Rutgers makes history at Big Ten Championships
On the surface, the results didn't appear promising.
At the end of the Big Ten Championships this past weekend, the Rutgers swimming and diving team finished in 11th place among a 13-team field.
But despite finishing toward the end of the totem pole with their conference foes, the Scarlet Knights left Columbus, Ohio, by etching their names in the record books.
At the end of the meet, Rutgers came home to Piscataway with four school records in hand in the 200-medley relay, 400-medley relay, 200-breaststroke and one-meter dive.
“We expected that type of competition. Walking into that atmosphere was pretty electric, to compete with some of the best in the country,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “We were great in our relays. The 200-medley relay school record was six or seven years old and to break it is great. This showed the program is moving forward and doing a great job.”
Before the Knights embarked on the trip, they already had the mindset of making history.
“A lot of us made it a goal to rewrite the record book,” said junior Joanna Wu. “We want to continue the legacy that our whole team could have an impact on the record book, so it helps at the meet individually to push the extra mile to get that team goal.”
The team of Wu, senior Greta Leberfinger, junior Morgan Pfaff and junior Sarah Coyne took down the 200-medley relay and the 400-medley relay with times of 1:40.43 and 3:37.64, respectively. Their performance in the 400-medley relay was the team’s first top-ten finish of the meet.
Wu was able to get the team’s first top-ten finish in an individual event in the 100-backstroke with a season best time of 53.14 seconds.
In her final meet, Leberfinger earned a season-high of her own in the 100-breaststroke with a time of 1:01.56. She even broke her own record in the 200-breaststroke with a time of 2:11.38.
Following her performance over the weekend, she was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team.
“I was really pleased with how we performed,” Leberfinger said. “Several coaches had commented on how we approached the meet very well. We didn’t let the transition show at all. We supported each other and took it head on.
On the boards, freshman Addison Walkowiak continued her impressive rookie campaign by breaking the record in the one-meter dive with a score of 305.25, which earned her a 12th place finish.
The four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and four-time ECAC Diver of the Week aims to continue her success as the postseason gradually nears.
Pfaff posted a season-best of 2:00.87 in the individual medley, while the group of Coyne, Wu, sophomore Meghan Kiely and freshman Karli Rymer was able to post a season-high of 1:32.12 in the 200-freestyle relay.
The team knows it have to kick it up a notch with the NCAAs right around the corner.
But according to Spiniello, the big stage of the meet and records have motivated the Knights to pick up the slack even more.
“We have to take it to the next level and to prepare we will set a team goal of finishing higher next year and that all starts with spring training,” Spiniello said. “This year's experience and breaking a lot of school records, as well as setting personal bests, helps us do that.”
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