Postseason aura strengthens desire to improve for Rutgers
After finishing 11th out of 13 teams at the Big Ten Championships, the Rutgers swimming and diving team sets its sight on the next step of the season.
The final team event remaining for the Scarlet Knights is the NCAA Qualification Meet at Princeton March 1.
If they qualify, the Knights will have the chance to compete against the best of the best at the NCAA’s on March 19 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
However, the narrative is that not many swimmers or divers from Rutgers will qualify.
There are 21 swimmers on this team and most of their seasons will be over after the qualifiers.
The Knights lacked in NCAA qualifiers last winter. Senior Greta Leberfinger and junior Joanna Wu served as the lone two members of the team to continue their seasons in the pool.
As soon as qualifiers end, the swimmers who did not make it will have close to seven months to prepare for the next season.
They turn their attention to maximizing their improvement for the next season in the hopes of making it to the NCAA’s when this time rolls around next year.
Swimming is a year-round sport. Athletes train the full 12 months with short intervals of breaks from the grind sprinkled in here and there. Spring practices for the collective team pick back up in late March or early April of this year.
The time off gives the team a chance to improve its strength and conditioning. Mentally, it serves as a bit of a refresher.
Head coach Phil Spiniello is not worried about keeping the swimmers and divers on the team focused during the offseason. He knows that their eyes will stay on the prize of a Big Ten Championship one day, despite the gap that currently exists in terms of talent.
Their thoughts and preparations remain on the meet to help the program.
“It’s the nature of our sport,” Spiniello said. “The girls have grown up with it and most have gone through it once already in the program. It allows for us to set new goals and become even more motivated to move up in the Big Ten Conference meet standings, as well as improve each of the girls personal goals for next season.”
Unlike most sports that have the benefit of having a break, the swim team has to persevere through there short breaks. Upon that first dip back in the pool, Spiniello said swimmers and divers need to stay constant throughout the year.
After an extended period of time out of the pool, it takes a couple weeks to kick it back in to second gear.
But, like riding a bike, it all comes natural with repetition.
“I think we are used to it by now,” Leberfinger said on the year-round training. “It has been our life. The good thing is that it’s less intense and it allows you to focus more on school and enjoy your time at college. Swimming is just there and it allows for you to get back in to shape.”
For those like junior Joanna Wu, who lives far away from school, they don’t really get the chance to go home either.
However, that realization doesn’t stop the Kent, Washington, native from striving for her goals and leading the team.
“It gets hard, but at the same time, my parents want for me to achieve what I want so it gives me more power and strength to push through tough times,” Wu said. “It doesn’t affect me as much anymore because they know what goes along with the sport now.”
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