Swim and Dive team members, coach preview season


Sami Mirza

Emmet Fluharty, ’26, wets his swimming cap minutes before jumping into the water during practice on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

Allegheny’s swim and dive teams opened their regular season on Friday, Oct. 21 with a home meet against the Washington and Jefferson Presidents. The event was hosted in the Mellon Pool at the Wise Center as the Gators dove back into the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
“The team is pretty excited — both men and women — that we can be in a conference where they can compete to score a little bit higher than in the past of the North Coast Athletic Conference, (where) it’s frankly a competition for third, a lot of times,” said Head Swim and Dive Coach Max Niggel. “Now that we’re individually and team wise, in a place where we can perform, they’re excited about that.”
The NCAC’s swimming and diving competitions have been dominated by Kenyon College and Denison University in its 36-year history. Kenyon has won 24 conference titles on the men’s side, and 26 conference titles on the women’s side. The remaining conference victories were claimed by Denison.
“Kenyon and Denison, they were big teams, and very strong and very fast, competing on a (Division I) level,” said Jenna Halenda, ’23. “Being in the PAC is exciting, because we have a lot of people who have opportunities to place well in the PAC. That’s really exciting for the season and just being able to compete with people not only who are nearby, but also at a more even playing field.”
Allegheny will get an early look at the top of the PAC in their second meet of the season on Saturday, Oct. 22, when they make the 50-minute trip down Interstate 79 to Grove City College. Grove City was ranked #1 in the PAC’s preseason poll, followed by Westminster College and then Allegheny.
Niggel took the helm of Allegheny’s swim and dive program in September 2018, building the team to some of its best performances in a decade just before the pandemicin 2020.
“If we would have been in the PAC in 2020, we would have won (the conference),” Niggel said.
However, the pandemic pushed the teams’ progress back, as health restrictions kept the Gators from swimming competitively.
“Two years ago, we didn’t do a single meet except for one meet at the very end of the year: no conference meet, no nothing,” Niggel said. “We did one, tiny dual meet. And then last year, we had to cancel all of our meets in the second semester.”
Dan Logue, ’23, was among the first swimmers recruited by Niggel when he first started coaching for Allegheny. He said that the pandemic has cut the depth of the men’s team.
“We just have about 10 people on the men’s side,” Logue said. “I guess it’s maybe like a rebuilding year is one way you could put it.”
Though Halenda said the women’s team has not shrunk as much as the men’s, she said that the issue of depth remains.
“It’s just hard because we don’t have enough people to fill in where we need to get those second- and third-place finishes,” Halenda said. “A lot of it just has to do with numbers, because we do have a lot of pretty well-rounded swimmers that are adaptable, it’s just hard with numbers to get them in with a limited number of events.”
Despite the small roster, Logue said that the team’s individual talent is still strong and will show through throughout the season.
“We might have some people that end up being PAC champions or standing on the podium at least, so that’s exciting,” Logue said.
Another casualty of the pandemic was the teams’ annual training trip to warmer climates in January, which will return this season. Niggel said the trip — a 40-year-old tradition when the pandemic cut it short — is a key time for his swimmers to refocus on the upcoming conference championships.
“They can basically be professional athletes for about 10 days,” Niggel said. “They don’t have school to worry about, we put them up in a nice hotel, usually right on the water and we try to swim outside and we work really hard. That trip is always so important for this team, not only conditioning wise, but also for our morale.”
Halenda was a freshman when the last training trip took the team to Puerto Rico. She said that last year’s attempt at a trip only showed
“With all the COVID cases, we had to cancel it and we came back to Meadville and swam, and it’s definitely just not the same environment,” Halenda said. “When you get to go somewhere new — swim in an outdoor pool that’s (Olympic sized) — that’s just a different type of training too and so it’s good for people to get that experience.”
Above all, Niggel praised the resilience of his squads.
“The athletes on this team are very poised for success, and they deserve to have a good year this year because they’ve been through so much.”