Courtesy: Pittsburgh Athletics
PITTSBURGH — Regional rivals Pitt and West Virginia will meet in a swimming & diving dual meet for the 25th consecutive season on Saturday at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool. This year’s Backyard Brawl will begin at 9:30 a.m. with both diving events before swimming starts at 12 p.m.
“The Backyard Brawl is always intense,” Pitt head coach John Hargis said. “The rivalry makes it a fun, energized meet. We’re expecting a battle this year. Coach Vic Riggs has done a great job there, and they have some of the best athletes in the country. We’re looking forward to a great meet in what should be an energy-packed Trees.”
Last season, the Pitt women emerged with a victory over West Virginia in Morgantown, while the Panthers suffered a defeat on the men’s side. Over the past 24 years of continuous competition between Pitt and West Virginia in the pool, traditionally with an early January meet, the Panthers have dominated the series, with the women posting a 20-4 record and the men earning a 19-5 mark against the Mountaineers from the south.
“The Pitt-West Virginia rivalry in swimming & diving is exciting not only because we’re close in proximity but also because we’re close in competitive ability,” Pitt diving coach Katie Hazelton said. “Our swimmers and divers will need to perform the best on the day to win. To me, that’s really exciting. It’s going to be a fight; it’s going to be fun. Hopefully the home advantage can help us be successful.”
Leading the Pitt women are several veteran and record-setting Panthers. Senior freestyler Rachel Brown will hope to help her team earn a fourth consecutive win over West Virginia. Juniors Valerie Daigneault and Madelyn Shaffer both finished 2018 by setting school records at the Ohio State Invitational in their preferred events – the 200 back and 200 fly, respectively – and would love to make more history this year. Swimming newcomers Dakota Elliott, Camryn Forbes and Madison Nalls will aim to start 2019 by earning a team victory in their Backyard Brawl debuts. In the diving well, freshman Amy Read also posted a Pitt record at Ohio State on platform and will be asked to lead the way with juniors Krista Jones and Cortnee Williams on both springboards against West Virginia’s talented corps of divers.
For the Pitt men, seniors Brian Lovasik and Aaron Sett and juniors Samy Helmbacher and Eben Vorster are among the Panthers aiming to avenge last season’s defeat to WVU. Pitt sophomore Blaise Vera, who broke school records in the freestyle sprint events at the Ohio State Invitational, could prove vital in his events and on relays, while Armin Remenyi, Luke Smutny and Bence Szucsik might also be key contributors for the home team. Freshmen divers Wesley Ahart and Josh Parquet will represent the Panthers on the springboard events.
Admission to the Backyard Brawl swimming & diving meet is FREE to all fans. The first 200 fans in attendance will receive a retro Pitt script shirt, while all fans can pick up a copy of the 2018-19 Pitt swimming & diving team poster upon entering Trees Pool.
The meet will also serve as Pitt swimming & diving’s Panthers Unite event for the 2018-19 season, meaning that all Pitt Athletics staff and student-athletes are encouraged to attend.