Eight Gophers divers qualify for NCAA championships from Zones

Many of the divers qualified for the event for the first time in their career.

Danny Chen

Minnesota sent three divers to the NCAA championships last season.

This year, eight Gophers qualified at the NCAA Zones, a three-day event that wrapped up on Wednesday.

A rule change effective this season broadened the NCAA championships field.

Now, any diver placing in the top 12 of any event in the NCAA Zones — 1-meter, 3-meter or platform — can dive in all three at the NCAA championships without qualifying for the specific event.

Diving coach Wenbo Chen said the new rule makes it fair for everybody.

“You have to dive well for the spots in each event at the zone,” Chen said. “But having more qualifying spots helps the divers reach the NCAAs easier. [However], you still need to dive well to make the cut.”

At last year’s qualifiers, junior Manny Pollard didn’t finish high enough to reach the NCAAs even though he finished fourth in platform.

But this year, he took fifth in the 1-meter and sixth in the 3-meter, qualifying for the first championship meet in his career.

“I was really trying to go out there to try to compete well and stay consistent,” Pollard said. “I did well on focusing on myself in this competition.”

Two more men’s divers also qualified for the NCAAs for the first time —  junior Dylan Zoe and senior Erik Larsen. Zoe finished fifth in the 3-meter, while Larsen finished 11th in that event.

Sophomore Matt Barnard, who took second place in platforms at Zone D last year, took fourth in the 3-meter and ninth in the 1-meter at this year’s qualifying meet.

“I was very happy with the results I got in the 3-meter,” Barnard said. “But it was really special to finish top 12 in the 3-meter and platform.”

This is Barnard’s second consecutive year qualifying for the NCAA championships.

“It’s great to qualify for the second year in a row,” Barnard said. “But what’s important is that the team qualified three other boys, which will be great going with four other divers from the women’s side.”

On the women’s side, junior Jessica Ramberg  performed well enough to earn her second-consecutive NCAA qualification.

Ramberg took seventh in the 1-meter competition at this year’s Zone D.

Three other Gophers women’s divers will compete at the NCAA championships as well.

Sophomore Yu Zhou finished first in both the 1-meter and platform, Lexi Tenenbaum took seventh in the 3-meter and sixth in platform and Katy Etterman took 10th in 3-meter and eighth in platform.

Chen said he is looking forward to bringing such a big team to the championship meet.

“I always tell the divers to do the best that they can and that the results will come with it,” Chen said. “Every one of them is heading towards the right direction right now, and I will tell them the same thing at the NCAAs.”