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Rutgers divers shatter multiple records

<p>Junior Alyssa Black has excelled for Rutgers on the diving board to this point in the season. She said putting up elite scores gives her confidence.</p>

Junior Alyssa Black has excelled for Rutgers on the diving board to this point in the season. She said putting up elite scores gives her confidence.

The divers on the Rutgers swimming and diving team are having a record breaking season thus far. The Scarlet Knights have captured several awards and honors from the Big Ten Conference because of their effort and success.

At the helm of the diving program is head coach Fred Woodruff. The former Lehigh University diver has been the leader of the Knights' diving program for more than 23 years.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Woodruff said. “As a matter of fact, I just said to them that I couldn’t be more proud of a group of divers than I am of this group. They work hard, they support each other and they’re just putting together an incredible year so far.”

Woodruff has mentored many divers throughout his years on the Banks to numerous accolades and successes. In the 2009-10 season, Erin Saunders set school records in the 1-meter and 3-meter dive events. Saunders won the one-meter dive event at the Big East Championships the previous season under Woodruff.

Diver Jen Betz qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 2012 season. 

Nicole Scott was a gold medal winner at the 2013-14 Big East Championships. In 2014, Scott was named an Honorable Mention All-American after breaking the school records in the 3-meter dive and the platform diving events.

Another one of Woodruff’s former divers, Shayna Longacre, earned Honorable Mention All-America status in 2008.

Woodruff has won Head Diving Coach of the Year honors twice — in 1995 in the ECAC and in 2008 as Big East Coach of the Year.

“It’s an amazing thing to watch,” Woodruff said. “It’s so much fun to see them succeed, see them reach their goals and reach their dreams. I mean, it’s just a really exciting thing, really exciting thing. I mean my job, I don’t even consider this a job in all in sense and purposes. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do this, you know. I feel very, very lucky.”

Leading the pack in diving for Rutgers this season is sophomore Addison Walkowiak.

Thus far in the 2015-16 season, Walkowiak has crushed two school records and produced several NCAA qualifying marks, as well as earned recognition from the Big Ten Conference for her accolades.

The Ballston Spa, New York, native had NCAA zone qualifying scores in the 1-meter and 3-meter dive events at the Sonny Werblin Invitational in October. She put up a 306.52 in the 1-meter dive and a 337.51 in the 3-meter dive.

In a quad meet against Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall in early November, Walkowiak scored a 348.55 on the 3-meter dive, a new program record and NCAA qualifying mark. Her 303.25 total in the 1-meter dive during the quad meet was also an NCAA qualifying score.

She was named Big Ten Diver of the Week in the days following the quad meet.

At the Frank Elm Invitational, Walkowiak broke another record. Her mark of 321.80 on the 1-meter dive event was a new school record. The score was also good enough to qualify for the NCAA's. 

Walkowiak’s total of 326.20 in the 3-meter dive and mark of 260.25 in the platform dive were NCAA qualifying scores as well.

Several other Knights set NCAA qualifying scores at the Frank Elm Invitational as well, a sign of good results to come in the future.

“It was awesome,” said head coach Petra Martin. “It’s something that we need to be doing at this point of the season to be competitive and to be where we need to be at the end of the year, so we are on our way. It’s good.”

Junior Alyssa Black has also excelled on the diving board for the Knights this season. The Middletown, New York, native has put up eight NCAA qualifying scores this year.

Black had qualifying scores in the one-meter dive (294.60) at the Sonny Werblin Invite, against Wagner with a 295.34, against Georgetown, Seton Hall and Villanova with a 294.55 and at the Frank Elm Invitational scoring a 314.85.

Black’s score of 314.85 on the 1-meter dive at the Frank Elm Invitational was actually a new school record, but her record only stood for two hours as Walkowiak broke it soon after with her 321.80 total.

Being able to put up elite scores gives Black a sense of confidence and excitement.

“I think it does,” Black said. “It made me really excited for conference and zones to see what I’m capable of and what the whole team is capable of and it’s just very exciting to see what can happen down the road if it’s happening now.”

Black also had qualifying scores in the 3-meter dive events at the Sonny Werblin Invitational by scoring a 333.30 versus Wagner.

“Alyssa is such a good diver,” Walkowiak said. “She’s a really nice person. She’s a hard worker and she inspires me to just keep getting better and I think it’s good we kind of work off each other. So I learn things from her and she learns things from me and I think we’re just a good team.”

The Rutgers divers have accomplished many feats at just the halfway point of the 2015-16 season.

“I’m really proud of everyone,” Black said. “We’ve accomplished so much in like half of our season already and we’ve just been working really hard and I think it’s really showing and it’s making us all excited for Big Ten’s and I think we’re definitely going to improve there as well for championships. So yeah, I’m just really excited with the amount of work we’ve been putting in and it’s finally showing."

Black, Walkowiak and their fellow Knights will face UConn and Boston University this Saturday at the Rutgers Aquatics Center on Busch campus.

“Oh, yeah, I’m always excited to compete,” Walkowiak said. “That’s what I look forward to, that’s what I practice for so yeah, I’m really excited.”

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

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