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Season highlighted by strong Big East finish

When Junior Nicole Scott took her final dive at last week’s NCAA Championships, she closed the book on a successful season for the Rutgers swimming and diving team.

She finished 21st overall in the platform event, but put together a solid routine — one that fell short of a higher score after issues with her arm stands.

Scott was the only athlete to represent the Scarlet Knights at the NCAA Championships, but was not the only one to finish the season on a high-note.

At the Big East Championships on Feb. 27, the Knights set three different school records en route to a fifth place finish in the meet.

“It’s a huge stepping stone for us,” said head coach Phil Spiniello about the top-five finish. “It shows — in the past three years — the work that we’ve done is beginning to pay off.”

The 400-yard medley relay managed a third place finish by setting a record time of 3:40.52.

Freshman Joanna Wu, who found success this season in backstroke events, was part of the relay squad.

Junior Brittany Guinee — along with competing in the historical relay event – eclipsed the school record in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:00.17.

Sophomore Greta Leberfinger and Junior Mary Moser rounded out the relay squad. Moser also led the Knights in the 50-yard freestyle swim at the Big East Championships, while Leberfinger grabbed a sixth place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Finally, Scott brought home Gold in the platform event — setting a record she would later break on March 15 at the Zone A Diving Championships.

In that meet, she earned a qualification into the national championships by finishing in second place.

“We really stepped it up this year,” said head diving coach Fred Woodruff. “We went to the conference meet and the first night — in the 200-medley relay — the girls just turned it up a notch. From that moment on, we’ve been running on a high.”

The Knights’ two senior co-captains, Taylor Zafir and Kate Kearney, both finished out their collegiate careers in the pool.

In the two meets leading up to the Big East Championships, Zafir won the 400-meter individual medley both times.

Rutgers hosted a Big East quad-meet against Villanova, Georgetown, and Seton Hall on February 8., which would act as a foreshadowing of their success at the conference championships.

The competition was decided by a final relay event in which the Knights nearly completed a comeback.

They fell just short of defeating Villanova, but were able to grab two conference victories.

“That Big East quad-meet got me really excited for what was ahead,” Spiniello said. “This team has a lot of heart, a lot of fight ... when we got to Big East, I knew it was going to be a good meet because this team prepared themselves all year for that.”

The Wildcats finished directly in front of Rutgers at the Big East Championships, and earlier in the season at November’s Frank Elm Invite, where the two teams finished in first and second, respectively.

A loss to James Madison on Jan. 19 is the Knights only other defeat in non-invitational matchups this season. Prior to that competition, they began the season with a perfect 5-0 start.

The Knights showed good signs early on, beginning with the Frank Elm Invite and ending with the Big East Championships, Spiniello said.

“I think this team is at a point where they want to get better,” Spiniello said. “They want to win meets, they want to move up in the Big East, they want to put people in NCAA’s. As a coach, that’s really fun to be a part of.”

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