SCRANTON — Mia Nardone didn’t waste any time settling in at Marywood University. One of the best swimmers to ever come out of Pittston Area, Nardone made a quick splash for the Pacers.
Just two months into her freshman season at Marywood, Nardone has already broken several school records on the women’s swim team.
In her first collegiate swim meet, Nardone posted her first two career wins against Division 1 Manhattan University. Nardone swam the 50 freestyle in 26.21 for a win. She then won the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:04:03. For her accomplishments that day in October, Nardone was named the Landmark Conference Athlete of the Week for women’s swimming.
“It’s been a great start so far,” said Nardone, a 2015 Pittston Area graduate. “My team is very supportive and they are a great bunch of kids.”
Heading into her first collegiate meet, Nardone admitted she was extremely nervous. However, seeing a friend helped ease those nerves. Scranton Prep graduate Katie Voitik swims for Manhattan. Once Nardone saw her, she said, it helped tremendously.
“I swam against her many times,” Nardone said. “Seeing a familiar face put me at ease. Coming out with a few wins and knowing I could be a great addition to the team was very exciting.”
Through it all, the Marywood team has been tasked with adjusting to a new coach.
In September of 2015, then-assistant coach Katherine Weaver was promoted to interim head coach. She’s been an assistant with the program since August of 2012. The adjustment, Nardone said, took a while but the swimmers are starting to understand what Weaver puts in front of them.
“Our assistant coaches stepped up,” Nardone said. “She takes everyone’s individual goals and makes sure you reach them.”
While at Pittston Area, Nardone swam to a plethora of school records, including a 27-year-old record in the 200 medley relay with teammates Adison Hazlet, Erin Senese and Arianna Boccardi. She made it to the state championships all four years. This past spring, Nardone won gold in the backstroke at the district championships.
Nardone admits she could have chosen an NCAA Division 1 school to swim at. However, academics are important to her and she wasn’t looking forward to the pressure given to Division 1 athletes.
“I’m not pressured as much at Marywood as I would be elsewhere,” she said. “Swimming is just a fun experience and not having the pressure on my shoulders is good for me. I’m here to do my best, but school is more important.”
Being close to her family was a deciding factor as well.
“Staying local has always been on my mind,” she said. “I’m on campus, but I can see my family whenever I want to. They come to every meet and they support me very much.”
Her family has seen a brilliant start to her career.
Nardone is currently swimming in the 100 and 200 backstrokes, the 100 butterfly and the 50 freestyle. She also has duties on a few relay teams.
In a loss to Catholic University in late October, Nardone took center stage for the Pacers. The freshman won three individual events and broke two school records – the 200 back with a time of 2:17.34 and the 100 butterfly in 1:02.11. She won both races by more than three seconds.
Anyone familiar with Nardone’s swimming knows that the 200 backstroke is a new event for her. In high school, she was always one of the best backstroke swimmers in Northeast Pennsylvania. She still swims the 100 backstroke, but has added the 200 to her portfolio.
Nardone said she was initially terrified to swim that distance.
“I’ve never done that before,” she said. “I went into it and ended up breaking the record. Now, it’s one of my favorite events. I feel like I’m better at that than the 100 back.”
At the WPI Invitational in early December in Massachusetts, the women’s team finished eighth out of nine teams. However, Nardone added her name to the record books again.
In the women’s 800 freestyle relay, Nardone, Virginia Cobb, Julia Randolph and Kim Peterson swam a Marywood record 8:16.54.
Randolph would later break the Marywood record in the 200 backstroke with a 2:17.66 in the preliminary round and a 2:16.54 in the final. However, that new mark was quickly broken as Nardone registered times of 2:15.05 in the preliminary round and 2:15.79 in the finals for the school record.
Nardone is the daughter of Lisa and Ralph Nardone of Pittston. After graduating as a Pittston Area Valedictorian, Nardone registered a 3.8 grade-point average in her first semester at Marywood. She’s currently majoring in Math Education. As far as balancing swimming and academics, Nardone said it’s a lot different than high school.
“I always have a bunch of school work to do and also have to be a practice every day,” she said. “I would go to practice knowing that I have to do homework when I got home. It’s been stressful and harder, but I just delegate my time and focus on what needs to get done.”
The Pacers have just three swim meets remaining prior to the conference championships in mid-February. Nardone expects to turn in some impressive times during that meet, which will be held on Feb. 12-14 at the Germantown Swim Center in Boyds, Maryland.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick