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Senior reflects on career before last competition

<p>Senior co-captain Taylor Zafir swam in her final home meet Sunday as she and two teammates were honored on Senior Day. Zafir took on a larger leadership role this season.</p>

Senior co-captain Taylor Zafir swam in her final home meet Sunday as she and two teammates were honored on Senior Day. Zafir took on a larger leadership role this season.

Senior co-captain Taylor Zafir stood up for a ceremony honoring her and two teammates Saturday as part of the Rutgers swimming and diving team’s Senior Day.

Her mother was in attendance after flying in from Chicago to watch Zafir compete at home for the final time.

For Zafir, it was a surreal feeling of accomplishment.

“It was a monumental moment. Even going back to my freshman year, I always thought, ‘four years is so long, it’ll take forever to get there to be done,’” Zafir said. “Now the fact that it was my last home meet swimming at Rutgers, it was definitely bittersweet.”

While she has earned many accolades in the pool during her career, there is one accomplishment that stands above all other accomplishments in Zafir’s mind.

“I really was honored to be voted [captain] by my teammates and my coaches,” she said. “I’m just flattered that I could be a role model for the team and someone the girls can look up to.”

Zafir said she tries to lead by example, along with supplying the necessary energy and support both in and out of the pool.

She will be the first to admit the amount of fun she has when competing in meets, an attribute that makes being a role model a lot easier.

“This year, Taylor has really taken charge of the captain role,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “She is always positive in practice by pushing herself and her teammates to the limit and just challenging everyone to be better.”

But it all starts with the necessary work and preparation.

“I think it’s important to be prepared and when you’re prepared, that’s when you have fun,” Zafir said. “That’s what makes a good athlete — coming in 110 percent prepared.”

Zafir has one meet remaining in her collegiate career and possibly her most important — the Big East Championships on Feb. 27 in Indianapolis.

Last season, Zafir placed eighth at the championships in the 400-meter individual medley, an event this season that has not been a problem for her.

She took first place in the event in each of the last two meets, including Saturday against three Big East schools. She beat out swimmers from Villanova, Georgetown and Seton Hall.

In the 1,000-meter freestyle Jan. 19 against Fordham and Rider, she finished with a time of 10:26.59, a career best.

The result was good for first place in an event she did not anticipate to compete in this year.

Zafir has learned to take advantage of every opportunity put forth in life, a lesson stretched beyond athletics.

“One day you wake up it could be taken away,” she said.

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