Junior Eloise Belanger will advance to her third NCAA championship as the only UCLA diver to qualify.
No. 21 UCLA diving competed at the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships from March 5-7 in Flagstaff, Arizona. While four Bruin divers competed at this meet, only Belanger made the cut for the tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
Belanger, who won the 1-meter and 3-meter events at the Pac-12 championship, took second in both events behind Nevada’s Sharae Zheng. Belanger led the prelims in platform with a new season best of 297.65 but ended the finals in second place with a cumulative score of 578.00, just behind Hawai’i’s Madison Sthamann at 590.00.
“(Belanger) was exceptional,” said diving coach Tom Stebbins. “I thought she was really good at staying focused just on the one dive that was next, the one that was right in front of her. And when she tends to do that, (her) string of dives becomes pretty great.”
Belanger will be competing in all three diving events at the NCAA championship. Belanger qualified for all three events her freshman year but missed the 3-meter qualification last year.
“Last year, I don’t really know what happened,” Belanger said. “But it was a really bad day. And I think that nothing was going right. And I did really big mistakes. And I mean, it really was unusual. … I think that I really learned from that last year, and the goal was to be consistent. I think that I did that really well (this week).”
Freshman Alice Yanovsky made her NCAA Zone debut but didn’t qualify for the finals in her events. Yanovsky got 21st in the 1-meter prelims with a new personal best of 253.50 and 30th in the 3-meter prelims with a score of 247.55.
Junior Traci Shiver also made her first appearance at this meet, and although she didn’t advance to the finals in the 1-meter or platform event, Shiver ended the meet with a personal best in the 1-meter with a score of 239.55.
“(Yanovsky and Shiver) actually PR’ed in the one-meter,” Stebbins said. “They both scored better than they’ve scored at any meet, and this is a really hard place to do that because the judging is really tight. They tend to judge things down. They tend to keep people bunched together.”
Senior Ciara Monahan placed 19th in the 1-meter, missing a spot in the top-18 by just 0.6 of a point to qualify for the finals. Monahan came back the next day with a berth in the finals, but garnered 14th place and failed to make the NCAA’s.
“(The 1-meter) was kind of a disappointment,” Monahan said. “But on the 3-meter, I think I bounced back. … I made it to the finals on 3-meter, so I think both my lists were pretty consistent. … Overall, I’m happy with how I did. I don’t really have any regrets.”
Last year, Monahan qualified for the NCAA championship in the 1-meter and 3-meter – this year falling short in both events.
Stebbins said Monahan might have had a different outcome if she had not made a mistake in one of her dives in the 1-meter.
“I’m proud of the work that she did over the course of her four years,” Stebbins said. “And I’m really pleased with how she’s developed and grown even though this meet didn’t quite work out for her the way that we had hoped.”
With the NCAA championship only a week away, Belanger said she hopes to rest up and maintain the consistency that she showed at this meet.
“For NCAA’s, I think that the goal is to take the prelims more as a final to try to put ourselves in the best position as we can and then try to make finals,” Belanger said.