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Rutgers ends season at NCAA Championships

4 Knights represent Rutgers at Nationals

The Rutgers swimming and diving team saw its season come to a close last week, as student athletes competed on the national stage at the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

There were four Scarlet Knights who traveled to Ohio last week, including senior Addison Walkowiak and junior Rachel Byrne on the diving boards and freshman Sveva Schiazzano and junior Francesca Stoppa in the pool. Overall, all four women put up impressive performances on the biggest stage in college swimming and diving.

Walkowiak put an impressive cap on both her senior season and her Rutgers career as a whole with her efforts in Columbus last week. The Ballston Spa, New York native became the 22nd Knight in program history to receive All-American honors after her 11th-place finish in the 1-meter diving.

Walkowiak finished third in the consolation final for the 1-meter boards with a score of 301.75 points, which placed 11th overall. In the event, the top 16 moved on from the preliminaries, with places 9-16 clinching All-American honorable mention status. 

Walkowiak came incredibly close to qualifying for a finals appearance with a top-eight finish in the prelims, but finished in 10th, only 0.95 points away from an eighth-place finish. 

"I am thrilled that I finished in the top 16," Walkowiak said, according to scarletknights.com. "I have been working toward this goal since I first arrived at Rutgers, so I am over the moon to have finally accomplished my goal."

Walkowiak’s All-American honor also marks the third consecutive year — and fourth out of the last five — that diving head coach Fred Woodruff has guided a team member to an All-American honorable mention. Alumna Alyssa Black took the distinction on the 3-meter boards each of the last two seasons and fellow alumna Nicole Scott took home the honors in 2014 on the platform.

Walkowiak also placed 24th on the 3-meter boards with a score of 304.95 and 33rd in the platform diving with a tally of 227.55 in the preliminary rounds for each event. Neither score was enough to advance to the finals.

The other diver that Rutgers sent to Columbus was Byrne. On the 1-meter boards, the Bedford, New Hampshire native placed 40th with a score of 254.15, while in the platform diving she had the 31st best point tally with a mark of 231.45.

In the pool, the team saw two Knights see action in Schiazzano and Stoppa. 

Schiazzano made her NCAA Championships debut last week when she first turned in a time of 4:48.24 in the 500-yard freestyle preliminaries, good enough to place 61st overall. 

The next event she competed in was the grueling 1,650-yard freestyle, where the Rutgers rookie put up an even better performance, placing 22nd with a time of 16:16.51 in the early heats. 

While the Sorrento, Italy native did not qualify for the finals in either event, she nonetheless put up an impressive display, especially considering her freshman status.

Stoppa also made the most of her time in Columbus with her performance as well. In her third appearance on the national stage, Stoppa tapped in with a time of 54.32 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly, and later placed in with a time of 1:59.00 in the 200-yard butterfly, good enough for 49th and 39th in the events, respectively. 

Swimming head coach Jon Maccoll was very effusive in his praise of the swimming team’s two resident Italians.

"The majority of athletes add time at this meet, but we moved up in the psych sheet in each swim by Fran and Sveva," Maccoll said, according to scarletknights.com. "That's a huge success at this point of a long and demanding season. We'll have a phenomenal senior leader next year in Fran, and an exciting future with Sveva producing at this level as a freshman."

Overall, it was an impressive season for the Knights, one which had much adversity, including overcoming the loss of a head coach after an abuse scandal earlier this season. 

The team not only rebounded, but thrived in less-than-ideal circumstances with its performance throughout the season, and it was no different in Columbus last week.

"The season went extremely well," Maccoll said. "All of the big goals we set out for were achieved. The seniors left really happy and had great student-athlete experiences. The team is in a really great place mentally right now and it was great to end the season with an All-American and Rutgers names on the national results each day of the NCAA Championships."

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

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