Rutgers earns Big East times at Invitational
Part of the beauty of sports is that sometimes even when a team does not put the most points on the scoreboard, it can still claim a sense of victory.
The Rutgers swimming and diving team experienced that phenomenon at last weekend's Rutgers Invitational, where it placed third but saw several swimmers give season-best performances and qualify for the Big East Championships.
No. 13 Minnesota won the Rutgers Invitational for the second straight year and finished with 274 points. Harvard followed the Golden Gophers with 250, while Rutgers and Toledo followed suit with 170.5 and 111.5, respectively.
The Scarlet Knights faced the toughest competition they saw all season, as Harvard and Toledo also received votes in the latest NCAA coaches' poll.
"I'm extremely happy with our performance this weekend," said head coach Phil Spiniello. "Third is good for where we're at in the season. Minnesota, Harvard and Toledo are all top-25-caliber teams and competing well against them is good for the program."
The freshman trio of Trisha Averill, Kara Millaci and Mary Moser turned in season-best times.
Averill swam the 200 breast in 2:19.07 to rank third, Millaci qualified for the Big East Championship in both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and Moser posted a time of 1:53.87 in the 200-yard freestyle.
Millaci made the Big East cut by finishing the 100 in 59.69 seconds and the 200 with a time of 2:09.39 in her final opportunity to qualify. The entire team was visibly excited for Millaci when she qualified for the postseason, including Spiniello, who let out a cheer that rang through the RU Aquatic Center.
Senior captain Jen Betz once again paced the divers in her last home meet. She won the three-meter diving event with a score of 320.20 and placed second in the one-meter dive with 266.40.
"I tried not to concentrate on the emotional part of competing at home for the last time," Betz said. "It went through my head right before I got on the board for the last time, but I just wanted to go out and have fun."
Betz ran through a tunnel of teammates and was presented with a bouquet of roses as part of the Senior Day festivities. The announcer also read a list of her accomplishments to the crowd.
"That part was definitely emotional," Betz said. "The hardest part was knowing that this is the last swim meet that I would be able to go to this year, because the swimming and diving Big East [Championships] are not at the same time.
"I love watching these girls compete and I love being there to support them, so realizing this would be the last time I could do that — that was the hardest thing."
The Knights now shift their attention to the Big East Championships in Louisville, Ky. They will slightly alter their training in preparation for the postseason, including a reduction in weight training and more attention to their relays.
"We still have room for improvement and our relays in Louisville will be more indicative of what we're capable of," Spiniello said.
The Big East Championship diving action starts on Feb. 11 and continue until Feb. 13. The swimming events run from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19.