Rutgers breaks records, falls short of national prominence
When the season started for the Rutgers swimming and diving team, head coach Phil Spiniello’s goal was to become a nationally ranked program.
While the Scarlet Knights ultimately fell short of that goal this season, they achieved just about everything else.
The Knights broke seven school records at last week’s AAC Conference Championships. Six of them came from sophomores Joanna Wu and Morgan Pfaff.
The total surpassed the five school records the Knights set at last year’s Big East Championships.
Their third-place finish was also the best placement at a conference meet since the 2004-05 season, when they placed third in the Big East, garnering Spiniello AAC women’s swimming coach of the year honors.
“This is exactly where I want to be [in terms of team progress],” Spiniello said. “I think this exceeded my expectations for year four, and it raises the expectations for year five and moving forward into the Big Ten.”
During the regular season, the Knights earned some notable results, including a dual-meet draw against future Big Ten rival Illinois.
The Knights also avenged a defeat to former Big East rival Villanova by beating it in the team’s first quad meet of the season.
Senior diver Nicole Scott and Wu had the most success in the regular season. Scott broke two records during the season, setting a new school record in the platform event Nov. 24 at the Frank Elm Invitational.
The Toronto native also reset her record in the 3-meter dive in early November during a quad meet against Villanova, Georgetown and Seton Hall.
Wu was dominant throughout the entire season, with her most impressive result coming against two top-25 teams in No. 24 Notre Dame and No. 20 Michigan, where she claimed first place in the 200-yard backstroke.
Although Wu unsurprisingly broke two school records in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, Pfaff who finished the conference meet with the most records broken.
The Red Lion, Pa., native claimed silver in the 200- and 400-yard individual medleys, breaking both school records in the process. She then broke senior Brittany Guinee’s record in the 200-yard butterfly during the preliminaries despite placing behind Guinee in the finals.
“I really surprised myself,” Pfaff said of her performance. “I took this year to make sure I really gave my all ... and I surprised myself in a good way and fingers crossed for NCAAs.”
The sophomores may have stolen the show at the conference meet, but the Knights’ senior class was also very strong this season.
Led by senior swimming captain Allyson Perrotti, the senior class was the first to spend all four years under Spiniello’s coaching and it did not disappoint.
Perrotti set a new school record in the 200-yard breaststroke while seniors Mary Moser and Guinee were members of the record-setting 400-yard medley relay team.
“It was definitely weird knowing it was my last race,” Perrotti said. “Overall I am very happy with my last year. I am very happy with my past four years in college … and there’s nothing I would ever take back from that experience.”
While the conference championships are over, Wu, Guinee, Pfaff, Perrotti and junior Greta Leberfinger all qualified in races under NCAA “B” cut time.
The official invites come out Monday and if any of them qualify next month for the NCAAs, it would be the first time under Spiniello that a swimmer has qualified to compete on the national stage.
“It would put us back on the national scene making the NCAA meet on the swimming side, which we haven’t done since 2009,” Spiniello said.