Rutgers comes in 9th place at Big Ten Championships
Knights tie placement at last year's event
Conference season for Rutgers concluded last week, as the swimming and diving team returned from the Big Ten Championship finishing in ninth place overall in the event.
The Scarlet Knights returned to New Jersey after a four-day tournament in Columbus, Ohio, matching the place they came in last season at the same event. Overall, Rutgers achieved a score of 386, which was lower than the score of 446 that the team achieved last year in the Big Ten Championships.
There were several impressive performances on behalf of the Knights by several members of the team at the Championships, none more so than senior Addison Walkowiak, who made sure to continue her stellar season well into the event.
Walkowiak broke her own school record and became Rutgers’ first-ever Big Ten All-Conference performer as she finished as the runner-up in the 1-meter diving.
This marks the third time this year that Walkowiak has improved upon her own standard on the 1-meter boards, as she finished second in the event with a score of 340.25 in the finals. The previous day, she scored a 313.05 in the preliminaries to qualify for the finals.
"It's so surreal, I'm actually in shock," Walkowiak said to scarletknights.com after receiving the silver medal. "It was so much fun ... It's good practice for NCAA's and the Big Ten is a major diving conference, so I'll see all of these competitors again."
The next day, Walkowiak earned the bronze medal in the 3-meter diving finals, again breaking her own personal record for the event. After securing the fourth-seed in the preliminaries with a mark of 322.95, Walkowiak posted a score of 369.05 in the finals, besting her previous school record of 362.10, earning herself her second Big Ten Championship medal.
Co-head coach Fredrick Woodruff could not have been happier for her when he spoke to scarletknights.com.
"It's an incredible night for Addy and our program," Woodruff said. "It was actually a slow start. After the first two dives, seventh place was looking good. She was just a little off, but she turned it on and never looked back. It got better and better each dive. She was in tears from the moment she realized where she was on the podium. She was overwhelmed and couldn't believe what she did."
The other notable performance on the diving board for the Knights came from junior Rachel Byrne, who finished in 15th for the 3-meter competition, contributing 12 points for the team in the process.
In the pool, sophomore Francesca Bertotto also had an eye-catching performance of the weekend for Rutgers, resetting a 15-year-old program record in the 500-yard freestyle. After qualifying for the C final in the 500 freestyle along with freshman Sveva Schiazzano, Bertotto broke the school record held by program Hall of Famer Kelly Harrigan, as she touched in with a time of 4:43.32.
Co-head coach Jon Maccoll was effusive in his praise of Bertotto.
“Francesca had a great attitude going in," Maccoll said. "Her mindset was not about time, she wanted a place and to win. She got touched out by a tenth, but she wanted her hand on that wall first. That was the key to her success. She was happy, but not satisfied. She knows how close she is to making the NCAA Championships. She thinks there is still work to do."
Overall, even though the Knights were unable to improve on their performance from last year, there were enough impressive performances for the team to at least feel they did not come away from the event empty handed.
Rutgers still has a lot of championships left this season, starting with the ECAC's next weekend at the Rutgers Aquatic Center.
"I had a blast with my teammates behind me, and at the end I couldn't control my emotions. It's great to have all the hard work pay off," Walkowiak said.
For updates on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.