Carolina recruiting reflects global reach for Pitt swimming

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Photos courtesy of Pitt Athletics

Three first-year Pitt team members — swimmers Caroline Crouse (left) and Genna Joyce (middle) as well as diver Claire McDaniels (right) — hail from the Raleigh area.

By Henry Jackson, Staff Writer

At Pitt, tucked away deep within the Rust Belt, it may at times feel unusual to meet someone who is not from Pittsburgh or “outside of Philly.” It is even more uncommon to meet students hailing from far-off Raleigh, North Carolina, yet the Pitt women’s swimming and diving team brings the 919 to the 412 with its presence of Carolina natives.

Three first-year Pitt team members — swimmers Caroline Crouse and Genna Joyce as well as diver Claire McDaniels — hail from the Raleigh area. Together, this cadre of young North Carolina swimmers represent Pitt’s growing potential in the swimming world, and their paths to Pittsburgh represent one part of the worldwide recruiting network utilized by the Pitt coaching staff.

Both Crouse and Joyce swam together on the Marlins of Raleigh, a competitive swim team active in what is known as the Research Triangle — a section of North Carolina nestled between the high-caliber research institutions of Duke University, UNC and NC State. Their head coach on the Marlins — Paul Silver — happened to be a friend and former co-worker of Pitt head coach John Hargis, who ultimately encouraged Crouse and Joyce to commit.

“When it came down to it, Pitt had the most to offer me,” Crouse said. “The facilities were really nice and I loved the coaches a lot, so when my friend Genna committed that kind of sealed the deal. I was probably already going to come here, so when she committed it was like why not, at least I’ll know somebody there.”

The connection between Hargis and the Marlins also helped ease the transition to Pitt by allowing the two swimmers to maintain their familiar routine.

“I had a really good experience in club swimming,” Joyce said. “So when I was looking at schools something that was really important to me was that I knew what worked for me and I didn’t want to change that. Coach Hargis and my club coach are really similar and their training styles are really similar, so I knew I would succeed.”

Similarly, a positive experience competing for the Duke Diving club under current Pitt diving coach Katie Hazelton drove McDaniels to Pitt. Eased along by a smooth recruitment process, McDaniels managed to avoid the recruiting hindrances of a global pandemic by committing in her junior year.

The heavy presence of Raleigh swimmers at Pitt is a small part of the wide recruitment net cast by Hargis. The Pitt swim team offers athletes from 19 states and 10 different nations, covering nooks and crannies all across the globe.

“We recruit worldwide because we want to find the best fits for the philosophy of the program,” Hargis said. “The academic restrictions that the University has as well as the athletic environment we want to create means we look for world-class athletes as well as world-class students, and it just so happens we found some out of the great state of North Carolina.”

As for their transitions to Pitt, the move from the more sprawled-out South to the industrial North was far smoother than expected, Crouse said. Apart from the weather, she added that tough training in high school has prepared her for changes both in and out of the pool.

“When I was in high school everyone would be like, ‘Are you ready for college? It’s going to be so much harder for swimming and school,’” Crouse said. “But I promise you it’s not worse than Paul Silver. Even through the pandemic the coaches made the transition easy, and besides, coming to a new place is more exciting than it is nerve-wracking for me.”

Growing up in the intense Raleigh swim environment also helped ease the transition. In fact, McDaniels claims that Pitt’s Raleigh swimmers bring an energy to the team honed by years of high-level competition.

“I think as North Carolina girls, because we come from such a competitive background of high school swimming and club competitive swimming, we bring that level of competitiveness for the team to build on,” McDaniels said.

In the pool, Raleigh athletes reflect the youthfulness of a Pitt program that has 17 first-years and sophomores and is still looking for the kind of results that can compete with the conference’s elite. Although an injury forced Crouse to miss her entire season, McDaniels’ and Joyce’s performances in their first appearance at the ACC Championship proved promising.

Finishing ninth overall in the platform diving event with a score of 254.30 and 20th in the 3-meter dive with a score of 249.75, McDaniels earned Pitt 25 overall points with her strong showing in Greensboro. Joyce’s ACC Championship performance was equally impressive, with her 2:14.51 in the 200-yard breaststroke earning her 21st place and adding four points to Pitt’s total.

Overall, Pitt finished 11th at the ACC Championship, but if its talented cadre of young swimmers continues to improve, the Panthers can expect to see better results in the near future. For Hargis, his swimmers’ performance reflects the effort and talent they bring to Pitt.

“I think it’s a testament to the kids we have on campus,” Hargis said. “You’re looking at two young ladies who just came out of ACC’s and performed very well, so again, anything that comes out of our program is just a testament to the athletes that we have within that program.”

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