Aug. 11, 2014
PITTSBURGH – Racing against some of the biggest names in swimming, five University of Pittsburgh swimmers competed at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine, Calif. from Aug. 6 to 10.
Panther swimmers went up against the likes of 2012 Olympians including Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones on the men’s side and Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky, Natalie Coughlin and Amanda Wier from the women’s field.
The five Pitt student-athletes certainly held their own while gaining invaluable experience at the five-day event. Rising senior Luke Nosbisch, junior David Sweeney Jr. and sophomore Zach Lierley all represented the University from the men’s program while rising juniors Kaleigh Ritter and Blair Wegescheide were the two Panther women at Nationals. Additionally, rising sophomore Spencer Gray competed at the National Club Swimming Association Championships in Indianapolis, Ind. last week.
Two of Pittsburgh’s best showings came from Nosbisch and Lierley, in the 200-meter breaststroke and 200-meter backstroke, respectively.
Coming into the 200 breast, Nosbisch was seeded 50th and moved all the way up to 26th, finishing in a time of 2:15.89 and shaving more than three seconds off his seed time. Nosbisch also took part in the 50- and 100-meter breaststrokes. He placed 33rd in the 50 (28.82) and 48th in the 100 (1:03.92).
“Luke has begun to learn how to control his 200 race,” said head coach Chuck Knoles. “He had quite a swim today.”
Lierley posted a pair of top-30 finishes in both events he swam. Taking off almost a second from his entry time in the 200 back, Lierley rose from a seeding of 47th to 29th, touching the wall in 2:03.14. The following morning in the 400-meter individual medley, Lierley nabbed 28th place with a time of 4:24.57.
Knoles contributed Lierley’s success to his hard work and determination. “Zach dropped a ton of time in his main event. His hard work this spring and simmer paid off today and will pay off this collegiate season.”
Overall, Lierley was about three-tenths of a second away from his personal-best time in the 200, which was from two years ago at Olympic trials. “I was happy that’s the fastest I’ve been in two years,” said Lierley. “I felt great warming up. I went out where I wanted to go in my first 50, but swimming outdoors I was a little shaky going back and forth between the lanes. It was a solid swim. I’m really happy with it.”
Sweeney rounded out the men’s representatives with a 77th-place showing in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:54.20.
Distance swimmer Ritter participated in three events during the week, the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter free. Her best performance came in the 1,500 free, swimming to 33rd in 17:11.22. Ritter, also took 60th in the 800 (9:06.75) and 68th in the 400 (4:27.05).
Wegescheide met or improved her seed in both events she raced in. She was 62nd in the 50-meter backstroke for a time of 30.91, while moving up seven spots to 66th from her seed in the 100-meter back to finish in 1:04.99.
Gray was a busy swimmer in Indianapolis, competing in seven events. He qualified for a pair of finals in the 200 and 400 free. In the 400, Gray was 19th with a time of 4:03.61, while his time of 1:57.13 in the 200 was good for 30th. Individually, Gray also took part in the 200-meter fly (2:09.88) and 1,500 free (16:48.16), coming in 45th in both.
Gray was also a member of three relay teams that more than exceeded expectations. The 400 and 800 free relay teams both finished eighth, however, the 400 team was seeded 36th coming into the competition. The 200 free team also made an unexpected leap, going from 40th to 12th.
Check out exclusive, behind-the-scenes content from assistant coach Jeff Berghoff, who was on hand all weekend in Irvine:
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