Improved conference proves too much for RU
Heading into last weekend's Big East Championships, diving coach Fred Woodruff was well aware of the conference's talented freshman.
Still, Woodruff said, "Until you dive against them head-to-head, you really don't know how good they are."
Woodruff and Rutgers knew full well after Saturday night how good Louisville's Hannah Gadd and Notre Dame's Jenny Chiang are. The two rookies burst onto the big stage with victories in the one and three-meter dives, respectively.
Senior co-captain Erin Saunders led the way for the Scarlet Knights with a pair of seventh place finishes.
"I can't complain," Saunders said of her performance. "I dove pretty well. I just can't control how good the Big East has gotten over the last several years. …You can see it, after my sophomore year, just how much better it's gotten. It's good to see that they're bringing in some good competition."
The conference's improvement was evident in Saunders' point totals. Saunders took first in the one-meter dive in 2008 with a score of 268.30. Two years later, Saunders' 272.25 points were almost forty points off the pace set by Gadd. Nonetheless, Saunders enjoyed her final go-around in the Big East.
"I definitely tried [to keep the pressure off]," Saunders said. "You can't do well if you don't put any pressure on yourself, so I put a little on myself, but for the most part, I just tried to have fun and relax."
Junior Jen Betz — who fought through nagging injuries all season — also competed for RU, qualifying for the consolation round of the one-meter dive and placing 13th out of 33 divers. Betz's 203.50 points in the three-meter diving trials were not enough to earn her a spot in the finals or consolations.
"Jen held up great," Saunders said. "She got through. She was feeling sore so the fact that she was able to get through it and finish everything was great. I think she did amazing."
Saunders and Betz now get a month respite before diving into the NCAA Zone Championships.
"For right now, I'm just going to be thinking about getting my dives in and trying to relax," Saunders said. "I'm really trying to make the most out of this [and go] to Zones feeling good about myself, not so uptight and nervous."