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Rutgers competes on opposite sides of country

<p>Junior swimmer Rachel Stoddard made history this weekend for Rutgers.&nbsp;Her time of 1:10.82 in the breaststroke was the first Olympic qualifying time in program history.</p>

Junior swimmer Rachel Stoddard made history this weekend for Rutgers. Her time of 1:10.82 in the breaststroke was the first Olympic qualifying time in program history.

The Rutgers swimming and diving team had a monumental weekend with members competing in two meets on opposite sides of the country.

Seniors Morgan Pfaff and Joanna Wu and junior Rachel Stoddard qualified to participate in the AT&T Winter Long Course National Championships in Federal Way, Washington. The three-day meet was contested from Dec. 3-5. The group raced alongside swimmers from across the country, from schools such as Ohio State and Arkansas.

Several Olympians swam in Washington as well, including the record holder for most gold (18) and overall medals (22) at the Olympics, Michael Phelps and four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin.

Heading into the AT&T Winter Long Course National Championships, the Scarlet Knights would not be swimming with their entire team there, but the swimmers wouldn’t be out there alone, as the three Knights had each other’s backs in Washington.

“Yes, I’m very excited that I’ll have Joanna, also a senior, there with me, Rachel as well,” Pfaff said about the National Championships. “It’ll be really fun to have those girls and have our support and represent our school out there.”

Pfaff, Stoddard and Wu had immense success in Washington, with the latter two making the cuts for the Olympic trials.

Stoddard put together a good run in the 100-breaststroke and finished with a time 1:10.82, good enough for the first Olympic trial qualifying time in Rutgers swimming and diving history.

On Dec. 5, another Knight secured an Olympic trial qualifying time. Wu had a personal best time of 1:03.12 in the 100-backstroke.

“It’s great for recruiting, it’s great for the kids that are here,” said head swimming coach Petra Martin. “It’s something that we need to be doing. We want to be swimming on that level, competing on that level. Also, thumbs up and it’s exciting.”

The rest of the team had business to attend to back in Piscataway. Rutgers played host to Boston University, Connecticut and the Yale men’s swimming team at the Rutgers Aquatics Center on Busch Campus. Being without their three best swimmers, the younger Knights had an opportunity to showcase their skills at the meet.

“I feel that if we keep our energy up, we’ll definitely be able to compete with these other amazing swimmers and divers,” said junior Alyssa Black leading up to the meet. “But we need to come together as a team and really focus all of our energy into it. I really believe that we can do that because we are good swimmers and divers and we can show that in this upcoming meet as long as we all stick together.”

Black along with sophomore Addison Walkowiak shined on the diving boards yet again. Walkowiak secured victories in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dive events with a score of 293.20 in the 1-meter dive and a 339.85 in the 3-meter dive. Both of Walkowiak’s marks were NCAA Zone Qualifying times.

Black picked up an NCAA Zone qualifying score in the 3-meter dive with a total of 326.20 and finished in second place in the event just behind Walkowiak.

The Knights won a total of 15 individual titles and were led by some talented underclassmen at the meet.

Freshman Cynthia Wu put together first place runs in the 200 freestyle and the 400 individual medley. Wu finished the 200 freestyle in 1:50.88 and the 400 individual medley in 4:25.71.

“She had a great day,” Martin said. “She definitely did. Being a freshman, she’s been learning a lot over the last couple months and now things are really starting to, you know, come together nicely for her. She’s trying to figure out the system and the different strategies and everything, so and you can see it. She’s getting better every race and she’s doing, so I was really happy with that.”

Freshman Vera Koprivova was also impressive. She captured several second place finishes, including in the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle. She earned a victory in the 200-yard backstroke with a mark of 1:59.63.

“She did okay,” Martin said. “I think that again with her, we are trying to figure out how she works off of different training, you know, different week. So I think the 200 was pretty solid and the 100 I think we’re gonna have to tweak maybe her way of thinking about that race a little bit more, but she had a solid week of training so we’re just gonna have to change little things with her when it comes to competition.”

Rutgers earned two dual victories in huge margins, defeating BU 242-111 and UConn 244-109.

“I was really pleased with it,” Martin said. “Going into the meet, we were a couple people down over at nationals, so I told them, ‘You’re going to have to step up and make sure that we’re going to be beyond what comfort level is and everything.’ They really did, they really pushed themselves. We had some very fast times which was awesome to see.”

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

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