The first two months of the 2016-17 Pitt swimming & diving season have seen program history be made time and time again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.
That’s because not only do the Panthers have an entirely new swimming staff, led by an Olympic gold medalist in first-year head coach John Hargis, but the team’s student-athletes have also led the charge in the Pitt swimming & diving revolution this season.
Six Pitt swimming school records have already fallen as juniors Amanda Richey and Lina Rathsack and true freshman Valerie Daigneault have combined to post several of the best times ever swam by Panthers in the pool.
“To have six school records at this point in the season is pretty remarkable,” Coach Hargis said. “I knew we were going to make strides and progress, but we were looking more towards the end of the year. So to have six records at midseason is phenomenal.”
Rathsack, a native of Gorlitz, Germany, in her first season at Pitt after transferring from UNLV, has already broken three individual records. The 2016 NCAA Championships qualifier has made an immediate impact with the Panthers, setting all-time Pitt records in the 100 breaststroke (59.97), the 200 breaststroke (2:10.08) and the 200 individual medley (1:59.29)—all at the Ohio State Invitational from Nov. 18-20.
“It is an honor to represent the Pitt Panthers and to be able to work with the team to become better every day,” Rathsack said. “All these school records show the improvement not just of individuals but as a team, and it is exciting to be a part of that.”
Richey, a junior distance freestyler from Boulder, Colo., broke two school records—all while competing in the same event—at the Ohio State Invite on Nov. 20. In her freestyle mile, Richey set the 1650 free Pitt record with a time of 16:04.25. Her split time in the 1000 free was also good enough to break another Panther record as she hit the wall in 9:43.79 at that point in the race.
“In the mile, I was actually very surprised when I broke those records,” said Richey, who finished behind only 2016 Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky of Stanford in the race. “It’s only the beginning of the season and, like we’ve been talking about with the coaches, our focus is really on ACCs and NCAAs.”
Daigneault, a frosh newcomer from Montreal, Canada, and the daughter of former Pittsburgh Penguin and current Montreal Canadiens assistant coach J.J. Daigneault, completed Pitt’s record-setting swims with her 200 backstroke time of 1:56.80 at AT&T Winter Nationals in Atlanta on Dec. 3.
“Breaking the school record in the 200 backstroke was an amazing feeling,” Daigneault said. “Coming into Pitt, I really wanted to make an impact on the swim team and I feel like this is a really good first step. The whole team has been training extremely hard over the past three months and seeing results in swim meets really makes it all worth it. I’m very proud to wear the Pitt logo on my cap in every practice and meet.”
The Panthers will participate in the 55th annual Pitt Christmas Meet this weekend at Trees Pool before resuming the rest of their regular season slate after the New Year, starting with a Backyard Brawl meet against West Virginia at home on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m.