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Senior swims solo in upcoming NCAA meet

<p>Senior swimmer Greta Leberfinger is the lone Knight to qualify for the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championship.</p>

Senior swimmer Greta Leberfinger is the lone Knight to qualify for the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championship.

When the phone rang, her stomach flipped. She rushed to answer it anxiously, eagerly awaiting the news.

“When I got the call from (head coach) Phil (Spiniello), I screamed in excitement and called my family,” senior swimmer Greta Leberfinger said. “I still have butterflies.”

She found out she qualified for the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming and Diving Championship.

Leberfinger has been busy in the pool the past few weeks, breaking a total of four school records, two individually in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and two as part of a medley in the 200-meter and 400-meter relay.

In the NCAA qualification meet at Princeton on March 1, a day presenting swimmers the opportunity to improve their times, Leberfinger took advantage. 

She went on to set the school record in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:00.83, breaking the record held by Shayna Longacre in 2008 by just less than a half second.

But no record is more important than her time in the 200-meter breaststroke, 2:11.38, which she set at the Big Ten Championship meet and proved to be the deciding factor in qualifying for the NCAAs.

At the time, she did not know if the time was good enough to get her in to the NCAAs.

“Yes and no,” Leberfinger said if she thought of first her time was good enough. “I wanted to (qualify) really bad. I went into the meet with an open mind that whatever happens, happens and I can’t control what the other girls ahead of me were going to do ... I was hoping to make it in, but wasn’t counting on it."

Luckily for Leberfinger, she did qualify and proved to be one of the faster swimmers in the country.

"I knew she had the capability of doing it and that it was a possibility,” Spiniello said. “I was extremely happy to see her qualify. She was able to lower her best time by a tenth (of a second), which ended up being the difference in getting in to the NCAAs."

Leberfinger is the only Rutgers swimmer to qualify for NCAAs this year and will now have to practice by her lonesome to train for the NCAA meet. 

Although her teammates won’t be in the pool, Spiniello isn't phased.

“She’s a very hard worker, and she is dedicated,” Spiniello said. “She understands the task at hand which is to compete at the highest level in the NCAA and that’s pretty motivating to her as an athlete."

Leberfinger says it feels weird to be the only one training after being with teammates year-round, but she knows the daunting task at hand and is prepared for it.

“I’m the only one focusing on a meet and swimming everyday with the championship mentality, still,” Leberfinger said.

This won’t be Leberfinger’s only go-round in a high-level meet. She competed in the Olympic trials back in 2012, as well as Nationals.

Heading into the meet with an open mind, Leberfinger is hoping to leave it all out there in the pool.

“There is no pressure,” Leberfinger said. “I got my two records on my list of goals for this year (100 and 200 breaststroke). I qualified for NCAAs, which was a career-long goal of mine. I went all best times this year. All I want to do is have fun and soak in the experience and not regret anything."

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

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