Gophers qualify five for NCAA diving championships

Minnesota will send three women and two men to the NCAA championships later this month.

Sarah Bacon competes in the women's 3 meter diving competition at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.

Courtney Deutz, Daily File Photo

Sarah Bacon competes in the women’s 3 meter diving competition at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.

Erik Nelson

The stands were less full than usual at Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center, but that didn’t mean that Minnesota’s men’s and women’s diving teams had a day off.

Minnesota competed in the 2018 NCAA Diving Zone Championships Monday through Wednesday. These championships served as qualifiers for the 2018 NCAA championships. 

Five Gophers’ swimmers qualified for the NCAA championships. On the women’s team: sophomore Sarah Bacon, sophomore Kristen Hayden and junior Morgan Justus will participate in the women’s NCAA championships. Junior Alan LeBlang and junior Nick Yang will compete in the men’s NCAA championships.

Bacon said she felt great after she learned that she qualified for the NCAA championships.

“I was there last year, so I wanted to qualify again and be able to score points at NCAA for my team this year,” Bacon said. “My scores have been a lot higher this season and my dives have been a lot more consistent.”

Bacon qualified for the NCAA championships on Monday when she earned a score of 625.50 in the one-meter dive. Hayden finished 10th with a score of 565.10. Yang advanced to the NCAA championships when he scored 764.55 in the three-meter dive.

Head diving coach Wenbo Chen said the teams did well this week.

“We have lots of young divers. They’re getting better and better,” Chen said.

On Tuesday, Bacon won the women’s three-meter competition with a score of 770.45. She will participate in both the one-meter and three-meter dives at the NCAA championships. 

On Wednesday, Justus qualified for the NCAA championships when she registered a score of 496.85 on platform. LeBlang finished fifth on platform, earning a score of 703.30. He qualified for the platform diving portion of the NCAA championships.

Bacon said that before the championships, she will do cardio exercises in preparation for her final diving competition of the season.

“These events take forever,” Bacon said. “You’re diving for five hours every day. Being able to keep your stamina throughout those five hours is important. That’s what cardio helps you do.”

For the men’s team Yang finished fifth in the one-meter dive with a score of 717.00. He will participate in the one-meter dive at the NCAA championships. 

LeBlang earned his qualifying finish on the platform. He finished fifth with a score 703.30 for that event. Yang placed sixth in the event, which qualified him for the platform, too.

The NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships are March 14-17 in Columbus, Ohio. Minnesota will host the NCAA men’s swimming and diving championships on March 21-24.