No. 16 Gophers Head to NCAA Zone Diving
March 7, 2012
The Minnesota Men’s and Women’s Diving teams head back to the Campus Recreation and Wellness Pool in Iowa City, Iowa March 8-11 to compete in Zone D of NCAA Zone Diving.
The women who make the cut will compete at the NCAA Championships March 15-17 in Auburn, Alabama. The men divers who are given berths will move on to compete at the NCAA Championships March 22-24 in Seattle, Washington.
The Gopher men have two divers competing, senior Kristoffer Jorgensen and junior transfer Mikey Ross. The Gopher women will have four divers competing, junior Katie Grunawalt, sophomores Maggie Keefer and Sarah McCrady and freshman Katy Etterman.
NCAA Zone Diving competition differs than a normal championship meet.
“It’s a little bit different because they’ll do each event -- 1 meter, 3 meter and platform.” Volunteer Diving Coach Brandon Blaisdell described. “Each event will do a prelim and a final and that will determine your score. They add them together, they’re not making cuts. So, if you get 350 in the first round and 360 in the second round, you get 710 as your score. You can win the first round, then bomb the second round and then lose it all.”
Jorgensen just barely missed the NCAA berth last year, but after claiming the title in platform diving at the Big Ten Championships (430.65), he is ready to claim his NCAA spot this year.
Maggie Keefer qualified for NCAA’s in all three events last year as a freshman and came home from the Championships with an 11th-place finish in 1 meter diving. Keefer, along with the additional five Gophers, are looking to come out on top and qualify.
“The main thought is just like any other meet, you have to come out on top,” Blaisdell said. “Third place, fourth place, doesn’t always cut it at the zone meet depending on how the qualification goes. Their goal is to obviously do the best they can and hope to qualify for NCAA’s. Kris has qualified before, Maggie has qualified before; we’re looking to qualifying both of them plus maybe one or two other people. We have a good shot at it with a good meet.”
The Gophers will miss Kelci Bryant this year, who is the defending NCAA Champion in 1 meter diving, as she is preparing for the Olympics. Because of her win last year, she earned the zone an extra qualifying spot on the women’s side.
“It’s different for men and women. This year, the women have 12 spots and the men have eight or nine spots in our zone,” Blaisdell stated. “It’s determined by how well the divers from your zone do at NCAA’s the previous year. If they come out as finalists on top, then you earn a spot for your zone meet. Last year we had 11, Kelci did really well, so now we have 12.”
Along with having an extra qualification spot, the Gophers are also getting an advantage with Iowa hosting.
“I think it will really help them,” Blaisdell said about diving at the Iowa pool. “I think Coach Wenbo set that up so that we did an Iowa Invite back in December and we had a dual meet against them, so that was two times we got to go the pool. Both the Big Ten Conference Championships were set up at Iowa, so I think that’s why we made sure we had lots of practice there, both for the conference meets and for the Zone meet. There’s not a lot of times you can do that.”