Fearless freshman Kelba takes on the platform dives


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The University of Iowa will host the U.S. Diving Nationals beginning Thursday, but freshman Lauren Kelba will not dive in a single event.

This is not because she lacks the talent. It’s because she is not a U.S. citizen.

The journalism and sports-studies major is from Calgary, Alberta, and as a Canadian citizen, she is involved in a whole other diving scene at home.

“I’m a little disappointed I am not able to compete at USA Nationals here, but I do understand where they’re coming from,” Kelba said. “It definitely would have been interesting though to see how I ranked in America compared with Canada.”

Kelba said she was always an “athletic kid,” but not until she watched a diving competition on TV at age 13 did she have any exposure to the sport. A year and a half after she began her diving career, she had qualified for her first Junior Nationals competition.

Like many other international athletes, Kelba decided to come to the United States for the unique combination of athletics and college education.

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“I was e-mailing a couple NCAA coaches along with [Iowa diving coach Bob Rydze] when he called me,” she said. “I had a very good first impression.

“We talked a couple more times before he invited me down for a visit, and almost as soon as I got home from my trip, I knew I wanted to be a Hawkeye.”

Now, instead of competing in the 11-day U.S. National competition this week like some of her teammates, Kelba will prepare for the Summer Senior Nationals in Canada, where she will have a home-pool advantage. The Summer Senior Nationals will be held in June in Edmonton — where Kelba regularly trains and competes.

Kelba is ranked 12th at the Canadian national level. Though her rank is impressive, she said, she has a lot of work to do to reach the level of the top four competitors who make up the Canadian national team.

“Lauren is hard working,” senior diver Veronica Rydze said. “She is a great diver who keeps improving each week, and she is a wonderful tower diver.

While Kelba has had success competing in the 1- and 3-meter dives this season, tower diving is her specialty. Tower diving is done off 5-, 71⁄2-, and 10-meter platforms.

“I find I’m a little more consistent when it comes to tower dives,” Kelba said. “The only thing with tower is that I get very few chances to compete [in] it.”

She competed in platform diving once this season at the Hawkeye Invitational. She took second with a score of 221.35 out of around 25 divers in the competition. The Big Ten championships will be her last opportunity.

As the only Hawkeye to compete in platform events, Kelba is described by her teammates as a fearless diver that is always willing to try new dives.

“Lauren’s the kind of athlete who will do anything to improve,” senior diver Deidre Freeman said. “If [Coach Rydze] doesn’t give her feedback on even one dive during a practice, she’s not satisfied and will seek it out.

“She competes against herself and is determined to be better than perfect.”

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