NCAA Qualifiers: Iowa divers keeping minds clear, sticking to basics

BY TORK MASON | MARCH 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa diving team's biggest meet of the season is upon it this week as it heads into its NCAA qualifying meet.

If the divers qualify this week in the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center, they get one more chance to compete this season; if they fail to do so, the season is over. Those types of circumstances can add pressure for an athlete — perhaps enough take bigger risks.

But Iowa diving coach Bob Rydze says his divers will stick to the basics.

"We're going to dive with everything we do best," the 37-year coach said. "Nothing new; we're just going to hope we hit everything."

Adding to the potential stress of a qualifying meet are the midterm exams the athletes have been forced to make up this week after having them postponed during the Big Ten championships.

Rydze said the team would have been able to push the exams back further if the meet had been on the road, but admitted it can sometimes be helpful to have something besides diving demand an athlete's attention. Sophomore Osvel Molina said exams haven't changed his approach to the event.

"I'm not going to lie — when I come in and dive, I forget about school," he said. "Diving is a mental sport; it's 50 percent mental, if not 60 percent. If you're thinking about something else, you're not going to dive well. I enjoy my diving, and I don't want to be interrupted by school."

Redshirt freshman Joelle Christy said having the meet at home offers a significant advantage for the Hawkeyes because of their familiarity with the facility.

"We get to sleep in our own beds, the boards [are familiar], and the crowd is behind us," she said. "It's very advantageous to have a meet on your home turf, so to speak."

That familiarity with the boards is especially important for a diver; Christy noted that all boards feel slightly different. Divers bounce on the end of a board before each meet to find their bearings and figure out exactly how they need to hit their spots in competition.

"For every diver, it feels just a little different based on where you are, what type of board it is, and what year it was made," she said.

This will mark Christy's first NCAA qualifying meet, but the Springfield, Ill., native said she's trying to approach it by putting the big picture out of her mind. She admitted that's easier said than done, though.

"Just the overall size of the meet is a little intimidating," she said. "But I think with more experience, that will be easier [to handle]."

Rydze said he told Christy and redshirt freshman Abby Grilli that they have nothing to fear when it comes to the size and significance of the meet.

"They just went through one of, if not the, best conferences in the United States in diving," he said. "This meet isn't going to be any different from that, so I expect them to get up and compete well — just like I do for all of my divers."

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