The following is a press release courtesy of Oakland University:
By Catherine Slonksnis
There was bad, and then there was Tricia Grant. That’s probably the most amicable way to describe her first attempt at diving.
And yet, Tricia went on to become the first women’s diver in Horizon League history to make it to the NCAA Championships. The Horizon League Diving Champion senior will graduate from Oakland University with athletic achievements lining her collegiate record, it wasn’t until she came to Oakland that her talents blossomed.
Growing up, Tricia was active in several sports at the behest of her mother — gymnastics, figure skating, and dance, among others. But even playing the cello offered no enjoyment and every sport Grant was placed in, she hated. For Tricia, she wanted a sport her mom couldn’t teach or add her input to. Little did she know, however, that those sports would become the keys that set her apart from her competition.
Tricia didn’t find diving, it found her at the age of 16. Specifically, her high school biology teacher, also a diving instructor, learned she was in dance and recruited her for the swim team. And when Tricia first took up the sport, she wasn’t a good diver, in fact, she was downright terrible at it.
So, she quit.
But one of Tricia’s teammates on the gymnastics team had other plans, though, and she signed Tricia up without her knowledge. Upon hearing she was on the team, Tricia agreed to take up diving again, on the self-acknowledged condition that there would be true commitment, and it didn’t hurt that it was a sport her mom couldn’t teach.
Tricia’s diving club was located at Oakland, as was Larry Albright, who would become her long-time diving coach. But while she participated in meets during high school, Tricia did not particularly stand out until her senior year. It was then that she earned all-state honors, placed second in the one meter at the Division I state meet, became regional champion, and was the three-time league champion in 2010.
Tricia was offered a full scholarship to come to Oakland, which she gladly accepted, and her career took off. But that also meant putting aside a normal life, one in which parties, relationships, and drinking were non-existent. Practice, classes, homework, and gym time became her life. Tricia stayed true to her word of fully dedicating herself, and the fruits of her hard work showed almost immediately.
A goal-oriented personality, Tricia set an aspiration to win the Summit League, even in her freshman year at Oakland. To do that, she would have to beat out two seniors, one whom was a fellow Oakland student and held the school record at the time. That wasn’t going to happen, not if you had asked anyone paying attention to the seniors. Yet Tricia won anyway, despite being in third place after the preliminary round.
During her sophomore season, Tricia broke the school record on the 1-meter board, took the 1-meter board crown for the Summit League — which set a new record, earned all-league honors at the Summit League Championships, and was named Summit League Diver of the Year and Diver of the Championships. And those weren’t her only accomplishments that season, as she advanced to NCAA Zone Diving on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards.
Tricia didn’t want the added pressure of trying to make a deep run in the NCAA Diving Tournament in her senior season, so she set the goal in her junior year. Knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy accomplishment, Tricia and Albright laid out a rigorous training plan.
“Every day Larry and I, we turned on the lights in the pool and got here at 5:00 a.m.,” Tricia said. “We did three hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon, and then I lifted (weights) on my own for an hour and a half every day, five days a week. So, I was doing 35-plus hours a week. Most colleges, they’ll do four of each of their dives, and you’ve got 12 dives total. I was doing 10 of each, so I was doing 120 dives in two hours.
“I knew if I don’t make it, there’s absolutely nothing I could’ve possibly done better, nothing I could’ve done different,” Tricia continued. “Maybe there’s somebody more talented than me, but there’s definitely not anyone who’s been working harder. And I was okay with that.”
As a junior, Tricia took home the Horizon League Diver of the Championship Meet in 2014 and was the Horizon League Champion in both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events. However, in zone competition to qualify for the NCAA Championship, Tricia faltered in her 1-meter dive, the one she was expected to do well in.
Heartbroken, she returned the following day for her 3-meter diving event with no expectations — all she wanted was to get home and forget about the event. She nailed all 12 of her 3-meter dives — the six to advance her out of preliminaries, and the six that placed her fourth in the event finals — and became the first women’s diver in the history of the Horizon League to advance to the NCAA Championships.
And for all of the times it felt like her mom was being overbearing, or pushing Tricia to take part in a sport she didn’t want to, it ended up being a blessing in disguise. The experience in various sports gave Tricia the edge-up that she needed to become a top-performing diver. Without her mom’s influence, Tricia wouldn’t have taken to diving in the way that she did, and many of the more subtle aspects of diving would’ve been difficult.
As storied as her time was at Oakland, though, Tricia battled through two difficult injuries along the way. She suffered a shin injury during her sophomore season, which sidelined her for a couple of weeks. And after the NCAA Diving Tournament, Tricia suffered a herniated disk in her back as she entered her senior year, putting her out of commission for two months.
Yet, despite missing time in her senior season, Tricia still took home the Horizon League’s Diver of the Meet, earned her career-fourth 3-meter title, and made her fourth career appearance at NCAA Zones (although she failed to qualify in 2015). The 3-meter victory — turning in a score of 330.10, which just missed her career-best in the event — marked the seventh conference championship of her career. For the Oakland diving champion, things could have been worse.
“I’d always pictured a champion as someone who’s on the first place podium, someone who’s winning, someone who’s the best,” Tricia said. “But I’ve learned that the image of a champion is someone who’s bent over, drenched in sweat, out of breathe when no one else is around. And I’ve learned that if you wanna be the best, you have to have the mindset of a gold medal, and gold medals aren’t made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and guts.”