By Kyle Wills
The Youngstown State University swimming and diving teams capped off their season at the Horizon League Championships April 5-10 at the Indiana University Natatorium.
On April 5-6, junior Tess Weiskopf and freshman Cody Thill competed in both the 1- and 3-meter diving events. Weiskopf appeared in the finals of both the 1-meter and 3-meter events. She posted a score of 210.30 to finish eighth in the 1-meter finals and had a score of 231.00 to also finish eighth in the 3-meter finals. In the prelims of the 3-meter, she had a score of 231.20 and posted a score of 214.35 in the 1-meter prelims.
On April 8, freshman Jael Dankle finished fifth in the 500-yard freestyle to lead the women on the first day of the swimming events. Dankle had a personal-best time of 5:01.59 to tie for fifth place in the event. In the 200-yard freestyle, the Penguins posted a time of 1:37.54 to finish sixth.
For the men, senior Ben Gingher and freshman Gavin Webb had record-setting performances in both the prelims and the finals. They opened and closed the day with school records in the relays.
In the 200-yard freestyle relay, sophomore Wilson Cannon, freshman Gavin Redden, freshman Darren Laing and freshman Rares Druga posted a time of 1:23.23, which eclipsed the school mark set at last year’s Horizon League Championships. In the 400 medley relay, the relay of Druga, Gingher, sophomore Karan Raju and Cannon shattered the previous school mark with a time of 3:20.76.
Gingher posted a school-best time of 1:50.87 in the 200 individual medley to lower his school mark. He placed third in the consolation final and was 11th overall. Webb was second in the consolation final in the 500 freestyle with a school-record time of 4:32.58. He finished 10th overall and beat the previous school best by 11 seconds.
On the women’s second day, freshman Ella Kerr placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke with a school record time of 1:03.20. Kerr broke the previous mark of 1:04.02 set by Hannah Reynolds in 2016.
Breaking the record was one of her goals, and she was overjoyed when she finally placed her name at the top.
“I was really excited,” Kerr said. “I touched the wall and I was really out of breath, but as soon as I could I tried to focus my eyes to try to see the time. I was just ecstatic because I knew that was my goal the whole season. To be able to finally get there and do what I wanted to do, I was really excited.”
Also on day two, the men set two relay and five individual school records. Freshmen Soma Albert and Brenden Reeves, along with Laing, Gingher and Cannon all set individual records.
Gingher had the best individual finish, placing sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 55.05 seconds. Albert placed ninth in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 49.77 seconds and Druga finished 11th with a time of 50.15 seconds.
In the 100-yard butterfly, Cannon set the mark with a time of 49.43 seconds in the prelims. In the finals, Raju finished 11th in the event with a time of 49.44 seconds, just missing out on the school mark. Cannon finished 12th with a time of 49.61 seconds.
The men had a strong showing in the 400-yard individual medley led by a school-record time as Reeves swam a time of 3:59.03 in the event to set the school record and place eighth. In the 200-yard freestyle, Laing set the school record with a time of 1:41.92 and finished 12th in the event.
On the final day for the women, Dankle was third in the 1,650-yard freestyle and Kerr was third in the 200-yard breaststroke. Kerr’s time of 2:17.20 in the finals set the new school record and gave her an impressive third-place performance. The previous record time was 2:18.09 set by Samantha Roberts in March 2013.
The men would add five more records on day three as Raju, Gingher, Albert, Webb and Druga all set individual school marks. The Penguins closed the meet with a school-best time in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
YSU had a big showing in the 1,650-yard freestyle led by Webb. He finished fourth with a time of 15:33.55, which topped the previous mark of 16:24.10 by Tom Hilk in 1980.
In the 200-yard butterfly, Raju posted a time of 1:49.33 to finish sixth. In the 200-yard breaststroke, Gingher posted a school-record time of 1:59.77 in the prelims. In the finals, he was sixth with a time of 2:00.17. Albert also had a time of 1:46.43 in the 200-yard backstroke, which was good for a fourth-place finish.
In the 100-yard freestyle, Druga set the school record with a time of 45.59 seconds in a swim-off to make the consolation final. In the 400-yard freestyle, YSU posted a time of 3:02.86, breaking the previous mark by just under 5 seconds.
Kerr believes the team has turned a corner and is ready to prove to be a tough competitor for years to come.
“We’ve come such a far way, even just last season with reinstating the men’s program, I think that we’ve really established ourselves,” she said. “I’ve had coaches from other teams come up to me and said, ‘Great swim,’ and coaches have come up to coach Brad and said, ‘Congratulations. Your team came to play this year,’ so I think everyone sees that we’re a bigger competitor.”