Rutgers hired Natasha Chikina as head diving coach in June and the move is paying off almost immediately. The former Nebraska head diving coach is bringing her star pupil with her, as six-time All-American Abigail Knapton is transferring to RU. She announced her decision in a post on Instagram last month and the move was first reported by Swim Swam this past weekend.
Knapton is the most decorated athlete in Nebraska history and has flourished under the coaching of Chikina.
On the platform, Knapton has finished in the top 8 at the NCAA Championships all four times she has participated, earning First Team All-American status for each. In her last two seasons, Knapton added a 15th place finish on the 3-meter springboard for Honorable Mention honors in 2019 and an 8th place finish this past season for First Team honors.
In addition, Knapton is the reigning champion in the Big Ten on the platform and 1-meter springboard, as well as the runner up in the 3-meter event.
Per her Nebraska bio, Knapton is a four-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. She also received the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor this past year, which is awarded to one male and female athlete at each member institution. Knapton was also named Best Female Athlete and Female Student Athlete of the Year within the entire Nebraska Athletic Department for 2020-2021.
Last month, the Omaha, Nebraska native finished seventh on the 3-meter springboard and fifth on platform at the US Olympic trials.
WOW.— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) June 10, 2021
Abigail Knapton with a beautiful splashless entry. @USADiving // #DivingTrials21 // #TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/Ng8FuMPQwP
Knapton is using her fifth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA’s exception rule during COVID-19 to continue her standout career training with her longtime coach.
The addition of Knapton is a major development for the Rutgers diving program. She will bring instant credibility to both the program and Chikina on the recruiting trail, as well as across the Big Ten. She also gives the Scarlet Knights a legitimate conference and national title contender in multiple diving events next season. Having a diver at the caliber of Knapton in the program that can lead by example, as well as mentor others, will only help instill and solidify the culture that Chikina will be attempting to establish at Rutgers. All of a sudden, the Scarlet Knights are relevant in yet another sport on the national stage.