September 22, 2019 | 84° F

Knights place only two swimmers in final individual heats after divers earn third-place finish only days earlier in Pittsburgh

Photo by Conor Alwell |

Senior Jacquelyn Ward was part of a Rutgers 800-yard freestyle medley that placed eighth on the first day of the Big East Championships.

The Rutgers swimming and diving team received exactly what it needed to succeed when its divers placed third at the Big East Championships. But its swimmers could not take advantage of the position they received from their teammates.

The Scarlet Knights placed eighth out of 11 teams at Trees Pool in Pittsburgh this weekend, failing to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish at the championships.

Head coach Phil Spiniello witnessed the Knights’ fight, but he was disappointed in where the team sat in the final standings.

“We had a solid performance. I think we would have liked to have finished a little bit higher,” Spiniello said. “We had some good things, a lot of life-time best, it just wasn’t enough to push us up on the standings.”

Louisville capitalized on its second-place diving performance last weekend and turned in a first-place finish. Its winning score of 785.5 was well ahead of second-place Notre Dame, which posted a 593.5 mark in the pool. West Virginia placed third with 524 points.

Pittsburgh, Villanova, Connecticut and Cincinnati all placed ahead of the Knights. Georgetown finished ninth and Seton Hall captured 10th, with Providence taking last in the championships.

While the Knights went 4-0 against Big East teams during the regular season, they did not face either Louisville or Notre Dame. The two schools placed a total of 38 swimmers in final individual heats.

Rutgers placed two.

“When you have the whole league together, there is a lot of depth,” Spiniello said. “So making it back into the finals becomes a matter of tenths and hundreds of a second, and they just weren’t falling our way this weekend.”

Spiniello said last week the team’s strength would lie in its relay events. The Knights’ finish in the 200-yard medley relay was their best performance during the three-day championships. Their time of 1:42.82 tied with Villanova for sixth in the race, while Louisville took first.

Rutgers placed eighth on Day 1 of the championships in the finals of the 800-yard freestyle medley. Senior Jacquelyn Ward and sophomores Emilie Kaufman, Mary Moser and Chelsea Rolin finished the race in 7:30.92. West Virginia won the race with a time of 7:06.87.

Rutgers only dropped to fourth place with 101 points following the first day of competition. The individual events throughout the weekend failed the Knights, which fell to seventh after the second day’s races.

Rutgers’ only two top-eight individual finishers of the championships swam in Thursday’s events. Ward placed sixth in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:22.81, while junior teammate Taylor Zafir finished eighth.

Senior Trisha Averill delivered strong performances throughout the weekend, but she did not qualify for any of her final heats in three individual events. Her highest finish was 13th in the 200-yard breaststroke.

“My performance I was really happy with,” Averill said. “We performed a lot better, so it was just higher and heightened [because of the competition level].”

West Virginia’s Rachael Burnett earned the 2012 Big East Women’s Most Outstanding Swimmer award after she registered first-place finishes in three individual events, including the 1,650-yard freestyle.

Rutgers’ swimmers will participate in the Princeton Invite March 4 before their season concludes. Junior Katie Kearney, sophomores Nicole Scott and Valentina Gordon, and freshman Nicole Honey will also compete March 9-11 in the Zone Diving Championships.

The eighth-place performance was not the finish Spiniello wanted for a team that finished 9-2 in regular season action. He now shifts his team’s aims to next season.

“The focus now,” Spiniello said, “is to get back into the weight room and really regroup, refocus and come up with a plan on how we are going to move up at this meet next year.”

By Bradly Derechailo

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