Trinity divers are beginning competition today, Feb. 27, in the NCAA Division III Zone Regional Diving Championships at the Blossom Athletic Center here in San Antonio. The competition will finish up tomorrow, Feb. 28.
The top performers from the Zone Regional will advance to the NCAA Championships beginning March 18.
Trinity’s women’s diving team qualified six talented young women for the Zone Regional: captain Sara Miller, Sarah Mrkonich, Alexa Bird, Mollie Patzke, Danielle Freund and Christine Peterson. Mrkonich had a stand-out performance at conference, earning SCAC Female Diver of the Meet honors.
Unfortunately, Freund had an injured foot and was unable to compete at the SCAC Championships two weeks ago. After winning conference, Patzke spoke about her teammate’s injury.
“We all dove really well [at SCAC]. Hopefully Dani Freund is healthy and able to compete; she really deserves one of the spots to nationals,” Patzke said.
The Tigers have been hopeful to make it all the way since day one.
“My goal since the beginning of the season has been to make it to Nationals and that hasn’t really changed,” Freund said. “If I do get to dive, though, I’m going to go in with the same mindset I always try to dive with, and that’s to have a good time with my team doing the sport I love.”
The Zone Regional is structured in a way that grants each of the four zones a different number of spots available to qualify for nationals, divided similarly to the House of Representatives. This makes it very hard for competitors from Trinity, as their zone is often on the lower end of spots provided.
“We’re nervous because it’s a matter of how many spots you get to qualify for the NCAA,” said head diving coach Stan Randall. “We have quality, not quantity. We have 12 competitors for as few as two spots, but we’re hoping for four, like last year.”
Many people feel that the NCAA needs to revise how many spots are available per zone, making it more like the Senate, where every zone has an equal and set amount of spots.
“They need to have six, six, six and six,” Randall said. “They need to realign the zones so that everyone has equal opportunity for qualifying. Every girl we take to Nationals is always around the top eight in the nation, but not all can qualify.”
The Tigers have trained hard all season, putting in as much as necessary to get to this point and have this opportunity to advance to Nationals. This season’s continuing success has been attributed to several external factors.
At the beginning of the season, the Trinity athletic department, headed by Bob King and head swimming coach John Ryan invested time and approximately $15,000 to acquire a dry-land diving board with safety nets and mats. This has proven to be a great asset in training for the divers.
“We’ve been very fortunate to also have Randy Larson as a volunteer assistant diving coach,” Randall said. “There are a lot of contributing factors to our program “˜s success this year.”
Larson is a former Ohio State NCAA Division I 3-meter board champion who also competed in the Olympic trials. Larson has proven to be a valuable asset, helping the team with his experience and expertise.
The top few competitors from the Zone Regional will advance to the NCAA Championships from March 18-21 in Shenandoah, Texas.
The Tiger swimming team has qualified for seven events at the national meet with four individual events and three relay to compete in the national meet.