No. 9 Moment of 2012-13: Swimming shines at Panther Relays

Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson

Over the next 10 weeks, Pitt-Bradford athletics will bring you the Top 10 Moments of the 2012-13 school year.

Each week a new moment will debut, featuring insight from coaches, players, and Sports Information Director Scott Elliott. It all leads up to the No. 1 moment in Panther athletics, which will be revealed the week of Aug. 5.

Each year the Pitt-Bradford swimming team kicks off its season by hosting the Panther Relays. This past year marked the seventh year Pitt-Bradford hosted the event, and it would became the most memorable one to date.

A total of seven teams participated with Pitt-Bradford: Notre Dame (Ohio), Penn State Behrend, Penn State Altoona, Ursuline (Ohio), Bethany (W.V.) and Franciscan.

All 16 events are relays, including three of the mixed variety, which features both men and women on the same relay team.  

The women set the tone for the Panthers by winning the opening event-the 300 fly relay-in 3:07.36, more than 15 seconds better than the runner-ups from Bethany.

The men would match the women six events later, winning the 300 breast relay by more than five seconds over Penn State Behrend. They would later capture a significant win in the 800 free relay, again edging Behrend for the top spot. It marked the men's first ever win in the event at the Panther Relays, and it was done in a meet record time of 3:35.82.

For the Panthers, the three wins signified the continuing growth of the program. Pitt-Bradford had hosted the relays for four years before winning a race at its own event.

The win in the 800 free relay, one of the more anticipated events, represented "the past, present and future of our team" as Head Coach Ed Bahan put it.

Seniors Matt Anderson, David Taylor and Alex Schrock have been with the team long enough to remember the struggles the Panthers faced just to win a meet. It was their freshman class that helped changed the culture of the program. Junior Matt Patterson also swam on the relay, and Bahan has anointed him as the swimmer "who will be leading our team to new heights this coming season."

A few short years ago, the women lacked the numbers to even field a relay team. The win in the 300 fly further exhibited the upward arch of the program, and Bahan credited the women for the team's overall performance.

"In fact it was the development and growth of the women's team that made it possible," said Bahan. "The experience was a huge boost for both programs, and an example of what can happen if we just keep working hard."

Since he stepped on campus in the fall of 2008, Bahan has transformed the swimming program into one the athletic department's most successful teams. He has done so by building depth along both squads. It was never more evident than at the relays.

Pitt-Bradford would bolster its point total with seven top three finishes. The women finished as runners up in the 800 free relay as the team of Melinda MacKenzie, Wehonna Toth, Elena Ehrentraut and Rebecca Bowman shattered the school record by more than 14 seconds.

In the 200 mixed medley relay, the Panthers placed two teams in the top five, earning 10 critical points in just the meet's third event. The men would also do the same in both the 300 breast and 800 free relays, amassing a staggering 36 points. It was a performance that required the effort of every team member.

"Every athlete on the team scored points, and every point contributed to the second place finish," said Bahan. "It was truly a team effort and accomplishment."

When the dust settled, Pitt-Bradford finished with 142 points, eight more than Behrend. It marked the first time in the history of the event that an AMCC team finished ahead of the Lions, who have won every conference championship since the sports' inception in 2007.

"The relays showed us not only what we have been able to achieve in the past five years, but what we are capable of in the future," said Bahan.

The performance would serve as a catalyst for the rest of the season as the women doubled their win total from the previous year, and the men finished second at the AMCC Championships for the third straight season.

It also represented the work Bahan has put into molding the program and the expectations he has established.

"In the long run this meet and our performance show us that we can do anything we set our minds to with consistent hard work," said Bahan. "Where there was once no team at all, there is now a team that is working hard to grow stronger every practice, every meet.

"To not only experience winning and success, but make it a tradition and a legacy to leave behind for future teams to come. We will accomplish our goal. It is not a matter of if, just when.

Rarely do defining moments take place so early in a young season, but for the Panthers, the relays were another step for a program that continues to establish itself as one of the best on campus and in the conference.