Between conference championships and national championships, there is a 3rd rung of NCAA swimming & diving championship season: the zone diving qualifying events.
Unlike swimmers, where hitting a certain qualifying standard or a national rank earns an athlete a spot at the NCAA National Championship meet, divers have just one opportunity to qualify for the big meet: via one of 6 Zone Diving meets. That’s because diving scoring isn’t objective like swimming scoring, and so the closer they can come to standardizing the scoring, in this case by creating relatively-uniform judging by high-level judges.
To qualify for the zone meets, divers must hit the Diving Standards listed below.
Who qualifies from those zone meets forward to the NCAA Championships gets a little complicated. Basically, each zone is allocated a certain number of spots in each event, based on how well the zone performed at the prior year’s NCAA Championship meet. In short, each zone starts with a baseline of 5 women and 4 men in each discipline, and then are allocated an additional spot for each top 16 finisher they had at NCAAs the prior year. No Zone A men, for example, scored on platform at NCAAs last year, so they still only get 4 spots for that event. Zone C, which includes the powerhouse programs at Indiana and Purdue, had 7 men score at NCAAs last year on the 1-meter, so they get 11 spots (4+7) for this year.
Once a diver is qualified, he or she can dive in any of the other 2 events, so long as they finished in the top 12 in their zone in that event. A certain number of divers from each zone have their costs reimbursed, while other schools will have to pay their athletes’ way – part of new rules instituted in the last few years to expand the diving field at NCAAs.
2019 NCAA Championship Zone Diving Meets
- Zone A – Lejeune Hall, Annapolis, Maryland – March 11th-13th
- Zone B – James E. Martin Aquatic Center, Auburn, Alabama – March 11th-13th
- Zone C – Morgan J. Burke Aquatic Center, West Lafayette, Indiana – March 14th-16th
- Zone D – Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Austin, Texas – March 11th-13th
- Zone E – Douglas J. Wall Aquatic Center, Flagstaff, Arizona – March 11th-13th
Qualifying Spots Per Zone
|Zone A||6||5||5||Zone A||6||5||4|
|Zone B||9||8||6||Zone B||6||7||9|
|Zone C||9||8||12||Zone C||11||8||8|
|Zone D||9||12||9||Zone D||9||11||9|
|Zone E||8||8||9||Zone E||4||5||6|
Editor’s note: this is the 2018 Zone Diving map. The 2019 map hasn’t been publicly released by the NCAA yet. If it changes, we will update this article at that time accordingly.
The 2019 reimbursement schedule has also not yet been released.