Gophers fight through injury to prepare for finals

Minnesota divers faced their biggest test of the season prior to even setting foot inside the Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion at Ohio State.

The team has had to overcome injury and illness while trying to prepare for the NCAA championships qualifying meet held this weekend in Columbus.

Freshman diver Drew Brown sustained a serious injury during practice Feb. 25 when he hit his head on the diving board and missed the Big Ten championships.

Brown remained in the hospital for three days and suffered some memory loss as a result of the accident.

He’s since recovered but only began diving earlier this week. Brown was limited to dry-land training for a week and returned to the pool Monday.

Brown was medically cleared Tuesday to compete in the NCAA Zone Diving meet.

“It’s been great to have him around, it’s a big sigh of relief,” junior Cole Young said. “It was not easy because I was right there watching it and I’m already a little jumpy about the dive already.”

Young trains with Brown and said that the dive was a reverse two-and-a-half pike, the same one Olympic diver Greg Louganis attempted in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and hit his head on the diving board.

Sophomore diver Jacqueline Schroeder was also there at the time of the accident and said it was frightening to watch.

“It’s hard to stand back and watch that happen,” she said. “You never want to see it happen to someone who is close to you.”

Schroeder will join Brown and Young on the trip to the meet and she, too, has had her own issues to overcome.

Schroeder became ill during the women’s Big Ten championships with vertigo and continued to compete for the entirety of the meet and finished eighth in the platform event.

“It was hard to dive because I was dizzy,” she said. “But I wanted to compete.”

When the team returned home Schroeder had to take time off from practice because she still experienced dizziness.

“I wasn’t allowed to do anything until I stopped being dizzy,” Schroeder said. “It took weeks to get healthy.”

Schroeder said she experienced the spells much of the time, but has since returned to the pool and feels prepared.

“I’m getting back in the swing of things, and I’m getting pumped up and ready to go,” she said.

Sophomore Alex Barstad will not make the trip for the Gophers. Barstad qualified for the meet but has recently been stricken with an illness. She will remain home after coach Jason Baumann and Barstad agreed it was in her best interest not to make the trip.

The weeks leading up to the NCAA Zone meet have been trying to say the least for the Minnesota divers, but Baumann believes that the team will ultimately grow from the difficult few weeks they have experienced.

“I think in some ways having challenges really determines who you are and how you respond to that,” Baumann said. “We’re prepared to go in there and dive well.”

Considering the hardships the divers have endured, Baumann has learned a lot about the character of his group divers.

“I think they are resilient,” he said. “I’m really proud of them regardless of how we perform.”