Rutgers attempts to build on historic season at midway point
At the halfway point mark of the year, the Rutgers swimming and diving team has already had a historic season. The Scarlet Knights' intense racing mentality has put them in a prime position to battle for high finishes during the remainder of their schedule.
The team has a little more than two months left before competing in the Big Ten Championships on Feb. 17. The Knights have been gearing up all of their focus for the four-day meet thus far and will continue to do so for the remainder of the season.
Rutgers will certainly have ample time to get ready for the Big Ten Championships. The team will not compete in a meet for a month, as the next scheduled competition is on Jan. 9 in Miami against the Hurricanes, then Kansas and Big Ten opponent Iowa.
During that period, the Knights will still be hard at work in the pool practicing.
“We continue training,” said head swimming coach Petra Martin. “We continue training cycles and everything, so there’s really — we’re in the middle of the season now, so we can’t be taking time off or laying low or what not. We’re back here Monday morning going hard. Next week is actually our super hard week of training, so we’re just gonna keep moving with what we need to be doing with the overall plan.”
The Knights began their season at the Florida Gulf Coast University Classic in Fort Meyers, Florida. Rutgers finished in fourth place with a team total of 297.50. Senior Joanna Wu led the way for her team, earning two NCAA B qualifying times in the 100 and 200 backstroke events.
Next up, the Knights returned home for the Sonny Werblin Invitational at the Rutgers Aquatics Center at Busch campus from Oct. 16 to 17. The team had some success on day two of the meet as four swimmers secured two individual wins each. Senior Morgan Pfaff was victorious in the 200 backstroke event and in the 400-individual medley.
Six days later, Rutgers hosted Wagner in dual action in Piscataway. The Knights defeated the Seahawks in decisive fashion with a 195-102 triumph.
Junior Alyssa Black swept through both dive events, earning first place in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives. Junior Rachel Stoddard was victorious in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events for Rutgers.
On Nov. 6 and 7, Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall took a trip to Piscataway to face the Knights. Rutgers beat Seton Hall, 274-79, and Georgetown, 156-97, to secure two wins. The swimmers were unable to out master the Wildcats and fell, 198-153. Sophomore Addison Walkowiak set a new school record in the 3-meter dive event with a total of 348.55 and also won the 1-meter dive event.
Walkowiak broke the program record in the 1-meter dive event at the Frank Elm Invitational with a total of 321.80. Pfaff, Wu and Stoddard all recorded NCAA B qualifying times at the meet. The Knights placed second in the 10-team competition scoring a 1,052. Navy earned first place with a total of 1,417.5.
Walkowiak had set a new program record in the 1-meter dive event with a total of 321.80 and was named Big Ten Diver of the Week just a few weeks prior. Two hours before Walkowiak’s record-breaking dive, Black broke the school record in the 1-meter dive with a 314.85.
“I’m really proud of everyone. We’ve accomplished so much in like half of our season already and we’ve just been working really hard and I think it’s really showing and it’s making us all excited for Big Ten’s," Black said. "We’re definitely going to improve there as well for championships. So yeah, I’m just really excited for the amount of work that we’ve been putting in and its finally showing.”
Three Knights — Pfaff, Stoddard and Wu — qualified to compete in the AT&T Winter Long Course National Championships in Federal Way, Washington from Dec. 3 to 5. Pfaff participated in 200 individual medley, Stoddard swam in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events and Wu raced in the 100 and 200 backstroke events.
The swimmers would also be able to qualify for the Olympic trials in Washington.
On Dec. 3, Stoddard raced in the 100 breaststroke and her time of 1:10.82 was an Olympic trials cut — the first in Rutgers history.
Wu followed up by producing her own Olympic trials time in the 100 backstroke on Dec. 4. The Kent, Washington, native finished the race in 1:03.12 swimming in the pool she’s competed in for nearly her whole life.
“It was pretty awesome,” Wu said. “The pool that nationals was at was actually my home pool that I used to practice back in the day with my club team. So it was really cool to get the cut again at the pool that I grew up in.”
In their most recent outing, the Knights defeated Boston University and Connecticut at the Rutgers Aquatic Center this past Saturday. Rutgers beat the Terriors, 242-111, and then triumphed past the Huskies of UConn, 244-109.
Sophomore Karli Rymer, junior Chantel Asselin, freshman Cynthia Wu and sophomore Larissa Neilan each picked up two individual titles.
“I’m very pleased, very satisfied with where we are right now,” Wu said. “Definitely, no one is where they want to be at the end of the season but, as I said you know, we’re making progress."
Rutgers has had an excellent season in the pool thus far and will look to hone in its skills in practice over the next month to ready itself for the final push to the Big Ten Championships.
“I think we’re at a good place as a team,” Martin said. “There’s still obviously a lot of work that we have ahead of us. So that’s what I was actually just telling them when we were meeting, that I’m really proud of them of where we are right now but, there’s more to be done and we need to keep the focus on that and making sure that we are again, taking things one day at a time, one workout at a time and doing the best job possible every day.”
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