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Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year Rydze helps his divers improve

BY MAGGIE CUNNINGHAM | FEBRUARY 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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2011 is a great year to be a part of the Iowa women’s diving team.

Under Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year Bob Rydze, the Iowa divers are turning out spectacular finishes at major competitions this year.

“We’ve been successful because of Bob,” senior Deidre Freeman said. “He’s able to recognize how each one of his divers learns and can modify his coaching to accommodate that.”

The women’s team is made up of seven divers who are at different stages in their careers, but with Rydze’s leadership, many of them will try to have an effect at the national level.

“My goal, as farfetched as it may sound to the average person, was to qualify for the 2012 Olympic trials,” Freeman said. “Having done that in synchro already, my goal now is to qualify individually. I would be elated if I qualified individually and even more so if I made the Olympic team.”

Freeman and senior Veronica Rydze took fourth in the 3-meter synchro dive at the 2011 Winter USA Diving Nationals in January.

At last week’s 2011 Big Ten championships in Bloomington, Ind., Freeman set two school records, earning her a second-place finish in the individual 3 meter and third in the individual 1 meter.

Though she says her goal of reaching the Olympics may seem “farfetched” to some people, both of her school records were previously held by former Olympians.

“I have exceeded my expectations this season,” Freeman said. “I was not expecting to set two school records because I know that they were held by former Olympians and hadn’t thought I was at that level yet.

“I proved myself wrong.”

When Freeman arrived at Iowa, she had never seen a platform board in person and never dove in the 3-meter event. Her drastic improvement and success are already inspiring her teammates to do the same.

“Seeing Deidre train all year and then go set those records is extremely motivating,” freshman Lauren Kelba said. “She is one of my best friends, and being with her every day shows me how breaking records doesn’t have to be this impossible thing.”

Kelba has seen her own consistency improve this year, and the result has been a 24th-place finish in the platform diving at Big Tens. With Freeman and Veronica Rydze, Kelba will compete at the NCAA qualifier on March 11.

Freeman’s and Veronica Rydze’s accomplishments demonstrate they have progressed over the years, but Kelba and sophomore Mary Sue LeMay have seen themselves develop into better athletes.

“I think I matured a lot as a diver this year,” LeMay said. “As a freshman last season, I found out that I had a lot of bad habits to break that I developed in high school. This year I was able to break some of those.”

The divers agree training under an established coach such as Bob Rydze has not only allowed the team to get better, but it will show when the Hawkeyes hit the boards at the NCAA qualifiers.

“I know I am always being told the right things to do because he is so knowledgeable about the sport,” LeMay said. “We have all progressed in so many positive ways this season, and it’s because he is such a great coach.”


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