Rutgers aims for NCAA bids

As the Rutgers swimming and diving team prepares for its final meet of the regular season Saturday, the AAC Championships will not be the only event on the team’s mind.

While success at the AAC Championships is the main goal, the meet also provides the Scarlet Knights a final chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships in March.

To qualify for the NCAAs, swimmers must finish one race below the required qualifying time during either the regular season or conference championship.

Swimmers can qualify by scoring well on just one event and would face other swimmers who qualified under the same event.

Senior diver Nicole Scott was the last Knight to qualify for the NCAAs. She did so last year thanks to her silver-medal performance in the platform event at the Zone A Diving Championships.

Sophomore swimmer Joanna Wu is one Knight with high hopes of qualifying for the NCAAs.

The Kent, Wash., native continues to swim strongly this season, with three top-10 finishes against ranked competition as major highlights.

“I would be very happy to make it,” Wu said. “It would be really exciting to race the fast people and swim and see what I can do.”

Despite her success, Wu has yet to qualify for the NCAAs. Her last race in the 100-yard backstroke Jan. 25 fell just 1.06 seconds short of the 55.09-second required qualifying time.

But most swimmers tend to qualify during the conference championships, when they’re at full speed.

Catherine Whetstone was the last Rutgers swimmer to earn qualification back in 2009 following her gold medal at the Big East Championships. The performance set a Rutgers record in the 100-yard backstroke.

If Wu or any other Knights qualify, they would be the first swimmers to make the NCAAs under head coach Phil Spiniello.

“That’s a hard meet to make, but that’s going to be our goal and we’re going to work towards that,” Spiniello said.

Even if no Knight qualifies to compete in March, the conference championship will provide an NCAA-like atmosphere.

The Knights will face some of the top swimming programs in No. 13 Louisville and Southern Methodist, which are likely to send at least one swimmer to the NCAAs.

“I always think there are things you can improve on and techniques that you can sharpen and details you could have done better,” Wu said. “But I’m pretty sure since the start of September of 2013 that I’m ready to go take on Louisville and any other teams that stand in my way at the big meet.”

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

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