Four IUP swimming and diving athletes continue to NCAA championships | Sports

The swimming and diving season is over for most of the IUP team, but four athletes continue to train for the NCAA Division II Championships.

The meet takes place at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, from Wednesday through Saturday.

Qualifications for the diving championships will take place on Tuesday.

Reigning national champion in the 200-yard freestyle, Paige Mikesell will attempt to defend her title in this event in addition to being entered in the 100 and 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

Among seniors, Mikesell is the top-seeded 200m butterfly in ninth place. Her 100m flight time is ranked 11th and her 200m freestyle and 200 IM are 13th.

Her sister, Claire Mikesell, will compete in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. A fifth-year swimmer, she is ranked 10th and 15th respectively. Last year, she finished second in the 200m breaststroke.

“I’m excited to have fun playing the sport I love,” said Claire Mikesell (Graduate Student, Food and Nutrition Education). “I don’t know if I’m ready for my last race yet.”

Rounding out the swim qualifications, senior Rachel Johnson competes in the 400 individual medley and the 100 and 200 breaststroke. His highest ranking is in the 100m breaststroke, 16th.

“These three are all veterans,” said head swimming coach Chris Villa. “They’ve been there before, so there shouldn’t be any nervousness ahead.”

As for diving, Allison Brownlee is the only qualified for the IUP on the 1 meter platform. There are 46 Division II divers nationwide who have received a high enough score to compete in the NCAA qualifying round known as “Black Tuesday.” But that doesn’t mean they’ve qualified for the NCAA meet just yet.

Only the top 20 divers will advance from Black Tuesday to the NCAA Diving Championships. The 1 meter event will take place on Saturday.

“The nerves are definitely there,” said Brownlee (graduate student, business administration and human resources/employment relations). “But I’m really excited because I’ve competed there before so I know the pool a bit.”

The three swimmers who will compete in the NCAAs this year were also part of last year’s team which scored 142 points, which lifted the IUP to 13th in the team standings. However, the last two national championships for these athletes have been far from smooth.

In 2020, the encounter was canceled midway through the four-day competition. After the second day preliminaries, the match was canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the competition was interrupted on the first and second days due to a tornado in Birmingham, Ala.

“Hopefully it’s been a normal year,” Paige Mikesell said.

Amid the adversity they’ve faced at nationals over the past two years, the swimmers are hoping to find some normalcy this time around.

“It’s exciting in a new way because it’s the fourth time with the same group of people in a pool that we all swam in before in high school, so it’s comfortable,” Johnson (grad student, resources human and labor relations) mentioned. “But exciting in a different way than previous years.”

Heading into their fourth NCAA together, the three aren’t afraid to work hard and dedicate time to a sport. They spent many hours training side by side at the John A. Pidgeon Natatorium.

“Claire and Rachel are two of the hardest working people I know and I’m so excited to watch them swim and cheer them on next week at Nationals,” said Paige Mikesell (senior, health and physical education).

IUP qualified swimmers for the NCAA 14 times during Villa’s 16 seasons as head coach.

Assistant coach Adam Stoner has joined Villa five times since taking over in 2015.

The best result for the women’s team came in 2011-12, when the Crimson Hawks finished eighth in the nation. The team consisted of two swimmers who finished in the top 10 in each of their seven events combined.

The team included NCAA 200 Butterfly champion Jackie Hynson and Allison Mitidieri, who both finished their IUP careers as 11-time All-Americans.

Villa has coached 52 All-American swimmers and two IUP national champions.

“National championships are always a bonus for me,” Villa said. “Swimmers always do well and make the most of it.”

In the first year of diving for the IUP since 2007, coach Trish Brownlee is excited about the future of IUP diving.

“We’re excited to go,” said Trish Brownlee. “I would like Allison to make the top 20 and make it through the qualifying round. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Having a qualified diver to compete in Nationals is a big statement for such a small team just starting out. The Crimson Hawks had three divers on the roster this season.

“Just being able to go there is a big accomplishment for me in general,” Allison Brownlee said. “So I’m happy to just go and enjoy the sport.”

Live results from the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships will be available at at the start of competition.

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