Sophomore reaches childhood goal

<p>Sophomore Joanna Wu looks to continue success this year after an impressive rookie year. Wu aims to compete in the NCAAs.</p>

Sophomore Joanna Wu looks to continue success this year after an impressive rookie year. Wu aims to compete in the NCAAs.

Joanna Wu still remembers swimming as a little kid and her aspirations of one day racing at an elite level.

The only setback was that she wasn’t very fast, finishing races towards the back of the lane.

The outcomes led to some frustrating nights when she wondered if her dream could ever come true.

Now in her sophomore year on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, Wu not only achieved her ambitions, but also uses her past as a motivator.

“I just wish I could tell myself back then that you’re going to get somewhere someday and it’s not going to be easy but it’s going to be worth it,” Wu said. “I’m swimming for my team, I’m swimming for [head coach Phil Spiniello], I’m swimming for my school, but I’m also swimming for the little girl that was slow and that wasn’t as great as me now.”

The Kent, Wash., native joined the Scarlet Knights to grow as a person by experiencing east coast life and also push her swimming abilities even further.

Wu made an immediate impact her freshman year as a member of the 400-yard medley relay team.

Along with seniors Brittany Guinee and Mary Moser and junior Greta Leberfinger, Wu helped set a new Rutgers record during the Big East Conference Championships with a time of 3:40.52 in the medley.

Wu began this week winning more individual events. Wu collected three first-place finishes Nov. 22-24 at the Frank Elm Invitational from Nov. 22-24 opposed to a year ago.

Wu finished first in the 500 freestyle and 200-yard back stroke and repeated as winner of the 100-yard back stroke improving her times in all three events.

She also performed well during their quad meet, which included former Big East rivals Villanova, Georgetown and Seton Hall.

Wu captured first in both the 500- and 1,000-yard freestyle while also winning the 200 backstroke.   

While Wu may not have anticipated making such a strong impact so early into her collegiate career, her success does not surprise Spiniello.

“Joanna’s work ethic is unbelievable. She works hard day in and day out,” Spiniello said. “She is a leader by example, and I think she just brings a mentality to this program that hard work pays off.”

Another key to her strong season is that she finally settled into New Jersey life. Wu admitted she’s still not fully adjusted because she misses her family, but life and the expectations of being a college athlete are not nearly as overwhelming.

Wu now aims to compete in the NCAA Championships from March 20-22 in Minneapolis, Minn.

“As I keep improving, everything is falling into place,” Wu said. “I have a really big goal and I really want to accomplish it this year … and that’s just been one of my motivations to just keep swimming, keep doing what I want and keep doing what I love to do.”

For updates on the Rutgers swimming & diving team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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