Rutgers hopes divers spring strong showing at Big East

<p>Senior Jen Betz improved upon last season's 21st-place finish in
the 3-meter dive to reach the podium and earn a bronze medal at the
Big'East Championships.</p>

Senior Jen Betz improved upon last season's 21st-place finish in the 3-meter dive to reach the podium and earn a bronze medal at the Big'East Championships.

The Rutgers swimming and diving team worked all season long toward one goal: a strong showing at the Big East Championships.

The swimming competition does not begin until Wednesday, but the Championships officially began on the diving side last Friday in Louisville, Ky.

Senior captain Jen Betz and Co. started the meet off with a bang for the Scarlet Knights.

"The divers set the tone for the team and what we are capable of in these Championships," said head coach Phil Spiniello. "They got the ball rolling and it is [the swimming team's] job to keep it rolling on Wednesday."

Betz dominated the 3-meter diving event all season long for the Knights and her success continued in Louisville.

She ranked fourth with a score of 296.45 after the trials, but she increased her score to 316.40 in the finals, which put her on the podium.

Just a season after placing 21st in the event, Betz showed marked improvement to take bronze in her final campaign.

Freshman Nicole Scott also had a strong showing in the 3-meter, qualifying in 10th with a 246.60 score before bumping herself up to ninth in the finals with a 283.70.

Scott's impressive performance in her rookie season bodes well for the future of the diving team, which loses Betz after the season.

The Knights received another major contribution from a young diver on Saturday, when sophomore Katie Kearney placed sixth in the 1-meter dive.

Kearney posted a 257.25, which grabbed the No. 6 slot out of 34 divers. The Knights managed to post two divers in the top 10, as Betz added a score of 267.20 to land in the 10th spot. Scott followed closely behind with a 233.10 mark good for 13th.

Tomorrow offers the swimming team its first opportunity to continue the success of their diving counterparts.

Spiniello altered the team's training for the past few weeks and believes the adjustments will help the team perform at its optimal level in Louisville.

"We have tapered down yardage and weight room work in an effort to get the women rested," Spiniello said. "The response to the extra rest has been excellent."

The Knights send nearly their entire squad to the Championships, as 15 of the 18 women on the team beat the conference's set qualifying times.

While Rutgers sends down a large number of competitors, there will not be much experience heading to the Bluegrass State.

The Knights boast a lineup filled with underclassmen, but the coaching staff does not see that as an obstacle standing in the way of its goals.

"We have a young team on paper, but these women are ready to perform at their best," Spiniello said. "I'm just going to remind them what we've been training for all year and that they're ready for this."

The Big East Championships mark the end of the season for the swimmers unless they can post times fast enough to qualify for the NCAA Championships. The divers will still compete in the Zone Diving Championships, another post-season meet.

But it is the Big East that has been the carrot at the end of the stick all season, and it is the Big East that will define Spiniello's first year as head coach of this team.

"We will categorize the meet as a success if we see improved times and people finish in the top 16," Spiniello said. "We want people in the top 16 and top eight." 

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