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Rutgers honors seniors, defeats Wildcats in final home meet

<p>Junior swimmer Rachel Stoddard finished with two NCAA “B” cuts in the 100 and 200 breast events against New Hampshire.</p>

Junior swimmer Rachel Stoddard finished with two NCAA “B” cuts in the 100 and 200 breast events against New Hampshire.

The Rutgers swimming and diving team wrapped up the home portion of its season Saturday afternoon. The robust Scarlet Knights cruised to a 205-91 dual meet victory over New Hampshire.

Rutgers was set to take on New Hampshire on Jan. 23, but the meet was postponed due to Winter Storm Jonas. 

In order to have the matchup, the teams swam against each other in a virtual meet. The Wildcats used the results from its clash with Maine last Friday while the Knights had an intra-squad meet on Saturday at the Rutgers Aquatics Center.

The statistics from the respective meets were used to determine the victor. It was business as usual for the swimmers of Piscataway even though they didn’t race against New Hampshire in person.

“You’re always competing, you’re always racing against someone during practice,” said senior Joanna Wu on the virtual meet. “You’re really used to it, but it’s still like they’re (New Hampshire) still missing competition wise from the other team, but it’s still like an everyday thing.”

Rutgers also had to deal with a second abnormality from their usual meets, because the battle marked the team’s final home meet of the year. 

It was also senior day. Rutgers recognized seniors Sarah Coyne, Sophie Newton, Morgan Pfaff and Joanna Wu before the races kicked off.

The swimmers capped off the home portion of their careers in the best way possible — with a win.

“It was pretty awesome,” Wu said. “(We) wish we could’ve actually swam with UNH, but nothing’s better than to end the year with my fellow teammates so it was great.”

In the 500-yard freestyle, junior Meghan Kiely came in first with a final time of 23.88. Freshman Vera Koprivova raced to a time of 56.20 to win the 100-yard backstroke.

Pfaff hit the wall in 2:04.48 in the 200-yard individual medley earning a win for Rutgers. The staple of Wu, Kiely, freshman Cynthia Wu and sophomore Karli Rymer concluded the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:35.56 crossing the finish line first.

In the 200-yard medley relay, Joanna Wu, junior Rachel Stoddard, freshman Francesca Stoppa and Kiely were victorious in the event putting together a finals time of 1:41.71

“I think it was a strong meet for us,” said head coach Petra Martin. “We put the kids in different, more challenging situations. We had a lot of back-to-back swims but we’re obviously building tough competitors and it’s something that they might be challenged at different competitions, different meets ... how they respond to it mentally and physically is what we are doing today, trying to prepare them better and they did a good job with it.”

Sophomore Addison Walkowiak swept both the 1-meter and 3-meter dive events. The Ballston Spa, New York, native put up a 306.59 in the 1-meter dive and a 3:07.50 in the 3-meter dive. Walkowiak’s marks in both events were NCAA Zone Regional Scores.

Freshman Rachel Byrne placed second in both dive events posting a 2:52.97 in the 1-meter and a 2:75.11 in the 3-meter.

Stoddard and Stoppa each put up NCAA "B" cuts during the meet.

Stoddard posted both of her cuts in the breaststroke events. In the 100-yard breaststroke, Stoddard had a final time of 1:02.20 and a 2:15.32 in the 200-yard breaststroke.

“I’m really happy with how I swam,” Stoddard said. “I wasn’t feeling too well during warm up, but I pushed it out of my head and my time shows. So I was happy about that.”

In the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly events, Stoppa earned two NCAA "B" cuts. The Trento, Italy, native touched the wall in 54.18 for the 100-yard butterfly and swam to the finish in 1:58.26 for the 200-yard butterfly.

“I think it’s a really good time for this part of the season,” Stoppa said. “I hope to improve my time the next week during the Big Ten Conference (Championships). So I think we can do good work with the team.”

The meet was both a happy and sad occasion for Rutgers as its seniors near the culmination of their careers on the Banks. 

The senior swimmers and their fellow teammates still have one more competition left on the slate, the Big Ten Championships on Feb. 17-20.

“They’re a great group of kids,” Martin said about her seniors. “They had fun here the last four years, did some great work. Obviously, we saw the couple of big meets ahead of us so they’ll have the opportunity to have their last punch, but we’ll miss them and wish them all the best with their future lives.”

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

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