February 20, 2019 | 27° F

Senior captain hopes to leave lasting impression in pool

Photo by Tian Li |

Senior captain Greta Leberfinger holds the fastest 200-meter breaststroke time in school history after transferring from Marist College three years ago.

Three years ago, current Rutgers swimming and diving team senior captain Greta Leberfinger found herself at Marist College unhappy and ready to make a change.

“I wanted a bigger program,” Leberfinger said. “I outgrew the program [at Marist]. I wanted a closer group of girls, an all girls team, and really wanted to focus more on swimming. I felt like [Rutgers] was the perfect fit for that.”

So Leberfinger made the change, transferring to Rutgers for the start of her sophomore campaign. 

For head coach Phil Spiniello, bringing Leberfinger aboard was a no-brainer when she called to inquire about the transfer. After missing out on her the first time through recruiting, Spiniello was thrilled to finally get the chance to coach her. 

“I thought she’d be a great fit for the program and saw a lot of potential,” Spiniello said. “I knew what her ability level could be. We were lucky to have her choose Rutgers a second time around.”

For many transfers, it is difficult to acclimate to a new team, culture and university as a whole, but not for Leberfinger. Her openness and communication skills made creating relationships with the girls and coaches easier.

The Chatham, New Jersey, native had an easier transition, as she described herself as a homebody, which played a role in her decision to transfer.

Leberfinger’s best event is the breaststroke, where she currently holds the record at Rutgers for the 200 meter. 

In order to get better, she is willing to not only practice, but practice efficiently. She said it helps her get better and fine-tune the details of strokes in her swimming. 

As Spiniello explains it, her breaststroke can’t be improved substantially over time. It takes months and years.

“Her breastwork has improved a lot not only with her time, but her stroke technique, which takes a lot of practice,” Spiniello said. “It’s not something you can fix in one day. It’s something we’ve worked the last two and a half years with how much she has improved.”

Although breaking records is the ultimate goal, for Leberfinger it isn’t all about the time. 

“I try not to focus on time,” Leberfinger said. “I want to do my best, and if my best is better than my record time, then that’s awesome.”

This season, she was elected to serve as one of the four captains of the team, a role she takes very seriously.

“I was honored to be elected captain by my teammates and it’s a big responsibility,” Leberfinger said. “So far, so good. It’s fun being able to communicate between the teams and the coaches. I want what’s best for the team as well as the coaches. Communication is the key in this process.”

Her leadership has impacted all of her teammates in a variety of ways, but sophomore diver Alyssa Black thinks her communication skills are what really stand out about her.

“She is very enthusiastic and so positive,” Black said. “She keeps the team together. She is a great captain. She was very open and would start conversations with everyone, and it was great that she was so willing to talk.”

Spiniello credits her dynamic skillset as the reason why she was elected captain and is so successful in the pool.

“First and foremost, her work ethic every day at practice … she is a good role model for the younger athletes to see how you can get better in this program by doing things well,” Spiniello said. “She has dedicated herself to becoming a good leader to the program.”

Over the course of her career, Leberfinger has gained confidence mentally and physically to help her swimming. She hopes to leave a legacy at Rutgers, both on future programs and the underclassmen she is leading now.

“I hope to leave a mark with them knowing that everyone is capable of doing something and achieving their goals by putting their mind to it,” Leberfinger said. “I really try to do that by leading in the weight room, in and out of the pool [and] academics. I try to show them what’s possible.”

For updates on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Ryan Moran

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