Two come-from-behind efforts, two wins and two school records set by UCLA junior diver Maria Polyakova marked a fruitful outing for the No. 21 Bruin diving team.
Polyakova, who recently garnered the 1-meter title and Diver of the Meet at the Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships, continued winning into the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships held Monday through Wednesday at the Douglas J. Wall Aquatic Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. Polyakova swept both the 3-meter and 1-meter competition to qualify for the NCAA championships.
In the 1-meter and 3-meter competitions, Polyakova went dive-for-dive with Nevada junior Sharae Zheng, winner of both springboard titles at the 2016 NCAA Championships.
Despite placing second in both events after the preliminary rounds, Polyakova narrowly edged out the 2016 NCAA Diver of the Year for the top spot 756.65 to 737.00 in the 3-meter and 656.15 to 652.60 in the 1-meter. Polyakova’s fourth dive, the Reverse 2 1/2 Somersault Pike (305B), which obtained a score of 72.00 and her fifth, the Forward 3 1/2 Somersault Pike (107B) that recorded a 75.95, her highest ever for this dive, propelled her to win the 3-meter event.
“Before the dives, I just tried to stay in my zone and not think about anything else,” Polyakova said. “I’m really excited, I have never experienced anything like that.”
On top of winning, Polyakova improved on her Pac-12 winning finals score, and original school record, with a tally of 398.75 in the 3-meter and erased sophomore Eloise Belanger’s school record set at last year’s NCAA championships with a score of 339.05 in the 1-meter finals.
Polyakova will be joined by three of her teammates at the finals in Indianapolis.
Coach Tom Stebbins said he was thrilled at the team’s achievements.
“Having four student athletes advance to compete at the NCAA meet is a credit to the diligent, dedicated work they have put in all season long,” Stebbins said. “The resilience and belief this group has in themselves and their preparation shined through.”
Belanger, who placed third on platform with an overall score of 547.40 and finished fifth in the 1-meter, will also proceed to the finals. Junior Ciara Monahan, who did not qualify for the finals last year, did so this time in both springboard events. Senior Annika Lenz advanced to the NCAA finals in all three events, notching fifth-place finishes in the 3-meter and platform competitions.
“I had a good 3 1/2 (Forward 3 1/2 Somersault Tuck, 107C) in the 3-meter, and a good full out which I have been having some trouble with, and I was consistent throughout, so I was pretty happy with that,” said Lenz. “This is senior year, so being able to do each of the boards again one last time feels good.”
The four divers will represent the Bruins at the NCAA finals held at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, from March 16 to 18.
“I believe we are as prepared as we can be for next week’s championship,” Stebbins said.