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Diving toward improvement

BY MITCH SMITH | NOVEMBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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Injuries and world travel have left the Iowa women’s diving team with a freshman and a former gymnast.

The squad is without two of its top performers and its two most-experienced collegiate divers — senior Deidre Freeman and junior Veronica Rydze.

Freeman is redshirting this season in order to study abroad in Spain. The Grinnell native is a former Big Ten Diver of the Week and has two diving scores that rank in the top five all-time in school history.

Rydze, the daughter of Iowa head diving coach Bob Rydze, has two diving scores that rank in the top 10 in school history, but she hasn’t competed at all this season because of a back injury.

Without its veteran diving duo, the team has only mustered one second-place finish, two third-place marks, and a bevy of fourth- through ninth-place finishes.

“Obviously, we’re quite short-handed right now,” Bob Rydze said. “But our two divers who are actually diving are getting better.”

He is optimistic his daughter will be back on the board sometime next week, he said, and she should be able to start competing during the second semester.

Until then, the short-handed squad is relying on gymnast-turned-diver Brittany Logan and freshman Mary Sue LeMay, who have been shouldering the load for the AquaHawks.

Despite the low finishes, Bob Rydze and the divers are optimistic because of the day-by-day improvement of the team’s inexperienced pair.

LeMay, a native of Sterling, Ill., was a four-time conference champion and three-time all-state diver in high school. She scored the lone runner-up finish for the AquaHawk divers this season, posting a score of 203.63 against Missouri State in the 1-meter.

LeMay said she doesn’t feel any pressure to perform better because of the loss of Rydze and Freeman.

“Bob has told Brittany and me to focus on what we’re doing individually and not on anything else,” she said. “For me, Bob is just trying to help me break some bad habits from high school.”

Logan had her best finishes in the squad’s last meet on Nov. 6 against Minnesota, picking up a third-place finish in the 3-meter event and a fourth-place in the 1-meter event.

The native of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada has trained as a collegiate diver for less than a year after a shoulder injury cut her collegiate gymnastics career short.

“Brittany should have been a diver from the start,” Bob Rydze said. “It’s too bad she started diving so late because she has picked up things really quickly. And Mary Sue has improved a lot in the last three weeks. She’s really starting to realize what Big Ten diving is all about.”

The loss of Freeman and Veronica Rydze in the early part of this season has affected LeMay as a diver, she said.

“It was nice when Veronica was here because I’m a visual learner, and I’d be able to watch her to something,” she said.

Bob Rydze, who has spent the past 35 years coaching Iowa divers — including three Olympians — knows all too well that good diving rubs off.

“The more time you spend around really good divers, the better diver you become,” he said. “That’s a fact.”


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