to the sport after some time away, and she showed a lot of improvement through the season," he said. "We are looking this year to have Kaitlin expand her event lineup and get faster through the IM and longer stroke events, and her training so far has really reflected her hard work over the summer to take the next step in her career. Most importantly, Kaitlin will provide guidance and leadership as our only non-freshman swimmer on the team."
The women's squad welcomes a trio of freshmen to its ranks: Grace Dangelo (State College, PA/State College), Avery Heisey (Lancaster, PA/Conestoga Valley), and Gillian Lowe (York, PA/Dallastown).
"Our three freshman women's swimmers each bring something different to the table," Brooks stated. "Avery is a really strong sprinter and will be a major asset to our sprint relays. Gillian is strong through both the sprints and mid-distance freestyles, and Grace has versatility that stretches from fly, to IM, to all of the freestyle events. We are excited to mix up their events throughout the first few meets and see where we can find our sweet spots for training moving forward."
Brooks hopes that, through dedication to improvement, his women's swimmers will display a steady increase in their development throughout the upcoming season.
"Our focus this year is really on team and individual development, and being better than last year. I think we have an opportunity to break eight to ten records, which would be massive progress for our program as a whole," he said. "We want to continue to focus on recruiting and use this year's success as a basis to continue to improve year after year moving forward. I think this year's women really understand the culture and environment that we are establishing, and they recognize the importance of this year's success as it relates to the long-term success of the program."
The Penn State Altoona men's and women's swimming teams open their 2019-20 schedules on the road this Saturday, October 12, when they will compete in the annual Pitt-Bradford Relays at 1:00 p.m.