Final home meet offers test run for champs
The Rutgers swimming and diving team concludes another grueling regular season this weekend at home in the newly renamed Rutgers Invitational.
The meet, formerly known as the Swimming WorldCollege Conference Carnival, starts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Saturday at the RU Aquatic Center.
The Scarlet Knights have their work cut out for them as they host Harvard, Toledo, Rider, Saint Francis and perennial powerhouse No. 13 Minnesota. The Golden Gophers took first in the Invitational last year when they were ranked No. 10.
"Any time you race and represent Rutgers you want to do well," said head coach Phil Spiniello. "It is important that we post good times this weekend and get the momentum going heading into the Big East Championships in February."
But do not think the Knights are looking ahead. They will surely try to savor every moment this weekend because it is the last meet at the RU Aquatic Center for senior captain Jen Betz.
"Jen has been a tremendous leader since I walked in the door this summer," Spiniello said. "She has done a phenomenal job on the [diving] board and as captain."
It is easy to look at Betz's performance throughout the season and see why she is such a valuable asset to the team.
She won the three-meter dive in the Knights' first meet against three Big East opponents, placed first out of 26 divers in the one-meter at the Princeton Invitational and paced the team by winning both events in a losing effort earlier this month against Maryland.
Betz is the only senior on the team and her leadership proved invaluable. Competing in front of her home fans for the last time will certainly be emotional, but Betz remained focused on the team's goals above all else.
"This is actually the first time I've thought about this, and it definitely brings up a lot of emotion. It's shocking to think that my last season is so close to being over," Betz said. "But we still have our most important meets coming up, so my focus will definitely be on preparing myself for those meets and not getting too caught up in the fact that this is my last meet at [the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center]."
This meet is the last event for the Knights before the Big East Championships on Feb. 11 in Louisville, Ky. The team has come a long way since the beginning of the season, but there is still always room for improvement.
"I am very happy with the team's progress since we started in September, but I would like our relay times to improve before heading into [the Big East Championships]," Spiniello said.
Before they can look ahead to the postseason, the Knights plan to end their regular season on a high note and send their graduating captain off in style.
"It hasn't always been easy, but I love this team, and I love this program, and I am so excited to still be here enjoying competing and diving more than I have in years," Betz said.