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Rutgers splits squads for upcoming meets

<p>Senior&nbsp;Morgan Pfaff aims to finish with a top time at the AT&T Winter National Championships in order to qualify for the Olympic trials.</p>

Senior Morgan Pfaff aims to finish with a top time at the AT&T Winter National Championships in order to qualify for the Olympic trials.

The Rutgers swimming and diving team will be splitting up this week as the Scarlet Knights compete in two events.

Seniors Morgan Pfaff, Joanna Wu and junior Rachel Stoddard will be participating in the AT&T Winter National Championships in Federal Way, Washington. The three-day event will begin Dec. 3.

The group will be competing in several events.

Pfaff will be swimming in the 200-individual medley and the 200-fly. She will also attempt to time trial in a few other events as well, and if the times she earns are fast enough, Pfaff could qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Stoddard will race in the 200-breastroke and 100-breastroke, while Wu will be partaking in the 100-backstroke and 200-backstroke events. They too will have the opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games.

“I think it’s great,” said head swimming coach Petra Martin. “We’re hoping to have more down the line, but it’s a good start, and you know it’s important to have our program being represented at meets of that caliber. That’s what big time programs do, and you know that’s what we need to be doing, that’s the people we need to be competing with.”

Different from a regular meet, the atmosphere in Washington will be slightly different. The participants won’t have the rest of their teams along with them. While Pfaff, Wu and Stoddard are swimming across the country, the rest of the Knights will be preparing for a home meet on Saturday.

“It’s a little different, because we obviously don’t have all of our girls there and all of the support,” Pfaff said. “But while we are away at nationals, the rest of the girls will be hard at work with Coach Petra at our pool this weekend ... so while we’re away swimming hard, they’ll be home swimming hard as well.”

The AT&T Winter National Championships mark a good opportunity for Rutgers to demonstrate that it can compete with the best swimmers in the country. 

The event is also good for recruiting because younger swimmers with an interest in swimming in Piscataway could have the same chances of swimming on a national stage with the hope of being an Olympian.

“It’s really exciting to represent Rutgers at a national meet where you’re competing with the best in the country as well as other schools, Big Ten schools like Ohio State will be competing there,” Pfaff said. “It’s really fun to get there and Rachel, Jo and I, we get to show a couple of those Big Ten schools what we have coming up in a few months.”

Back in Piscataway, the Knights will compete in a meet in its home pool at the Rutgers Aquatic Center on Saturday against Boston University and UConn. The meet will consist of two sessions, the first will begin at 9:30 a.m, with the second kicking off at 4:30 p.m.

As a member of the Big East Conference and the American Athletic Conference, UConn was considered to be Rutgers' biggest rival. This was partially due to the proximity between Storrs, Connecticut, and Piscataway, and the fierce battles the two schools had against each other in nearly every sport.

Although the Huskies and the Knights are no longer in the same conferences, many believe the rivalry amongst them lives on.

In its last outing, UConn participated in the Bucknell Invitational on Nov. 19-22. The Huskies finished in second place with a total score of 1,219. Two Huskies who are natives of the Garden State, enjoyed success in the meet. 

Jackie Van Lew of Tinton Falls had a time of 1:48.96 to win the 200-freestyle. Jaimie Lynn Brookover of Cherry Hill placed third in the 100-backstroke.

BU has had two of its divers earn Big Ten Diver of the Week designations this season. Lizzie Tillo is the most recent diver to win the award for the Terriers. She was named Patriot League Diver of the week on Nov. 23, after winning the 3-meter dive event at her team’s last meet, the Terrier Invitational.

Rutgers will be up against some stiff diving competition on Saturday. Junior Alyssa Black broke a new school diving record in the 1-meter dive event at the Frank Elm Invitational with a score of 314.85. Two hours later, sophomore Addison Walkowiak bested Black’s total by scoring a 321.80, and therefore setting a new program record.

“We have a big meet coming up (in two weeks),” said head diving coach Fred Woodruff after the Frank Elm Invitational. “We’ll be diving against a really good diving team, and that’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to be a lot of fun. To get us in gear to dive, that meets gonna be a challenge after coming down from this one, but we’ll try our best.”

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

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