By: Slater McCue, Athletic Communications Intern
The Rutgers University swimming and diving team came into this year still carrying the success and momentum of last season. So far this season, the Scarlet Knights have had strong team performances in all three competitions the team has participated in. Included in the opponents RU has downed are former BIG EAST rivals Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights were also victorious against Wagner, bringing their overall dual meet record to a perfect 4-0. At the 2013 Winter Sports Media Day, it was made clear that the team has high aspirations for this season.
“We are ready to go,” said senior swim captain Allyson Perrotti. “As a team we are really hoping to place right up there with Louisville and SMU, and give them a run for their money.”
Along with the bar being set high for the season, it was apparent that the team was determined to ensure success even before the first competition. Many members of the squad opted out of taking a traditional summer break and used that time to improve and prepare for the upcoming season, the team’s first in the newly formed American Athletic Conference (AAC).
“A lot of us stayed over the summer to train with Coach Phil and a lot of people that went home consistently trained throughout the summer. That is really going to affect our season this year – we are coming in more prepared,” explained Perrotti. “We don’t have to have as much time training and getting back into shape. I think that is going to set the standard really high to begin with, so by the time we have AACs we will be able to finish higher than we did last year.”
In addition to Perrotti, additional leadership roles will be assumed by junior Greta Leberfinger and senior Brittany Guinee. Guinee and Leberfinger each broke two school records last year; Guinee in the 200 butterfly and Leberfinger in the 200 breaststroke. Both swimmers were also members of the record-breaking 400 medley relay team. These accomplishments are providing plenty of personal motivation for the upperclassmen.
“This is the first summer that I trained the entire time,” explained Leberfinger. “I stayed at school with [Coach] Phil and a couple of the other girls and pushed through.”
“It was really fun to be a part of that medley relay that broke the record and we’re looking to go back this year and hopefully break another one,” Leberfinger added. “It also motivates me to go for other records as well. There are always still other old records that need to come off that [record] board.”
Guinee and Leberfinger’s experience swimming together goes back to their club swimming days at the Somerset YMCA, where they both had impressive resumes. Leberfinger was an Olympic Trials Qualifier prior to beginning her collegiate career and Guinee was a 15-time YMCA Nationals qualifier. Both swimmers originally went to schools in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), but ultimately found their way to Rutgers to be teammates yet again.
“It’s great, we definitely are excited to be teammates again,” said Guinee. “We both went to different schools our freshman year, then it was kind of funny how we both ended up on the same team.”
The strong chemistry between Guinee and Leberfinger, along with outstanding performances by sophomore Joanna Wu and senior Mary Moser, may have been the “x-factor” that allowed that 400 medley relay team to break the school record.
“It’s awesome, I mean she really pushes me at practice,” said Leberfinger. “It’s great to be in the lane next to her, having her help me do things and get out of my comfort zone. It definitely brings us closer. But I think every single girl on this team plays a special role and we all just come together very well.”
The Scarlet Knights so far have made great strides in pursuit of an AAC Championship by capturing 41 first-place finishes in 64 events through the first few competitions. Despite the team’s early success, Rutgers remains focused on continuing to get better and posting season-best marks at the conference championships come February 19.
“We’re undefeated so far and everyone on the team has the right mentality going forward with the rest of our meets,” Guinee said. “We have some tough competition coming up in the second half of the season, but I think that we are all in the right mindset and are feeling pretty confident.”