With a new school year brings new athletes and yet another season for the fall sports teams. After a successful 2015-2016 season, the Shippensburg University men’s and women’s swim teams are looking to make even bigger waves in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) this fall and winter season.
SU swimming’s head coach, Tim Verge, is very hopeful for the upcoming season.
“I think we have the potential to be pretty good, I think we’re a little deeper in some events maybe than we have been in the past,” Verge said. “We’ve got a really good group coming back and we’ve got, for both teams, some very good people coming in that are going to help us.”
The men’s team will be adding seven new swimmers to their roster, while the women’s team will be adding five new swimmers. Although Verge would not go into detail, he expects there to be a few athletes who will step up and stand out amongst the newcomers.
“We definitely have some potential stand outs. I really think a lot of them are going to be able to play a big role in how we perform,” Verge said.
The question remains if the returners and newcomers will be able to fill the shoes of departed seniors Carolyn Meier, Rikki Sargent, Jake Dunnigan and Stefan Szilagyi. All four athletes had made big contributions to SU’s swimming program, along with top finishes in the conference meet last spring.
“Potentially, we could take a big hit,” Verge said of losing the seniors to graduation. But Verge is convinced the losses can be made up. “I think we have people who can step in, and through the depth across the board and the number of them, even make those points up and then some.”
Verge believes the individual self-improvement of each swimmer is what will bring the team success as a whole.
“Every year our goal for the team is for everyone to just swim lifetime bests and do their personal bests,” Verge said. “It shows they’re succeeding; they’re improving themselves, which really is one of the nice things with swimming. There’s a real measurable way to see that happen.”
Verge is hoping for at least a fifth-place finish for the men’s team at the PSAC Championship meet in the spring, and a fourth-place finish for the women’s team, although he believes the women’s team has the “potential to pop into the top three”. However, in order for these goals to be reached, Verge stressed the need for a healthy season.
“Last year, on both sides, we had some illnesses and injuries that really forced some of our better people to be out for a little bit,” Verge said. “Injuries or illnesses in any sport obviously play a big part in how things can go.”
Junior Erin Fife, who competes in the butterfly, individual medley and backstroke events, is no stranger to the battle against injury. She sustained a shoulder injury last season, but was able to overcome it to win a PSAC Championship in the 100-yard butterfly.
Fife’s personal goals for this season include improving her times from last year, winning the 100-yard butterfly again at PSACs and qualifying for NCAAs.
“This season I’m most excited about meeting all of the incoming swimmers and competing at all of the meets,” Fife said of what she’s looking forward to this season.
Sophomore Kadie Weaver, who competes in the butterfly and freestyle events, shared Fife’s excitement for the approaching season.
“I can’t wait to just cheer everyone on at the meets and see what this amazing team can do in the sport of swimming,” Weaver said. “Last year we always had so much fun just being there for one another. I just can’t wait to see how we work together as a team/family.”
For senior Sami Sabol, whose specialty is in the backstroke and freestyle events, this season is about being a leader and enjoying her final season in SU’s waters.
“As a returner and leader for the team, I would like to create a fun, encouraging, hardworking and exciting culture for the team,” Sabol said. “I would like to lead by example and show the incoming freshmen what Ship swimming is all about.”
Although Sabol has personal goals of improving her time in the 100-yard backstroke and moving up in the Shippensburg all-time Top 10 list, she feels having fun is just as important.
“I would like to have fun this year, most importantly. For many of us seniors, this is the last time we will be swimming competitively,” Sabol said. “Many of us have been swimming since the age of five or six, so we’re all just trying to have fun and enjoy the last year.”
Although swimming is classified as a winter sport, the SU men’s and women’s swim teams will officially begin their competitive season on Friday, Sept. 30. The Raiders will battle Southern Connecticut State University and West Chester University at its first meet.