FAIRLESS HILLS – For Pennsbury senior Deanna Shuster, swimming partners have always been part of her family. As a member of Penn Aquatics Swim Club for over nine years, she grew up as part of the family that started out as the Pennsbury Aquatic Club.
So it was no surprise that the four-year varsity swimmer for the Lady Falcons chose Bloomsburg as the place where she plans to continue her career as a college swimmer.
While Shuster also applied at and visited IUP, Ursinus and the University of Pittsburgh, she says the decision to swim with the Huskies was a no-brainer.
“I always knew I was going to wind up at Bloomsburg,” said Shuster. “It really wasn’t a question.”
In addition to taking a liking to BU head coach Stu Marvin, Shuster says the members of the women’s swim team gave her a warm reception.
“I did an overnight with the swim team there and they were so welcoming,” explained Shuster. “It’s like a big family atmosphere and that was really important to me.”
“Everything just fell into place and it all made sense.”
While her college choice was easy, Shuster’s time on the club circuit the last three years has been anything but.
Right after freshman year, Penn Aquatics coach Bobby DeSandre moved to Tri-Hampton YMCA. Friends with a group of Spirit swimmers who jumped to Penn Aquatics when George School decided to start its own program a few years back, Deanna and her new buds switched to George School Aquatics.
Now, that group graduated from the program last year so Shuster had to go it alone her last season at GSA. Now, she’s back at Penn Aquatics. She’s had four club coaches in four years including DeSandre, Cindy Steckler, Robin Rabinowich and Bob Kupperman.
Over that time span, the only consistent coach that has guided Shuster has been Falcon coach Greg Stoloski. Shuster says the four-year coach was exactly what she needed in order to prep for the next step to collegiate swimming.
“I think Greg prepared me very well,” said Deanna. “He was very strict with attendance – nine practices a week, morning practices and after school. Setting up the times and the way he balanced all the practices out – the time management aspect of all of it – is going to help me so much next year.”
“I really appreciate him putting me in that mindset.”
The instruction she received from Stoloski was also a big help to Shuster.
“He’s just an all-around great coach,” she said. “He really focuses on technique and how important it is to think of the little things when you’re swimming, instead of just going at it mindlessly.”
In college, Shuster hopes to compete in the backstroke – her signature events in swimming are the 100 and 200 back.
Deanna just may get her wish. Current Bloomsburg senior Alex Wheatley – who won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) title in the 100 back this season – is graduating at the end of the school year. Shuster – who is number two all time in the 100 back for Pennsbury girls swimming – could slide right into the position that is being vacated by Wheatley.
Deanna is also a very capable butterfly swimmer. Shuster has qualified for districts three times now in the both the 100 back and the 100 fly.
“Deanna is a very driven athlete,” said Stoloski. “She’s very determined and she’s very good at goal-setting. She works extremely hard to accomplish those things.”
Due to rules changes in District 1, Shuster (as well as the rest of the swimmers in the Suburban One League) had a much more difficult road to the postseason this year after the elimination of the consideration time berths.
After taking first place at SOLs in the 100 back (1:00.56) and third in the 100 fly (1:00.21), Shuster was one of only three female swimmers making it to districts this season.
At SOLs, this was the third straight year that Deanna took top honors in the 100 back. She took second in the 100 fly last year and was hoping for a better finish battling against two-time champ Faye Melekos, of Council Rock South.
“I was on pace to swim well under the district (qualifying) time but my second 50 (yards), I lost it,” explained Shuster. “I was out in 27 (seconds) and came back in 34 and that’s not a very good split.
“I was a little upset with my time, especially since I didn’t make my district cut, but I was happy I made the podium.”
Stoloski says Shuster is her own best motivator.
“She never lets herself down,” said Stoloski. “She’ll push through adversity, she’ll push through bad experiences and come out on the other side, generally achieving what she wanted to within that year.”
“This was a hard year for her with the automatic times being where they were and it took until the end of the season to get us there but she was really pleased with her times.”
“A lot of that just comes down to her determination and hard work in practice.”
A two-year co-captain, Shuster showed plenty of leadership capabilities the last few years in the pool, the coach added.
“Deanna has always had a really great personality,” said Stoloski. “She was really funny and enjoyed the social aspect of the team.
“As a leader, Deanna helped pick up newer athletes on the team. She could get them to rise to the challenge of hard meets and to push themselves in practice.”
Shuster plans on pushing herself next season at Bloomsburg under the tutelage of Marvin.
“The swim coach was a big part of my decision,” said Shuster. “He is such a great guy and I think that I’m going to do really well for him next year.”
Under Marvin’s guidance, the Huskies have established 47 team records. A total of 356 additions to the school’s All-Time Top Ten lists have been added during his tenure and his swimmers have recorded over 750 individual lifetime-best performances. For the 2014-15 season, he was named the PSAC Women’s Coach of the Year.
Shuster also likes the rural atmosphere surrounding the Bloomsburg campus.
“I like that it’s in the Poconos and getting to look out and seeing all the mountains instead of a big city,” she said. “I’m not a big city person.”
Shuster may not be a big city person but she’s a big-time swimmer. She made First Team All-SOL National Conference honors in the backstroke this season and third team in the 100 fly.
Next year, she’s hoping to add a few PSAC accolades to her résumé.
Contact Steve Sherman at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter