Many of the Pitt aquatic athletes have left opponents in the dust — or more appropriately, in chlorine-laced dihydrogen monoxide — during their first meets. It’s early in the season, but Pitt is already showing promise for future performances.
In their first dual meet this year, the Panthers split the outing against Louisiana State University and the University of Virginia. They picked up a win against the Tigers with a men’s victory margin of 53.0 and a women’s victory margin of 71.0. The Panthers’ first loss came at the hands of the Cavaliers – who beat the men by 41.0 and the women by 88.0.
Senior Amanda Richey was the standout Panther in those first two meets. She notched one of four first-place finishes with her lightning 9.57.0 performance in the 1,000-meter free.
The Panthers defeated all of their opponents in the Pink the Pool Meet held in Trees Hall. The men grabbed 12 first place finishes over the Michigan State Spartans. Senior Boris Kulizhnikov and first year Armin Remenyi snagged two individual wins to propel the Panthers to victory.
Kulizhnikov collected his wins in the 200-meter breast and 200 IM, while Remenyi won in both the 200-meter and 500-meter fly.
The women’s team dominated at that same meet. The Panthers recorded a cumulative 621.0 to 288.0 win over their opponents — the Miami Hurricanes, Michigan State Spartans and the James Madison Dukes. John Hargis, head coach of the swimming and diving programs, knows it’s still early in the season, but he’s confident with the way the team has performed so far.
“To this point, it’s been great,” Hargis said. “We’re light years ahead of where we were this time last year in all facets.”
This season marks Hargis’ second with the swimming and diving program. In his first year, he led the Panthers to their highest point tally in ACC competition and finished 10th out of 14 in the ACC Tournament. Even though he’s only spent one year with the Panthers, he already sees a difference in the team.
“The culture has gotten a lot better from a work ethic standpoint,” Hargis said. “Kids are understanding the expectations from a coaching staff in year two.”
The Pitt diving team also welcomed new personnel this season. Katie Hazelton is the new head diving coach, taking over the role Julian Krug filled for 38 years. This could be a daunting task, but Hazelton says the team can handle the change.
“So far we’re transitioning really well,” Hazelton said. “At the moment, it’s really kind of the grind right now with the focus to peak at ACCs.”
In the beginning of the Panthers’ 2016-17 season, with Krug still as the coach, Dominic Giordano won three straight ACC Diver of the Week awards. Senior Meme Sharp also landed five top spot finishes in the 1-meter and 3-meter dive in the first three meets.
Now that the team is mostly made up of underclassmen, upperclassmen, such as junior swimmer Brian Lovasik, will have to step up their leadership and influence.
“We have a lot of freshmen on the team, so I think the leadership from the upperclassmen has been really good at showing the freshmen what to expect,” Lovasik said. “They have been absorbing that information and swimming really well.”
The teams have set long-term team goals as well as more personal goals – and if they reach them, fans could be watching the Panthers swim into the late months of spring.
“Obviously I want to do well,” Sharp said. “I want to place well, ACCs and NCAAs, but I think I want to be able to look back on my senior year and smile and know that I put in all my energy and effort and also had fun.”
The Panthers will pack up and head northeast to New Jersey to take on Rutgers, Seton Hall and Villanova in an old-school Big East swim meet Friday, Nov. 3, and Saturday, Nov. 4.