With only one chance left to qualify for the NCAA championship, the UCLA dive team heads to Colorado Springs, Colo., this week to compete in the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships.
The Bruins have three divers competing in the three-day event, taking place from Monday to Wednesday. Freshmen Ciara Monahan and Maria Polyakova will be diving in the meet for the first time and sophomore Annika Lenz will make her second trip to the zone meet.
Having competed in this meet just last year, Lenz said she knows what to expect.
“There’s a lot more people than we’re use to, so there is a lot more time between dives,” Lenz said. “You really have to stay focused and to make sure you get back into competition mode.”
With approximately 60 women diving in each of the meet’s preliminary events, each round can take up to three hours to complete. That long of a competition means the divers will be waiting about a half an hour between every dive – a lot longer than their typical break time.
“It’s about knowing how to come down after competing and to take some time for yourself,” said coach Tom Stebbins. “It’s really important for them to have a strategy for the time in between dives that allows them to stay rested without being overly stimulated.”
To improve its chances for success in Colorado Springs, UCLA is leaving three days early to get a feel for its competition stage. By arriving early, the Bruins will get two days of practice at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where the meet will be held.
“All of it for diving is getting comfortable with how the boards bounce,” Stebbins said. “But more importantly with how they see things – what they’re spotting, how they set their feet with the come-outs, and that kind of stuff. It’s more about being in a facility that you are comfortable with.”
Being comfortable with where they dive will help the divers reach their ultimate goal of qualifying for the NCAA championship. The top eight finishers in the 1-meter and 3-meter events and the top nine in the platform event will advance to the championship.
Polyakova, who will be diving in the 1-meter and 3-meter events, said the best way for her to be ready for this kind of competition is to stay confident and focused.
“I know you have to expect the best from yourself,” Polyakova said. “I just have to keep telling myself ‘I’ll do great, I got it, it will happen.’”
Stebbins also expressed confidence in his team, saying that if the divers can focus on what they need to do individually, the outcome will end in their favor.
“If you can stay on your task and if you can execute to the best of your ability, the result generally takes care of itself,” Stebbins said.