A couple different sports at Shippensburg University are about to kick off their national tournament seasons, and a handful of Raiders are preparing to put on their best performances of the season.
The women’s swim team just ended its season with a fifth-place finish at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championships two weekends ago. Swimmers are selected individually to appear in the NCAA Division II tournament based on their performances throughout the regular season and conference tournaments.
Only one member of the team was selected this season — junior Gabriella Johnson. This is the second consecutive year that a Raider has qualified for nationals and third in the last six seasons. Johnson claimed two first-place finishes at the PSAC tournament. She grabbed the title in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes on her way to another All-PSAC performance.
Johnson is excited to join the competition at nationals, citing her teammates’ support as a big factor in her success this season.
“It’s really cool to get the support of two teams,” Johnson said. “I get twice the family and twice the opportunity. I don’t feel a whole lot of pressure.”
Coach Tim Verge has watched Johnson improve as the season progressed and is happy that she will have the opportunity to represent SU at nationals.
“We’re just thrilled for Gabbie to have the opportunity to compete at NCAAs. To be among the Top 25 or so nationally in both events is such an accomplishment,” Verge said. “I know she will be tough as she always is. Gabbie is a tremendous racer; she just shows up and doesn’t overthink things or let herself get caught up in all the ancillary stuff of competing. She’ll be focused on doing her best and executing her race.”
The Division II swimming tournament kicks off March 13 from Indianapolis on the campus of Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis.
Indoor track-and-field is also coming to an end, and the national tournament is about to begin. Several members of the SU squad performed extremely well throughout the regular season, grabbing NCAA-provisional qualifiers in their respective events.
Redshirt-senior Abby Wagner, junior Zarria Williams, redshirt-junior Charles Bowman and redshirt-freshman Shamar Jenkins were all impressive across the season and qualified for the Division II tournament.
Wagner will compete in the triple jump for the first time at the indoor championships after representing SU in the event for the outdoor competition the last two seasons. She ended her regular season on a great note, capturing first in the event at the PSAC championships with a new meet record. Her steady performances all season contributed to her selection.
After starting her season injured, Wagner came back with a vengeance. “I came back at the Penn State meet and that’s where I set the school record [in the triple jump],” Wagner said.
Coach David Osanitsch was impressed with Wagner’s effort all season and was proud to see her make it to her first indoor championship.
“Abby is attending her first indoor national championship but is a seasoned vet with two NCAA All-American awards under her belt from NCAA outdoor championships. She is looking fantastic and will look to add more hardware to her shelf,” Osanitsch said.
“To give some perspective, Abby is currently fifth in the nation in the triple jump in NCAA Division II. Four hundred women competed in the triple jump at the Division II level. That’s pretty impressive.”
Williams is making her debut at the national championships, competing in the long jump after an All-PSAC finish at the PSAC tournament, placing third with an impressive top jump of 18 feet, 6 inches.
For the men, Bowman has been consistently at the top of the performance lists all season, most recently being named the Most Valuable Athlete at the conference championships with a firstplace NCAA-provisional time in the 60-meter hurdles (8.12 seconds).
Teammate Jenkins was also strong all season, grabbing the titles in both the long jump and the triple jump at the PSAC competition. He was named the Outstanding Field Athlete of the tournament thanks to his double and will move on to the NCAA championships with momentum at his back.
Osanitsch was proud of all four of his athletes, speaking about the quality of competition they have had to face all season.
“I’m really excited for the trip and it gets even more special to qualify athletes,” Osanitsch said. “The fields have grown increasingly competitive with the addition of many NAIA schools who have converted to NCAA Division II status. These schools come equipped with full scholarships programs. We hope to have great success and bring home four NCAA All Americans.”
The indoor track-and-field championships are held in Pittsburg, Kansas, starting March 8.