Day 1 Recap: PAC & AMCC

In the wonderfully weird world that is the PAC and AMCC Championships (and most importantly, for those of you keeping score at home, the James E. Longnecker Invitational) – where AMCC swimmers affect the scores of PAC swimmers but not (completely) the other way around, where one (and a half) sets of awards are given out for each event but three different sets of individual and team awards are presented at meet’s end, where diving is regularly announced in a British accent but swimming never is, and where the “YMCA” is now traditionally performed by swimmers, coaches, and spectators after the end of the meet on Saturday night – you can always expect a lot of fun, and some pretty good swimming and diving to boot. In its first day, this year’s meet has not disappointed.

Team Standings

Grove City came out swinging on both sides of the 2012 Longnecker Invitational and established themselves firmly in first place, the men (with 249 points) taking a 63-point lead over Westminster and the women (268 points) building a 52-point advantage over W&J. The race for second in both meets is tight. The W&J women, helped by strong team performances in the 500 and the 1-meter diving, lead Westminster by only 19 points (215-196), while the Westminster men are leading Penn State Behrend by the even closer margin of 186-169.

In the AMCC, the Behrend Lions are, as expected, mauling the competition fiercely. The men have already more than doubled up on second-place Pitt-Bradford, leading 121-54. Bradford is, in turn, far outpacing Cabrini (at 23) and Penn State Altoona (just 5 points for the night in the AMCC). The women’s side is also meeting expectations. The Lady lions have also doubled-up (exactly, as it turns out) on second place Franciscan, but the race for second is extremely close. After the 50 free, a single point separated second from fourth, and even now the difference between Franciscan fourth-place Cabrini is only 17 points — and it would have been 7 if Cabrini had finished its 400 medley relay legally. That race is a toss-up at the moment.

The Events

200 Free Relay
Finals started with a bang. The Grove City women bested the pool, conference, and invitational record that they set in 2011, coming in with a time of 1:35.37. That time may be on the bubble for nationals when all is said and done, but it’s a pretty comfortable position for Jenny Ryan, Laura Cassano, Jenna Richert, and Angela Palumbo to be sitting in right now. The heartache of the event was Saint Vincent, whose second-place finish – its highest ever by far – was negated by an extremely narrow false start on one of the exchanges.

The men’s relay finished without an NCAA cut, but featured an exciting change of leads between Westminster and Grove City. Grove City senior Kirk Gagliardo split an impressive 20.15 anchoring the Wolverines, swimming down Westminster senior Mike Barringer (whose own 20.72 split was no slouch) for a Wolverine victory of .24 seconds, 1:24.13 to 1:24.37.

In what would have been considered unbelievable even two years ago, but now has begun to seem fairly routine, Behrend defeated W&J for third place quite handily for third place, lowering the AMCC conference record by a second and proving that their reputation for increasing-quality swimming is well-deserved. On the women’s side, the Lady Lions turned in a respectable 4th-place performance, missing Westminster by only a little over a second.

500 Free
Set amid an evening filled with come-from-behind wins, Kait Riesmeyer’s (Grove City) defeat of Brittany Vogel (W&J) was relatively mild. The two swam ahead of the pack, always within a body length of each other but primarily with Vogel holding the lead, the whole 20 lengths. In the end, Riesmeyer dropped her final 50 nearly a second further than Vogel, accounting for much of her margin of victory.

The men’s 500 free was most notable not because it was won by a freshman (although that is notable), but because it gave Saint Vincent its first PAC conference crown. Joe Woodman had been the top seed coming into the meet, but finished second in prelims. He lived up to his original seed, however, by leading from the start and gradually moving further and further ahead of the field as the race went on, leaving Westminster’s Jake Pletz and Grove City’s Nick Hamilton and Dave Bossert to battle for second – and his own teammates growing ever wilder and wilder with delight. Pletz prevailed in the battle for second, but only after a major fight with Hamilton that went right down to the end. It is also worth noting that less than a second separated Pletz from sixth place.

The AMCC men’s conference champion, Ryan Mitcheltree from Behrend, was the only AMCC guy to qualify in the top 8, but two of his teammates, Brian Mong and Dane Dombrosky, along with Bradford’s David Taylor, got night swims as well. Mong, in fact, won the consolation final. In the women’s event, however, the conference failed to qualify any swimmers for either championship or consolation finals. Conference champion Melinda Mackenzie finished 20th overall.

200 IM
Caitlin Lehberger (Westminster) has punched her ticket to Nationals with her 4-year sweep of the 200 IM. It is the ninth conference title of her extremely accomplished career, and came in at the nearly-A-cut time of 2:05.17, three tenths better than her finish last year. Will she be able to repeat (or, better yet, improve on) her 4th-place finish at NCAAs? The girls’ IM was the only event of the night to feature multiple individual cut times, as Grove City’s Jenny Ryan dropped an astounding 2:05.98 to make her trip to nationals only slightly less certain than Lehberger’s (something like 98.6% as opposed to 99.9%).

The men’s IM saw the only men’s NCAA cut of the night, with Grove City’s Ben Bowser cruising to victory in a time of 1:53.43. His teammate Clay Beckner earned runner-up status, barely missing the B-cut. The race for first in the consolation final was a good deal more suspenseful than the race for the top of the championship heat. Westminster’s Alan Nedley, sitting third after the breaststroke, turned in the fastest freestyle split of the event (27.41), first passing up W&J’s Mike Magdic and then catching Saint Vincent’s Zack Ligus at the final flags to eke out the win.

The men’s 200 IM saw some of the strongest participation of AMCC teams in championships finals during the session, with Matt Patterson and Fernando Petrilli of Pitt-Bradford making the big heat along with Behrend’s Javier “La Chupacabra de la Muerte” Soliván. Petrilli scored the AMCC’s highest individual swimming finish with third place behind Bowser and Beckner, smashing his own conference record (set in prelims) in the process. The AMCC women did not fare quite as well in the event. Behrend star Annie Lawrence made it into championship finals, where she took 8th, but conference runner-up Katie Siffrinn finished just out of consols at 17th.

50 Free
The big heat was dominated by Grove City’s 60 points and Saint Vincent’s 50. Angela Palumbo continued to impress with her winning B-cut time of 23.78, standing apart from what looked from the side of the pool to be an otherwise-crowded field.

The men’s side did not see any B-cuts, but champion Kirk Gagliardo of Grove City missed it by the second-smallest-possible margin, breaking under 21 seconds to 20.95 but missing the 20.93 standard. His teammate Eric Fairchild held with him most of the way, and came in second at 21.00. Westminster placed three finishers in the top 8, all three of whom were part of the crush in which less than a tenth of a second separated 3rd from 7th.

Hilary MacManus, as expected, carried the victory for the AMCC women as the only swimmer to qualify in the top 16. On the men’s side, five Behrend swimmers advanced out of prelims, but only Dan Simon made it to the top 8, and lost by a fingernail (21.60 vs. 21.59) to Cabrini’s Evan Strickland, giving Cabrini only its second conference champion (not its first, as was erroneously announced at the awards presentation).

Entering the last round of the women’s 1M diving, it appeared that an upset might be about to happen, as the pre-meet favorite, W&J’s Bethany Haver, and her PDA teammate Abbey Woodward (PDA = Presidents’ Diving Association, I believe) were within 5 points of each other after Woodward threw a beautiful inward one-and-a-half that registered scores of 7.5 and 8, and even an incredibly rare 9. Haver held on to win by almost 11 points (410.85 to 399.95), but in the process both girls achieved the NCAA cut score, something which Haver had also accomplished in prelims but which Woodward had narrowly missed. Behrend’s Megan Wade, who had also been within striking difference of a nationals cut with her prelims score, faded, finishing ten points lower in finals than in the prelims.

Lucas Kachurick of Behrend joined the ranks of Joe Kennedy (and possibly Joe Riddell) as divers who failed a dive yet still won the 3-meter by about 10 points. Kachurick needed a rather successful final dive to surpass W&J’s Justin Weifenbach (who turned in a very respectable score of 412.40 and became the PAC champion for the second year in a row), and proceeded to nail his back one-and-a-half with two and a half twists beautifully.

400 Medley Relay
The championship finals was possibly the most intense event of the night. After a rather calm and peaceable consolation final in which Franciscan and Cabrini swam a low-key race (and Cabrini managed a false start on one of its exchanges), Westminster and Grove City locked horns in a heated battle in which the tie between backstrokers Marina Rozick (Westminster) and Lauren Cassano (Grove City) was broken emphatically in Westminster’s favor by Caitlin Lehberger’s 1:03.04 split in the breast leg against Kate Wilt. Sierra Beecher was able to hold the lead, although it was much reduced by Grove City’s Kait Riesmeyer, but Angela Palumbo’s outstanding anchor split (50.79) proved too much for Ashley Wyland, and the Wolverines ended up swimming to a relatively comfortable win. The time of 3:53.21 set a new invitational and PAC record, and it also gave the relay a solid B-cut.

In the men’s race, Westminster likewise jumped out to a lead, which was then challenged severely at the end by Grove City. Mark Brooks set the pace by outswimming CP Dehli by a second and a half. Dan Gutmann added to the lead slightly in his breaststroke race against Clay Beckner. In the butterfly, Alan Nedley gave up some ground to Ben Bowser, but not too much. In the freestyle, Mike Barringer was able to hold off a hard-charging Eric Fairchild (45.11 split) to give the Titans the win. The lights-out swims by its four men pushed the relay under the B-cut to a time of 3:25.34.

Behrend finished third, several seconds behind Grove City, but the most noteworthy part of their relay was Dan Simon. Simon made the big heat in the 50 free earlier in the evening, but he is most especially a backstroker not a sprint freestyler. Indeed, it is possible that he might actually win the 100 back tomorrow. His backstroke prowess was on display very clearly in his B-cut split (which demolished his own conference records) of 51.67. His two following teammates, Justin Pritchard and Clay Altemose, gave ground steadily but slowly to Grove City, until the late part of the breaststroke. Once Eric Fairchild hit the water in the freestyle to try to chase down Mike Barringer, however, there was little that Behrend anchor Hunter Backenstose could do other than try to preserve the third-place finish and achieve a respectable finish time.

That’s the wrap-up of Thursday’s action at the Longnecker Invitational and PAC and AMCC championships. More to come after Friday night.

Thank you OutsideSmoker27!

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