Pair of Minnesota divers qualify for NCAA meet

by Brian Stensaas

Minnesota juniors Dan Croaston and Tracy LaVoi extended their respective diving seasons by advancing to the NCAA swimming and diving meet. The two qualified at this weekend’s NCAA Zone C diving meet held at the Aquatic Center.
For Croaston, it was another day at the office. He put an exclamation point on his second-straight Big Ten title in the 3-meter by winning the event in Zone C. He made it a clean sweep of things by winning the 1-meter and platform competitions, as well.
As in the Big Ten meet last month, Croaston was in constant battle with Indiana’s Tom Davidson. The Hoosier gave chase the full two days of diving but couldn’t catch Croaston like he did at the Big Ten meet, when Davidson beat Croaston on the 1-meter.
“It’s pretty exciting, but its kind of a letdown I didn’t do that at the Big Tens,”Croaston said.
Croaston will be looking to improve on last year’s performance at the NCAA meet. Croaston placed 10th on the platform and 11th in the 1-meter last year.
“Right now, we are shooting for Dan to make the top eight in an event,” diving coach KZ Li said.
The 2000 men’s NCAA swimming and diving championships will be held March 23-25 back at the Aquatic Center.
“The other divers only have a day or two to play on the boards; I’ve been here for 10 years,”Croaston said.
Other than improving at this year’s NCAA meet, Croaston will also use the meet for preparation. The U.S. senior national meet will run in April, and he is looking for a shot at the Olympic trials.
For LaVoi, just making her first national meet is a dream come true.
“I wanted to have fun and do well, and I did that,” she said.
The weekend started poorly for LaVoi. After a disappointing Friday night when she finished 31st in the 1-meter, LaVoi rebounded for the second day. She took third in the 3-meter and 14th in the platform, good enough for the NCAA meet.
“I think (Friday night) put me back in reality,” LaVoi said. “I choked. I had to let it happen — not try so hard. I did what I had to.”
LaVoi will not have too much time to celebrate. The NCAA meet begins Thursday in Indianapolis.
While she is being rewarded for years of practice, Li said that another factor might have weighed in her Saturday success.
“She had her mom here (Saturday), and I think that helped her,” he said. “She never gives up. This is a great honor for her.”
As an early goal, LaVoi is looking to place in the top-16 this weekend.
Minnesota senior Rachel Degener just missed making the NCAA meet. She finished seventh in the overall standings, just one spot shy of making the meet. Degener finished fourth in the 1-meter Friday night, but slipped to finish out of the top-15 in the platform and eighth in the 3-meter on Saturday.
Sophomore Christina Rinkus finished fifth in the platform, which topped the performances for the women.

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected]