April 22, 2018 | ° F

Swimmer embodies position as captain in final campaign


No one ever would have guessed three years ago that senior captain Taylor Zafir’s career would end up where it has.

After a rough two years to start her career with the Rutgers swimming and diving team, which saw her redshirt her freshman year because of an injury, Zafir’s outlook on swimming changed with the hiring of head coach Phil Spiniello.

“Looking back four years, there were times where I didn’t want to finish swimming and to be really truly enjoying it again, that’s what I’m most proud of,” Zafir said.

In his three years as head coach, Spiniello has seen a drastic change in Zafir’s attitude, as well as her performance in the pool, he said.

“In the time I’ve been with her I’ve seen a real maturity process and seen her come into her own in swimming and really take her swimming to the next level,” Spiniello said.

Zafir progressed so much that she earned captain honors for her senior season, recognition she is thrilled to have.

“I was so excited,” she said of becoming captain. “I was flattered because I knew it came from my teammates. I was really flattered and honored to be nominated by my peers.”

Zafir does not look at the role as an expectation to be a leader, but rather to be a mentor and role model for her teammates, she said.

“My whole goal is to make sure everyone on the team knew that they could come to me and look up to me,” Zafir said. “That’s just my goal every day I go to practice to make sure that people have someone outside of the coaching staff to come to. It’s not all about the swimming, it’s about making sure everyone’s OK outside of the pool, as well.”

Spiniello believes Zafir has done an exceptional job as captain so far. The fifth-year senior is the most experienced swimmer on the roster, and Spiniello believes the experience is a big reason she has been so successful as captain.

“Taylor is a very experienced and mature swimmer,” he said. “She comes in every day, has a great work ethic, and I think the girls look up to her because she’s a leader by example.”

As well as excelling as a leader for the team so far this season, Zafir has also had a noticeable deal of success in the pool.

The Wheaton, Ill., native won the 400-yard individual medley event Oct. 19 and 20 at the Sony Werblin Invitational. She also had a solid showing in the season’s second event against Wagner on Oct. 26, when she collected second-place finishes in both the 200-yard butterfly and the 200-yard breaststroke.

Spiniello said he has never seen Zafir compete as hard or

as well as she has to begin

this season.

“She is practicing better than she’s ever practiced before, and in the first couple of meets she’s competing like I’ve never seen her compete before,” he said.

Zafir is happy with her performance this year, agreeing with Spiniello that she has never swam this well at Rutgers.

“I think maybe because I know this is my last year and kind of my last shot, I’m way more excited for the smaller meets than I have been,” she said. “I kind of treat every meet like it would be Big East [Championships] or my last event ever. Not that I’ve been swimming more with emotion, but I definitely am more passionate than the past years, which

is exciting.”

For updates on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, follow Mike Morton on Twitter @MortonTargum.


By Mike Morton

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