Dec. 15, 2011
BY AMANDA PRUITT
Two Vols braved the waiting game and another achieved a career first as three Tennessee divers advanced Thursday to start the USA Diving Winter National Championships.
Competing on their home boards at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center, senior Ryan Helms posted the top score in the 1-meter springboard and junior Brent Sterling placed sixth to qualify for the semifinals. Later in the day, junior Jordan Mauney reached his first quarterfinal with a 12th-place finish on the platform.
"For each one, that's step one toward going to nationals and moving forward to reach our goals to get to the trials," Tennessee coach Dave Parrington said. "So we have to keep it all in perspective and just keep moving forward."
Helms and Sterling both finished with qualifying scores of 375.65 and 305.15 respectively in the 1-meter competition while dealing with unusual conditions.
With 52 divers in the 1-meter preliminary field, Helms and Sterling had to wait 30 or 45 minutes in between dives. Parrington said those minutes provide both a mental and physical challenge as divers must stay loose and warmed up between each of their six dives.
"The mental side is tough because you've got one dynamic movement you've got to get up and do in that 1 or 2 seconds, but you've been sitting around for 30 or 40 minutes, so mentally, you have to have patience," Parrington said.
Helms said Thursday provided a good opportunity to prepare for the NCAA Zone Championships, which boasts a similar of divers competing for spots in the NCAA Championships in March.
Waiting between dives was made much easier by hosting the meet, Helms said. He said he and Sterling had set up a Nintendo Wii in the team room and were engaged in video games between dives.
We've been playing between dives," Helms said. "At any meet where we don't have that luxury of being home, we'll read a book or try to bring a Game Boy and just keep us occupied and our minds off the meet.
"You do your dive and just relax again. Then 5 or 10 minutes before your dive, you get mentally prepared and go through the motions. Staying warmed up is important too."
Mauney dove later in the day on the platform and scored a 285.60, good for 12th place and a berth into the quarterfinals, marking the first time in his diving career he has reached the quarterfinal stage of a senior national event.
"Jordan was throwing a brand new dive off platform and it was his best dive today, which was great," Parrington said. "He's going to get a little more consistent, but he qualified, which was his objective. "
All three Tennessee divers and former Vol Michael Wright are scheduled to compete on the 3-meter springboard Friday. There are 11 spots available for the quarterfinals.
"Three-meter's going to be a little more difficult competition," Helms said. "There aren't as many spots available as there were today. There's going to be a little more pressure tomorrow, but the key is to look at it as if it was the same situation as today. You try to not put any pressure on yourself that doesn't need to be there."