The NCAA Diving Zone Championships wrapped up at 5 sites around the country, and the results are official. Now it’s time to look at how the divers have affected the race for the NCAA Championships.
The name-of-the-game for the women this weekend was the rich getting richer. Out of the top 7 teams based on swimming psych sheet scoring, 6 had divers qualify for the NCAA Championships.
USC–Diving in Zone E, the Trojans divers looked really good this weekend in grabbing 2 out of the available 6 spots. Victoria Ishimatu won both springboards and placed third on the platform, and Ariel Ritterhouse placed second in the 3-meter. Both girls look ready to score big points for the Trojans and move them on up the rankings.
Texas A&M-The Aggie diving program has gone through a tumultuous season. Texas A&M is on their third diving coach of the season, Jay Lerew, and have been missing several of their international divers for a good portion of the season while competing for their home countries. Despite this, they fought through to grab 2 diving spots in a tough Zone D that includes national championship contenders Nastia Pozdnakova of Houston and Kelci Bryant of Minnesota. Jaele Patrick finished third behind these two in the 1-meter to lock up her spot, and Janie Potvin snagged a fifth place finish on the 3-meter to qualify. Lorena Lujan came up just shy as the first diver out, and was 3-points away from a third place finish in the platform which would’ve given A&M a third diver. The Aggies and the aforementioned Trojans will likely be duking it out for a top 5 finish, and the diving could make the difference.
Stanford- The Cardinal were uncertain if they would qualify a diver for NCAA’s, which would have been significant given that Georgia’s Hannah Moore was expected to (and did) make it easily. With the Bulldogs as the only team within striking distance of Stanford for the overall team title, having a diver with the potential to score takes a tiny bit of the pressure off of Stanford’s swimmers. Margaret Hostage delivered, and was the final qualifier out west thanks to a second place finish on the platform.
Auburn-The Auburn Tigers are not seeded as high as they are used to at this year’s meet, coming into the meet 10th based on psych sheets, but will get a huge boost after they snuck in their divers. Out of Zone B, which was given 8 spots, Auburn snagged the last two in the form of Vennie Dantin, who placed third on the platform, and Anna Aguero.
Ashley Danner- George Mason has one of the biggest unknown quantities as a swimmer in the nation in breaststroker Ashley Danner. Nobody really knows a whole lot about her, but she is seeded in the top 2 of both breaststroke events, and last year was the only NCAA qualifier for her team. This year, she will have a teammate in the form of Kristen Meier. Meier placed third in Zone A in the 3-meter and fourth in the 1-meter. I know it might sound silly, but just having a familiar face there can go a long way towards increasing Danner’s comfort level, since she is going into the meet as perhaps the biggest underdog ever for someone with a #1 seeded time.
California & Arizona-These are the last two NCAA Champions, and both did it without much help from their divers. Coming into this year’s meet, however, neither is predicted to challenge for the title. Although neither was expected to qualify any divers, both programs need to look at rebuilding their diving programs if they hope to get back to the top. Among the major NCAA programs in the country right now, these are the only two without qualifying divers. Oddly enough, both of their main rivals have great divers (Arizona State is one of the top diving programs in the country, and see above for Stanford). Both schools need to put some work into getting some of those girls to come across town, because it’s going to become harder and harder to win titles without them.
Georgia-Yes, Georgia’s Hannah Moore qualified out of Zone B, and yes, she will likely be enough to cancel out Stanford’s diving points, but she’ll need to do better than that for the Bulldogs to have a chance at the overall team title. Moore, who finished 4th in the 3-meter at the 2008 NCAA Championships, has seen her performance in this event slowly decline since her freshman season. This year, she was only 6th at zones. Although her 1-meter has improved (she was third at Zone’s in that event), the Bulldogs will be looking for her to sneak into the A-final in both events.