Jakits back to compete at NCAA Zone meet

This weekend, Minnesota’s divers will try to qualify for the NCAA meet.

Matt Perkins

One can imagine that a diver could be sidelined by chronic back pain caused by years of having to torque and tighten the body’s muscles before impact with the water at 30 mph.

But can you imagine being forced into a back brace for five months, unable to fully enjoy your summer break?

That’s what Minnesota’s junior diver Holly Jakits went through to get back on the diving board.

And now, just a few months removed from her rough recovery, she still is sore as she and the rest of Minnesota’s divers begin competing at the NCAA Diving Zones in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend.

“I had chronic back pain for about two years and I finally got it checked out at the end of last season,” Jakits said. “I actually had a fracture in one of my vertebrae, so I had to live in a back brace for 12 weeks in hot Minnesota weather. It wasn’t fun at all.”

The Zones, which begin today, are the last chance for Minnesota’s men and women divers to qualify for the NCAA Championships next weekend.

Jakits is just happy to be relatively healthy and able to compete.

“When I first felt the pain again, I kind of felt like all the time I took off to heal was thrown out the window,” Jakits said. “It was frustrating but I put it behind me and worried more about the things I could control.”

What the Gophers can control is their individual performances this weekend.

“It’s a very different event than the Big Ten Championships or anything else because the focus is more individual,” diving coach Jason Baumann said. “You need to take care of your own business because you can only control your own performance, nobody else’s.”

That individualism makes things a bit easier on everyone.

Junior Shaun Kennedy said, “I feel like we need to approach it like any other meet. I feel

like it’s a little more relaxed here, it’s more individual and less pressure. It’s easier to go out there and just have fun with it.”

But the Gophers will have their most fun in celebration if one of their divers qualifies for NCAAs.

“Qualifying for NCAAs is the most difficult thing to do,” Baumann said. “The formula is kind of confusing, but we need to just land our dives and hopefully we’ll find some of our individuals going to NCAAs.”