Three 'B' cuts lead Knights at Champs
The Big East Championships were the light at the end of the tunnel for the Rutgers swimming team all season long. The Scarlet Knights finally reached the four-day-long Championships last week and came away with a seventh place finish out of 11 teams in its first attempt under head coach Phil Spiniello.
"It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed coaching this team at this meet," Spiniello said. "It was a great experience and I'm happy with the meet overall. The finish will improve in the coming years."
But the season is not over yet for some Knights, as there were NCAA "B" cuts made by junior Jacquelyn Ward, as well as freshmen Trisha Averill and Chelsea Rolin. Swimmers who make the NCAA "A" cut automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, while those who make the "B" cut fill the rest of the spots based on time.
The Rutgers swimmers who qualified are not guaranteed a spot in the Championships with the "B" cut, but they will anxiously await the results to find out if they can go to the NCAAs.
Ward qualified for her cut in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:36.92, which also got her fourth in the race.
In her first appearance at the Big East Championships, Averill made the NCAA cut in the 200-yard breaststroke with 2:16.83. Fellow rookie Rolin qualified for a "B" cut in the mile where she placed fourth with a time of 16:34.17, and in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:54.05 —good for ninth.
"I was extremely excited to hear that I got my NCAA ‘B' cuts. I wasn't expecting to get them so when I did it was a pleasant surprise," Rolin said. "There's a slim chance I'll actually get to go but it was nice getting the cut and realizing that I can do it."
The Knights occupied fourth place after the first day of the meet, which was devoted to relays — an area that the team needs to continue to work on, according to Spiniello.
The Knights showed marked improvement in that phase of the meet as the 800-yard freestyle relay team of junior Jacquelyn Ward, sophomore Taylor Zafir, as well as freshmen Mary Moser and Chelsea Rolin dropped 29 seconds off its qualifying time. The team finished in 7:27.85, which put it in seventh place.
The Knights also dropped time in the 200-yard medley relay with the team of Moser, junior Brianne Lindblad, sophomore Taylor Curado and freshman Emilie Kaufmann. The unit finished sixth with a time of 1:43.36 — three seconds better than its seeded time.
"It was a great experience competing against all these great schools in one place," Rolin said. "There was so much talent and so much speed. At first it was a little intimidating, but competing against all these fast schools only makes you faster."
The Knights dropped to sixth place overall on Day 2 and maintained that spot throughout the third day of competition. The two days were highlighted by the NCAA qualifying times of Ward and Rolin and strong individual performances from Curado and Zafir.
Rolin's performance in the mile highlighted the final day of the Championships, but the Knights dropped down to the seventh spot as a team. Despite not finishing where they might have liked, the impressive performances by some of the younger members of the team has the Knights' momentum pointing upward for next season.
"At Big East we really came together as a team. We cheered, supported and tried as hard as we could to stay positive the whole time," Rolin said. "We're only going to get stronger. I'm positive that we're going to be a contender for years to come."