Keefer qualifies for NCAAs, adds to deep women’s roster

Men’s diver Mikey Ross qualified Monday for the NCAA meet.

Mikey Ross dives Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Image by Erin Westover, Daily File Photo

Mikey Ross dives Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

by Nate Gotlieb

The Gophers women’s swimming and diving team added an important piece to its NCAA roster Tuesday: junior diver Maggie Keefer.

Keefer qualified Tuesday for the NCAA championships by placing second in the 1-meter diving competition at the NCAA Zone D diving meet in Houston.

The Gophers women finished 11th at the NCAA championships last season, and Keefer was a key contributor, scoring in all three diving events.

“That’s what we need,” head coach Kelly Kremer said of Keefer’s NCAA qualification. “We need to be a balanced team going into this year’s NCAAs.”

The women won the Big Ten championships last month and have already qualified 14 swimmers for the NCAA championships, which start March 21 in Indianapolis.

While swimmers qualify for the NCAA championships by posting fast enough times during the season, divers must score high enough at one of five regional meets.

At these regional, or “zone,” meets, divers earn a spot in the NCAA championships usually by placing within the top two or three of an event.

Keefer is the only Minnesota women’s diver to qualify for the NCAA championships so far, but the team could earn more spots Wednesday.

Junior diver Sarah McCrady qualified for the championships last year, but she will most likely need to win the platform diving competition Wednesday to qualify this year.

While the women’s team has qualified 15 athletes, the Gophers men’s team is still waiting to find out who qualified.

The NCAA hasn’t officially announced the men’s swimmers who have qualified for the championships, which start March 28 in Indianapolis. Seven Gophers swimmers have technically qualified for the championships because they posted fast enough times at the Big Ten championships. But the Gophers could earn more spots.

Senior Mikey Ross earned a spot in the championships Monday by placing third in 1-meter diving at the zone meet.

The NCAA Zone D qualifying meet runs through Wednesday.