April 22, 2019 | 59° F

Whetstone excels in mediocre finish

It was the Cat Whetstone show for the Rutgers swimming and diving team as a disappointing team performance was highlighted by the junior's success at the Big East Championships.

The Scarlet Knights took fourth place in the championships behind Notre Dame, Louisville and Pittsburgh. Whetstone earned the team's only individual title.

"We had some girls swim amazingly well on limited training," said Rutgers head coach Chuck Warner. "But the nucleus of our team was held back by a poor job of coaching on my part. They gave great effort."

On the third night of the competition, the Knights looked to pick up valuable points in the backstroke along with their first individual championship.

The team looked to junior Whetstone, sophomore Kirsten Fontana and freshman Brianne Lindblad in the 100-yard backstroke.

Whetstone jumped out to an early lead and won her second career Big East Championship while setting the meet record for the race with a time of 53.11 seconds.

Fontana finished the race in fourth place and Lindblad took 12th.

The trio also swam in the finals of the 200-yard backstroke, delivering the Knights' best result of the weekend when Whetsone and Fontana finished the race in second and third place, respectively.

"We knew that we had the best group of backstrokers in the Big East with Cat [Whetstone], Kirsten Fontana and Brianne Lindblad, as well as Megan Caylor and Tracy Dimond," Warner said.

The meet began Wednesday night with the 800-yard freestyle relay and the 200-yard medley relay.

RU took fifth place in the first event before Whetstone began the 200-yard medley with a meet record split in the backstroke.

"Cat is one of the best athletes I've ever coached," Warner said. "She is functioning at about 30 percent of her ability but still finding a way to win Conference Championships, set records and help her team."

The combination of junior Shayna Longacre, senior Kasey Kesses and Lindblad would be passed by Notre Dame and Louisville to finish third in the medley.

Kesses and Longacre were back in the water Friday night to defend their 100-yard butterfly and breaststroke titles, but neither was able to stand atop the podium a second time.

Kesses finished in fourth place, just four-tenths of a second behind Louisville's freshman Raine Thompson in third.

Longacre finished third, almost a minute behind the second-place finisher and nearly two minutes behind the champion.

After missing three weeks at the end of the season with mononucleosis, Longacre suffered a relapse at the Championships.

"Shayna swam through the meet with swollen glands on antibiotics likely having a bit of relapse into mono," Warner said. "She is a champion, swam like a champion, but was just limited by her health."

Over the four-day meet, the trend for RU was strong, but not outstanding results.

Kesses delivered a fifth-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle last season and finished 14th in this year's race.

Junior Erin Saunders, the defending one-meter diving champion, finished in fourth place in the event behind a pair of Notre Dame divers and one from Pitt.

Coming off meets in which Saunders' scores broke 280 and 300, she scored 263.00 in the Championships.

Junior Kim Case, the top seed in the 1,650-yard freestyle, finished the race in fifth place.

Whetstone expects to be the only Knights' representative at the NCAA Championships in just under a month.

Steven Miller

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