Rookie swimmer enjoys success in several events

<p>Phil Spiniello, now in his third season as head coach, is happy with how freshman Joanna Wu is progressing in her first year.</p>

Phil Spiniello, now in his third season as head coach, is happy with how freshman Joanna Wu is progressing in her first year.

The success freshman swimmer Joanna Wu has experienced may be surprising to some, but for Wu and Rutgers head swimming and diving coach Phil Spiniello, Wu’s freshman year is going exactly as planned.

Wu began her rookie season by winning events in each of the Scarlet Knights’ first three meets. She has set several personal bests in the early stages this season, as well.

“Joanna’s done a great job since the minute she walked into our program,” Spiniello said. “She really bought in and believed in what we’re doing, and she’s taken her swimming to the next level.”

Beginning with the Sonny Werblin Invitational, the Knights’ season opener, Wu won three total events. She picked up first-place finishes in the 500-yard freestyle, as well as the 100- and 200-yard backstroke.

The Knights then competed in a dual meet with Wagner, against which Wu won both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events.

Most recently at the Frank Elm Invitational, she took home gold in the 100-yard backstroke and set a career personal-best time in the 500-yard freestyle, finishing third.

Wu has remained humble through her early-season success and looks at the first half of the season as a way to prepare for the more rigorous second half.

“I just guess that it’s kind of like a stepping stone, and it kind of got me to the point where I realize that my actual training and everything is building up on itself and my goal to go to NCAA [Championships] is already beginning,” she said.

Because of her success as a high school swimmer, Spiniello has not been surprised by Wu’s performance thus far.

“With her work ethic, I really expect her to continue to improve,” he said.

Wu also believes there are areas in her swimming that she can improve on as the season continues in pursuit of accomplishing some personal goals.

“I would like to get some more NCAA-qualifying times, but also some more personal bests, as well,” Wu said. “It’s more about trying to improve myself. Even if I don’t get an NCAA time, a personal best is fine with me.”

The Kent, Wash., native traveled across the U.S. to join the Knights this season and has had a relatively easy time adjusting to her new surroundings. Outside of the less rainy weather, which she enjoys, Wu has also taken notice of how different college athletics is than in Washington.

“College swimming is not the same as club swimming, which is what I did back home,” she said. “It’s more intense and competitive. The lift program definitely also changed.”

She chose to travel across the country to attend Rutgers because she wanted to move away from home, as well as get the benefits the University offers her.

“I wanted a school where not only would I be able to grow with the swim program, but also I can get a good academic atmosphere, as well,” Wu said.

During the next three-plus years, Wu plans to continue to improve with the team. Spiniello believes she has a lot of room to grow.

“I think Joanna has a great amount of potential, and it’s going to be fun and exciting to see her grow into that potential over her four years here at Rutgers,” he said.

For updates on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, follow Mike Morton on Twitter @MortonTargum.

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