Rutgers readies for Big Ten Championship in Ohio
It’s finally here.
For the entirety of the 2014-15 season, the Rutgers swimming and diving team has worked for the opportunity to make noise in the Big Ten Championships.
The Scarlet Knights trek to the Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion at Ohio State as they embark on the beginning of their postseason journey.
The tournament marks the culmination of an inaugural season in the Big Ten where the Knights have seen mixed results.
Since the season ended last year, the first and only year in the AAC for Rutgers, head coach Phil Spiniello has had the team training rigorously to get them ready for its first Big Ten Championship meet.
“I can’t wait,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “This is what we’ve been working toward all season. This has been our focus and our goal and I’m excited to get to Ohio State and get this thing rolling."
With six nationally-ranked teams in No. 13 Indiana, No. 15 Michigan, No. 16 Purdue, No 19. Minnesota, No. 21 Wisconsin and No. 23 Ohio State along with seven other tough opponents participating, the Knights will be up against some formidable competition.
Spiniello expects the competition tobring out the best in his team and allow for them to enjoy the meet.
“This is our first time at the Big Ten Conference meet and I think that we’ve talked about it all season, enjoying the process of it and enjoying the meet and getting the lay of land,” Spiniello said.
In their first taste of the Big Ten against a top-25 Penn State team at the time, the Scarlet Knights faltered but showed a lot of fight in defeat, ultimately falling, 221-138.
After starting to rest the last two weeks in preparation for the conference meet, the team hopes to see a steep improvement come Wednesday.
Spiniello has reiterated over the last couple of weeks that he wants to see his swimmers and divers get a personal record in each event they participate in.
Entering the meet with a top time this week can prove to be a determining factor for whether a swimmer makes the NCAA’s to compete against the best of the best.
As a whole, the team is excited for the challenge that lies ahead and feels ready to tackle the biggest competition of the season head-on.
“Although it's my first and last Big Ten Championship meet, I’m really excited about it,” Leberfinger said. “The rest has helped and when it comes time to swim. I’m just going to give it all I have.”
Spiniello said he has set goals for the team heading into the meet, mostly relying on work ethic in practice and in past meets from earlier in the season.
“That’s what we are going to do this weekend ... is go in there and swim and dive to the best of our ability,” Spiniello said. “Try to put personal best times up, enjoy the meet and wherever we finish is our starting point in the conference.”
Going forward, Spiniello believes that this meet is a great precursor for the Knights to show that they can handle what the Big Ten can throw at them.
In the process, he also hopes it can help him grow as a coach.
“I want to have the athletes enjoy the experience and realize that we can hang with these teams in the Big Ten and that over the years we can work our way up in the conference,” Spiniello said. “I think that every conference meet and championship meet has made me a better coach so I’m expecting to learn from this meet like every other one.”
The meet begins on Feb. 18 and ends on Feb. 21, with NCAA qualifications shortly after. Rutgers enters an important two-week stretch that will only help the swimmers and the program improve.
“The excitement level is going up and the amount of work we do is going down,” Spiniello said. “You can definitely see the swimmers are going fasted and excited."
For updates on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.