Despite having a makeup of mostly underclassmen, the Shippensburg University men’s swimming team hit the pool at the York YMCA over the weekend and had a plethora of excellent performances during the 2018 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships.
The Raiders finished in sixth place as a team at the championships, despite having multiple swimmers reach the “A” final on the last day of competition.
SU’s finished with 281 points for the meet, finishing 115 points behind fifth-place Gannon University.
The Raiders kicked off competition on Wednesday night with some of its best performances of the weekend — including a second place finish in the 1,000-yard freestyle by sophomore Jeff Beyer.
Beyer found himself in the middle of the pack entering the final 200 yards of the event, but dug deep to push himself all the way to a comfortable second-place finish to grab a time of 9:34.99 — which was a personal best and a Top 3 finish in school history in the event.
“It felt really good. I was trying to hold the pace for the middle,” Beyer said. “It’s usually my strategy to come back at the end. I pushed and saw I was passing people and when I got to the last 50 it felt great. I couldn’t see anyone next to me and it felt really awesome.”
“That is the one that really kick-started everything off,” SU coach Tim Verge said. “Jeff is very confident in how he races and [making the jump] isn’t something everyone else can do. To sit back and have the belief you can start racing is great. He started pushing the race a little sooner and he got confident as he made ground and he closed it. It was spectacular. It was one of the best swims I’ve had the chance to be a part of.”
The Raiders were well represented in the finals on Wednesday, as at least one swimmer reached a final in each of the opening night’s events. Sophomore Nick Bloom stepped up in the 200-yard Individual Medley (IM), finishing in 10th place with a swim of 1:56.75, which was a personal best, etching his name ninth all-time among SU swimmers.
Freshman Eric Zimmerman also had a fantastic first day, earning a Top 10 finish in the 1,000-yard freestyle with a time of 9:53.87.
Beyer produced another fantastic night on Thursday, as he earned an eighth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:43.25.
The event marked the second-straight day that Beyer competed in an ‘A’ final for SU.
“It was awesome,” Beyer said. “That 1:42 time I hit [in pre-lims] felt really good to finally hit this morning. I’ve been trying for a while. I was able to squeak in to the ‘A’ final and it was awesome to get in and then get some points in there.”
The Raiders also received strong performances in the “B” final of the 400-yard IM from Bloom, Zimmerman and Callum Hamel, as the trio finished 12th-14th, respectively. Bloom grabbed a time of 4:13.85 while Hamel finished with a time of 4:15.79.
The Raiders finished the night with a pair of seventh-place finishes in relay events, which hurt the Raiders as they tried to make up ground in the standings on Thursday.
While SU may not have received the finishes they were looking for as far as placement in races, multiple Raiders had career-best finishes in events.
“I think that the young guys are good racers and they love to race,” Verge said. “They are tough at practice and push each other. They get after it and challenge themselves. We’ve got a core that has brought energy to everybody and we hope to keep bolstering that.”
In Friday’s competition, Beyer once again proved himself an MVP, finishing second overall in the 500-yard freestyle to highlight a strong Day 3 for SU. The second-place finish was Beyer’s second All-PSAC finish of the meet. Beyer completed the event with a time of 4:45.90 — which was a two-second PR that ranks ninth all-time in school history in the 500-yard freestyle.
“He is having such a special meet,” Verge said of Beyer. “It’s really fun to watch and he is just riding the wave, swim after swim. He has so much confidence right now and loves racing the way that he does. We are really enjoying it and are ready to get excited for the 1,650-yard freestyle tomorrow and see what that holds.”
SU was also led by Hamel, Bloom and Joe Deemer on Friday, as they each grabbed Top 12 finishes in their respective events. Hamel finished the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 57.89 seconds, becoming just the fourth Raider in school history to complete the event in less than 58 seconds.
“It was a monster swim,” Verge said. “He just looks so strong and powerful. His third 25 was unbelievable. He motored forward. Coming off that last turn you could tell he had something in the bag. He finished strong. It will be exciting to see what he is capable of tomorrow in the 200.”
Bloom stayed consistent on Friday, finishing the 100-yard backstroke in 53.03 seconds to earn an 11th-place finish — good enough for third place in the “B” final. Deemer finished 10th overall in the 200-yard butterfly with a personal-best time of 1:56.56.
With the strong performances, SU jumped back into sixth place, holding a seven-point lead over Edinboro University.
The Raiders concluded the meet on Saturday with four Top-8 finishes. With an extremely young group — nine of SU’s 12 swimmers competing on Day 4 were freshmen and sophomores — the Raiders received strong contributions throughout.
Beyer finished off his outstanding meet with another All-PSAC finish, grabbing third overall in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 17:18. Zimmerman finished eighth in the event.
Bloom and Hamel each earned All-PSAC finishes in the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard breaststroke, respectively.
Overall the Raiders improved their team score by 59 points from last season, producing 22 individual scoring performances, up from last year’s 15.
With the progress SU showcased during the meet, there is nowhere to go but up.
“It really is encouraging, but we want to keep moving forward,” Verge said. “We have a good base, but need to keep adding to it.”