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Bruins qualify 4 divers for national championship at Zone E Diving Championships

Freshman Lauren Hallaselkä tucks her head to her knees during a dive. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Sabrina Baker

March 16, 2024 12:24 p.m.

Four Bruin divers are headed to nationals.

No. 21 UCLA swim and dive (5-4, 3-4 Pac-12) had five divers compete in the Zone E Diving Championships in Flagstaff, Arizona, from March 11 to March 13. Graduate student Savana Trueb, junior Zoe Jespersgaard and freshman Lauren Hallaselkä qualified for NCAAs in two events each. Sophomore Eden Cheng qualified in one event

“That (Pac-12 championship) was the beginning of us starting to feel good, to really get some rest and to start to look really sharp,” said diving coach Tom Stebbins. “That continued through the Zone meet. We were pretty excited about the results of the week.”

For Trueb and Jespersgaard, their NCAA qualifications came from securing an automatic bid – an eighth-place finish or better at Zones – in one event and placing ninth through twelfth in the other event.

Jespersgaard automatically qualified in the 3-meter competition with a third-place finish, and thus also qualified for the 1-meter event with a twelfth-place finish.

Trueb automatically qualified in the platform event with a sixth place finish, qualifying herself for the 3-meter event with her ninth place finish.

Stebbins said he was impressed with Trueb’s turnaround between events.

“Savana really struggled on her first day, and I really thought she’d get something special done on that Monday, and it just didn’t work out,” Stebbins said. “She gave herself a puncher’s chance on Tuesday, just missed by a spot … and then found a way on Wednesday to put together a really good finals list that pushed her up into that sixth spot.”

Cheng – who secured a spot for Great Britain in the 2024 Olympics in the 10-meter platform before the season – qualified for her second NCAAs in the platform event with a second-place finish at Zones.

The London native secured back-to-back second-place finishes in the platform event at the Pac-12 championship and the Zones competition. At the Pac-12 competition, Eden also set a new school record for the platform event.

“It was a little disappointing to come second to her (USC’s Nike Agunbiade) at Pacs, just because I felt really good,” Cheng said. “But at Zones, for me, coming second wasn’t really anything I was too concerned about just because, for Zones, it’s about the qualification rather than how good you are at competing at that stage.”

UCLA did win two events at Zones, both of which came from Hallaselkä. The freshman won the 1-meter and the 3-meter event on back-to-back days – the first Bruin to win two events at Zones since 2019.

Stebbins said he was impressed with Hallaselkä’s self-management.

“Lauren has a tendency sometimes to not talk super positively to herself,” Stebbins said. “And that sometimes causes her to be a little bit questionable in terms of her performance, and she admitted to me that she went through a little bit of that but navigated it incredibly well.”

With four divers and three swimmers competing, the Bruins will return to action Wednesday at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Georgia.

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Sabrina Baker | Sports contributor
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
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