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Rec center prepares for large crowds at US Diving Nationals

BY MAGGIE CUNNINGHAM | JANUARY 27, 2011 7:10 AM

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The top divers from across the country have come to Iowa City for the USA Diving 2011 Winter National Championships, to be held in the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center.

Competition will begin with the preliminary rounds on Jan. 30 and end on Feb. 6 with the men’s platform finals.

“We will have some of the best divers in the country coming in to use our facility, and that’s exciting,” said Harry Ostrander, the director of Recreational Services.

This is the first time Iowa has hosted the U.S. Diving Nationals since the 1930s, and diving coach Bob Rydze was told that advance ticket sales are at a record high for the event.

In addition to the large crowd, 200 athletes are expected to compete, including nine members of the 2008 Olympic team.

Rydze guessed around 30 to 40 percent of those divers are college athletes, and he expects that most of the Big Ten teams will be represented.

Hawkeye seniors Veronica Rydze and Deidre Freeman will compete in the 1 and 3 meters individually and as a team in synchronized. Iowa freshman Arsen Sarkisian will also dive if there are no complications with his shoulder injury.

“It’s a really important meet because three-fourths of this meet will determine, in the individual events, who’s going to the World Championships in July,” Rydze said. “That is our biggest meet for this squad next to the Olympic games.”

Of the 3,000 divers who belong to USA Diving, only 200 will compete, and Rydze stressed the caliber of diver it takes to enter this competition.

“You have to be a U.S. citizen first, but you also have to meet certain requirements — there are degree-of-difficulty requirements you have to meet to compete,” he said. “And those are a pretty high standard. You’re not just going to spend money coming to Iowa or anywhere to say I dove at the nationals.”

Most people don’t get the opportunity to see world class diving in action, and Ostrander believes there will be a great turnout from the community to witness the competition.

“We are expecting a very good representation from our community to come out and watch these divers,” he said. “I know we have had to solicit a lot of volunteers from the community just to help us put this meet on.”

Well more than 50 volunteers will assist Recreational Services in putting on the event.

Recreational Services is prepared to handle the large crowds because a successful operation will likely result in more major events for the future.

Plans have been made for the 2012 swimming season, and next year, Iowa will host the men’s and women’s Big Ten championships, as well as the NCAA’s qualifying competition.

“Those are three big meets back-to-back-to-back,” Rydze said. “But those are more collegiate meets. I know after this event we are also holding USA Diving’s women’s synchronized elite diving camp here, and that’s exciting. So there are a lot of other things going on, too.”


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