September 16, 2019 | 65° F

Senior returns from surgery earlier than expected

A year after suffering a devastating shoulder injury, senior diving captain Katie Kearney continues to surprise herself and the Rutgers swimming and diving team’s coaches.

After dislocating her shoulder last season, which resulted in a torn labrum and a torn shoulder capsule, Kearney was forced last April to have surgery. The procedure was originally supposed to keep her from diving until November.

But she battled back and has returned stronger and quicker than her coaches imagined.

“We’re way ahead of where we thought we were going to be diving-wise with her because of the shoulder surgery that she had,” said head swimming and diving coach Phil Spiniello. “We didn’t know that she would be competing with a full list at this point.”

Kearney is also optimistic about her fast recovery, and she is happy with the way she has performed so far this year, she said.

Kearney has already qualified for the Big East Championships as well as the Zone Diving Championships. She believes her shoulder injury has actually had an impact this season on her performance.

“It’s been a long recovery process, but it’s definitely better than what it was,” she said. “It’s affected my diving positively. I came back this year and getting into my hard dives when I did. It’s a great feeling to know that I’m no longer in pain like I was last year.”

Spiniello believes Kearney’s drive to compete and battle through injury is only one of the qualities that make her a great captain. Diving through her pain inspired her teammates and had an impact on them last season, he said.

“Katie is excellent at getting the best out of everybody,” Spiniello said. “She’s a great communicator, very organized and certainly motivational to her teammates, especially coming back from her shoulder surgery this past spring.”

Kearney also enters her second season as diving captain, which Spiniello believes is another feature that aids her leadership ability.

“When you have a two-year captain, that’s a pretty special thing,” he said. “It shows great leadership on her behalf and respect from her teammates. It helps the experience level on our team as she mentors the younger divers and prepares them for the season ahead.”

Kearney said she tries to focus on communicating with her teammates. Since the same athletes have been together for two years now, they are all very familiar with each other, which has had a positive impact on the diving team, she said.

“After knowing them for a year, I can read the personalities of my team,” she said. “We all get along, and there are different ways of encouraging each other that we go with. We’re now able to read each other, which is a lot of fun, and it’s definitely helped me lead the team.”

Pleased with her performance to start the year, Kearney is now focused on improving and strengthening her shoulder for the Big East Championships, she said.

“I’m very happy with [my performance],” she said. “Considering my coach and I were not really expecting to be back on the boards until November, to be able to come back and dive the first meets and qualify as I have, it’s very encouraging for me and makes me hopeful for the end of the season and what’s going to come when I have a couple of months to train for the Big East [Championships].”

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

By Mike Morton

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