Big Ten Championships season begins for Rutgers

Knights head to Columbus for conference tournament

The Rutgers swimming and diving team will travel to Columbus, Ohio this week for the Big Ten Championships hosted by Ohio State. The Championships will be held from Feb. 14-17 at the Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.  

This will end up being the last meet of what has been an eventful, and ultimately successful, season for the Scarlet Knights.

Co-head coach Jon Maccoll is looking forward to the event and hopes it will be a strong cap on his first season as head coach. He certainly has high expectations for his team in the event. 

“My expectations are that everyone is going to work hard and swim for each other,” Maccoll said. “We’ve really tried to develop a culture to swim for each other and for the name on the front and not on the back. And luckily for us the team has happily adopted this selfless attitude.”

In last year’s Big Ten Championships, Rutgers finished ninth in the event, which was the Knights' best performance in the tournament since joining the Big Ten in 2014. The event was certainly successful last year, as three school records were broken last year. 

Then-sophomore Vera Koprivova, a Czech Republic native, finished fifth overall in the 200-yard backstroke, breaking the school record in the event. 

Meanwhile, then-sophomore Francesca Stoppa eclipsed two school records as well. The Italian native first tapped the wall with a time of 1:56.20 in the 200-yard butterfly, before proceeding to a mark of 53.16 in the 100-yard butterfly, smashing two school records on the same day.

The now-juniors are hoping to have performances just as impressive as their efforts last year in the event. 

Another impressive performance from Rutgers last year came in the 400-yard freestyle relay. In the event, Koprivova, then-senior Meghan Kiely, then-freshman Alexandra Fabugais-Inaba and then-junior Clare Lawlor set a mark of 3:24.97, breaking yet another school record in the process. 

The Knights improved on their previous efforts by placing ninth in the event overall after placing 10th the previous year, en route to breaking four school records in the process. Maccoll certainly hopes to improve yet again in the event.

“We definitely want to finish at least eighth this year,” Maccoll said. “Every year we’ve been in the Big Ten we have improved every single year, so we want to continue to improve. Our end goal is to climb into being one of the top three teams in the Big Ten.”

Rutgers is coming off two weeks of preparation after its 186-167 win over Nebraska in the final home meet of the year. 

The Knights will also be bidding farewell to four seniors this week, as Thomasin Lee, Larissa Neilan, Karli Rymer and Addison Walkowiak will compete in their last events. 

It has been a tumultuous and challenging season for Rutgers to say the least, after former head coach Petra Martin was relieved of her duties after allegations of abuse toward the student athletes came out against her. 

Maccoll and co-head coach Fred Woodruff had to step up midseason to take the reigns as head coaches of the team. And despite the change of leadership early in the season, the team has not only endured, but thrived this season.

“It’s really a testament to their character how well they have performed this season,” Maccoll said about their performance. “They really work for each other and they really do it for the sport and not for themselves. They’ve really been amazing this season and have clearly shown their resilience and character despite all the struggles this season."

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

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