Her arms outstretched in a perfect T, Laura Winn stands absolutely still, glistening like an ancient marble statue in the late afternoon sun. The senior diver slowly brings her hands over her head ““ the picture of precision and poise.

In the blink of an eye, she is throwing herself backward into the air, managing what seems like countless flips and twists on the 10-meter journey from platform to pool before piercing the water with a delicate splash.

“It’s called ripping,” she explained. “When you hit the water, and there’s no splash whatsoever. It makes a sound like you’re ripping Velcro. That feeling you get when you get it right, when you hit the water and you just know ““ it makes it all worth it.”

For tower specialists like Winn, the chances to truly test their talents are few and far between. With dual meets ““ which, for divers, only include 1- and 3-meter springboard events ““ comprising the majority of the season, invitational meets like this weekend’s Trojan Diving Invitational are their only chances to qualify for zone and national championships in these events.

“They’ve really been doing a nice job,” coach Tom Stebbins said. “I think they’re close enough that, given the opportunity, they’ll be able to earn their NCAA Zone scores and go from there.”

The invitational isn’t just the Bruins’ first platform competition of the season, it’s also their first real challenge. The season so far has consisted of six overwhelming victories, but this weekend the Bruins will have to battle it out against Pac-10 powerhouses Cal, Arizona and USC, as well as Air Force and Wisconsin.

Winn and fellow senior platform standout Karina Silva should provide both leadership and crucial tower points.

Both divers spent the summer competing on the national level ““ Winn placed 25th at U.S. Senior Nationals, while Silva, a native of Madrid, took home the platform gold at the Spanish Nationals. They hope to carry that momentum into this weekend.

“It’s good to start competing in the difficult dives now,” Silva said. “I have world championships this summer in China, but the preparation starts Friday.”

With the Bruins having already set their sights on national and international success ““ Silva is aiming for the 2012 Spanish Olympic team ““ the Trojan Invite promises to be an intriguing preview of the elite competitions the divers will face this season and beyond.