Chris Villa’s vision is coming true.
When he took the job as the IUP swimming coach eight years ago, Villa envisioned returning the Crimson Hawks to relevancy and becoming a power to contend with in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
The Crimson Hawks are getting there.
Still basking in their best showing at the PSAC Championships in some time, the IUP swimming teams learned Wednesday five individuals have qualified for the NCAA Championships in Ohio next week.
“It was a long time coming,,” Villa said. “The whole time I’ve been here we’ve been trying to build toward this. Everybody from alumni to people on the team helped build it. This is where we always thought we could be.
“You have the times and everything, and if the times played out the way we thought they would, we knew we could do something like this, but I never thought we would have achieved 28 (NCAA) B cuts and 17 school records.”
The IUP women placed second at the PSACs for their best showing since 1999, and the men came in third for their best finish since 2005.
IUP also returned home with five individual conference champions.
At the conference championships, the Crimson Hawks also earned recognition for their work inside the classroom.
Senior Vincent Hall earned the PSAC Men’s Swimming Champion Scholar Athlete award, given to the athlete with the highest cumulative GPA among the participants at the PSAC Championships. Hall has maintained a 4.0 GPA.
“That’s just as important as any conference championship,” Villa said. “We put a lot of focus and pride into academics, and we’re very proud of (Hall) for earning the award.”
The NCAA Championships are March 12-15 at the Spire Instititute in Geneva, Ohio.
IUP’s contingent at nationals will be led by five-time All-America selection Allyson Mitidieri, who qualified in four events.
Sisters Christina and Aniella Janosky, and Taylor Snyder will also compete for the IUP women, while Steve Long will be the men’s team’s lone representative.
It’s the most individual qualifiers IUP has sent to nationals in six years, Villa said.
“This is the most we’ve had since Houston, which would have been 2008,” Villa said. “This is the most individuals, because we didn’t qualify a relay. We qualified all individuals. It’s a little bit harder to do than a relay. It might be the most individuals to qualify for nationals in program history.”
Mitidieri will compete in the 200 and 400 individual medleys, as well as the 100 and 200 breaststrokes.
The Janosky sisters will be making their first trips to nationals, as will Snyder. Christina will compete in the 1,000 freestyle and Aniella will compete in the 200 butterfly. Snyder will compete in the 50.
Long will be competing in the 100 butterfly on the men’s side.
Mitidieri is making her third trip to nationals. She will look to give IUP its second national title in three seasons. Jackie Hynson won one in 2012 in the 200 butterfly.
“She’s primed to potentially be a national champ in the 400 IM,” Villa said. “She’s in good position to do that. She’s one of the most committed, hardest-working athletes, and whatever she gets, she earned it.
“She’s maybe not as naturally gifted as some folks. She works for it. She was someone who was here for four years. It’s awesome and something special what she’s been able to achieve.”