Rutgers takes 9th place at Big Ten Championships
As a long conference season concluded over the weekend, the Rutgers swimming and diving team returned from the Big Ten Championships this weekend with multiple school records and a historical finish.
The Scarlet Knights finished out the four-day tournament Saturday night in West Lafayette, Indiana, finishing in ninth place with a score of 446. This was Rutgers’ highest finish in the Big Ten Championships since joining the conference in 2014.
“It was a great meet for us, we moved up in the Big Ten rankings from last year, scoring 59 more points than last year,” said head coach Petra Martin. “We had a really good amount of great performances, some really inspiring swims.”
Three school records were broken over the weekend, courtesy of international sophomores Vera Koprivova, Francesca Stoppa and the 400 freestyle relay team.
Czech Republic native Koprivova finished fifth overall in the 200 backstroke, coming in at 1:53.94, capturing her first individual school record. This was her seventh National Collegiate Atheltic Association (NCAA) B cut after also receiving one on her 1:54.56 preliminary race time.
Stoppa, a native of Italy, produced two school records this past weekend. She hit the wall at 53.16 in the 100 butterfly and 1:56.20 in the 200 butterfly, to break previous program records.
“The most exciting thing was that we were doing this together, the team was very well unified and supportive of each other. Even though we didn’t have a big group there, we were able to move up another spot and put a lot of points on the board,” Martin said.
In the 400 freestyle relay, the Knights produced a time over four seconds faster than their seed time. Koprivova, senior Meghan Kiely, freshmen Alexandra Fabugais-Inaba and Clare Lawlor finished the relay with a time of 3:24.97, breaking another school record in the process.
Kiely was able to be a part of a school record before leaving the pool for the last time as a Rutgers student.
“I felt really good,” Lawlor said. “Our team did so well, everyone swam really great and the team energy was so high. Everyone was super supportive, so it was just a really great time."
Lawlor also swam in the C final of the 100 freestyle, finishing 17th overall with a 49.66, a NCAA B cut.
Rutgers saw overall improvement from last year, improving on 2016's 10th place finish.
This year, the Knights were in a tight race with Penn State for eighth place, ending just seven points behind them.
“It was sort of last minute and turned into a great rivalry and a great push. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that, so I’m very proud of the team,” Martin said.
Senior Rachel Stoddard swam to yet another NCAA B as her Rutgers career comes to a close, finishing 15th overall in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:12.97.
Freshman Federica Greco placed 18th in the 200 butterfly with a 1:58.59, another NCAA B cut for the Knights.
“We are definitely going to keep on focusing on the little things every single day in practice, making sure we are not losing our focus, every single day. Just mental preparation so that everything is easier the next time around,” Lawlor said.
Off the diving board, junior Addison Walkowiak had three top eight performances over the weekend, including two sixth places finishes in the 1 and 3-meter events. Walkowiak also came in eighth place in the platform dive with a 260.45.
Rutgers continues to go higher and higher each year and wants to take this momentum into the next few meets, especially into next season.
The Knights head up north to West Point, New York for the Army West Point Invitational this weekend, in preparation for the rest of championships season.
“This year was very different than last year when it comes to the standards that we place, so that definitely has helped our level of performance overall. Every year you are looking for something better to do. Find a better and new way to keep on moving forward,” Martin said. “If it isn’t broken, break it."
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