Rutgers earns program-high 7 podium finishers at Big Tens

This weekend featured the Rutgers swimming and diving team in the 2019 Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Indiana won the four-day event in front of its home crowd.

Although the Scarlet Knights didn’t win it all, they still had a tremendous amount of success in Bloomington, Indiana. They finished in 11th place with 392 points, just 8.5 points shy of Iowa in 10th place, and 12 points shy of Penn State in ninth.

The first day of the championships was a rough one for Rutgers, as it was disqualified in the first event during the 200-yard medley relay. The Knights quickly shook this off, though, as they then got in eighth place in the 800-yard freestyle relay. But, the early disqualification caused Rutgers to end the first day in last with only 44 points. 

The second day of the championships turned out to be better for the Knights, but not enough to dig them out of the hole left by day one. While the overall results may have not been jaw-dropping, the individual performances that day were. 

Junior Federica Greco placed 31st in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:01.18. This was her quickest time to date, and further cemented herself as the No. 2 all-time swimmer in Rutgers' history in the event. 

Then, in the 50-yard freestyle, junior Clare Lawlor placed 20th, earning her a trip to the bonus finals. There, Lawlor beat her season low time of 23:04, giving the Knights 5 points in that event. 

The success then carried on into the next event, where senior Rachel Byrne finished 17th in the 1-meter diving event, gaining an additional 9 points for Rutgers. Finally, the day ended with the Knights placing 11th in the 400-yard medley relay, led by Greco and three others: freshman Terka Grusova, junior Francesca Bertotto and senior Francesca Stoppa. 

The third day was where Rutgers really started to see success, making history and launching itself out of last and into 11th place, jumping over Illinois and Michigan State.  

The Knights started out with a bang, as Stoppa and Greco finished sixth and seventh respectively in the 100-yard butterfly, earning a combined total of 47 points. In the 400-yard individual medley, senior Vera Koprivova and freshman Katie Dougherty finished in 15th and 24th respectively to earn 13 points. 

Soon after these events, Koprivova did something no one in Rutgers swim history has done before. She finished in third place in the 100-yard backstroke with a school record of 51:83. She earned the Knights' first medal just an hour after finishing the 400-yard individual medley. 

"I am very, very happy," Koprivova said. "I am happy because, finally, Rutgers is able to celebrate being in the top three of a swimming event. I worked my butt off for this. I'm also happy because it wasn't a plan to prioritize the 100 and try to medal. It's a testament that what we worked on all year worked out so well."

Not only did Koprivova and Rutgers walk away from the event with a new award, but also they gained 47 points, with 20 of those coming from Grusova who finished in ninth. 

The Knights then capped off the victorious day with Byrne finishing eighth in the 3-meter diving event, and Rutgers getting ninth in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

The Knights ended the championships with several podium finishers. Koprivova earned her second medal of the weekend during the 200-yard backstroke, becoming the school’s first ever two-time medalist while earning 27 more points. 

Rutgers wasn't done hunting for medals yet, as shortly after Koprivova’s second, Stoppa earned one as well in the 200-yard butterfly. 

Other Knights that earned Rutgers some points on the day were Greco and Grusova, who combined for an additional 38 points. Then, the Knights ended the day in 11th for the 400-yard freestyle relay.

They finished with more points than they did during last year’s championships, so coming back to New Jersey improved with some new hardware is something everyone can be happy about. 

Now, Rutgers can relax and enjoy its hard work as it waits to see if it has earned any NCAA bids.

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

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