Gophers qualify three for NCAAs

Maggie Keefer, Jessica Ramberg and Matt Barnard all qualified.

Minnesotas Maggie Keefer and Katie Grunawalt dive Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at the University Aquatic Center.

Daily File Photo, Ichigo Takikawa

Minnesota’s Maggie Keefer and Katie Grunawalt dive Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at the University Aquatic Center.

David Nelson

The NCAA Zone D Championships wrote two different storylines for the Gophers.

On one hand, senior Maggie Keefer advanced to her fourth consecutive NCAA meet.

On the other, freshman Matt Barnard and sophomore Jessica Ramberg qualified for the first NCAA meet of their young careers.

“It’s great. That was my goal for these first six months: to get through to NCAAs,” Barnard said. “Now, hopefully, I’ll get down to Austin, [Texas], and do some nice diving.”

Barnard, an Australia native, came to Minnesota at the start of spring semester. He finished second on platform Wednesday.

While the first-place diver on platform automatically qualifies, an extra spot opened up for Barnard after one diver secured two spots at the NCAA meet. Barnard filled that spot.

Keefer qualified for her fourth NCAA championship in as many seasons on the first day of competition. She finished second on the 1-meter springboard to  ensure a spot in the lineup next week.

After finishing in the same spot on the same event at last season’s NCAA meet, Keefer said she hopes she can end her career with a bang.

“I probably would’ve been pretty bummed if I didn’t make it,” she said. “I don’t know what is to come [at the NCAA meet], but I’m pretty excited.”

Ramberg also qualified for the NCAA meet after placing fourth in 1-meter diving.

The Gophers faced stiff competition over the last three days, with Texas qualifying four men and three women for the NCAA meet.

“They’re one of the top teams in the nation,” Keefer said. “It’s really great we can go against them and have that competition.”

The Gophers are hoping to build on the success it had in the diving well at the Big Ten meet.

Keefer performed well at that meet and will look to keep the momentum rolling at the NCAA meet.

Minnesota diving coach Wenbo Chen said he was pleased with the team’s overall performance.

“We did great,” Chen said. “We could be better, but this competition is getting harder and harder. I’m happy about the ending.”