Whetstone leads young squad
Fifth-year senior captain Catherine Whetstone is optimistic that the Rutgers swimming and diving team can get back to where it was in 2006-07.
In that season, the Scarlet Knights claimed their second consecutive runner-up finish in the Big East as Whetstone gained honorable mention All-American accolades, participating in the NCAA Championships as part of the 400-yard freestyle relay team and setting a school record en route to a 14th place showing in the 100-yard butterfly.
Whetstone knows it will take a lot of hard work to get to that point, but she has been encouraged by the team's performance in preseason training and practice.
"I think that we have a really, really good squad this year and there's a lot of depth," Whetstone said. "All the seniors are looking phenomenal in practice … [and] we had an intra-squad meet a couple of weeks ago and a lot of the new girls swam really fast."
The Knights need strong efforts from underclassmen if they are to improve on last year's fourth place Big East finish. In the wake of graduating key seniors such as captain Linda Tate and former 100-yard fly conference champion Kasey Kesses, RU's 27 player roster consists of 17 underclassmen, including 11 freshmen.
Whetstone said it is the responsibility of herself and the other seven seniors to convey the tradition of RU swimming and diving to the newcomers. At the same time, Whetstone said she does not foresee the team's youth being a problem.
"They're just really good workers and there are so many of them that are really passionate about swimming and diving," Whetstone said. "It's not that hard because they really want to be there."
She said head coach Chuck Warner will also help the young team develop.
In 11 seasons at the helm, Warner collected four Big East Coach of the Year honors thanks to a 69-28 record.
"In the world of swimming, he's a really, really respected coach," Whetstone said. "He has so much knowledge in the sport, and he can really help all the new girls get to a whole new level [like] he has with the rest of the team."
RU begins the 2009-2010 season this weekend by hosting the SWRC Invite, beginning tonight at the Rutgers Aquatic Center.
Whetstone said the event serves as a warm-up for the dual meet the following weekend against Big East foes Connecticut and Villanova.
The remainder of the pre-winter break slate features home meets with West Virginia, Wagner and the Galbraith Diving Event, which the Knights will also play host for.
In between, the team travels to Cambridge for the Harvard Invitational.
"I just love how the attitude of the team is right now," Whetstone said. "If they're confident in what they're doing, we're going to be a pretty powerful team."