Kennedy NCAA-bound after solid showing

Six other Minnesota divers failed to qualify for the NCAA championships.

Krista Theis

Senior Shaun Kennedy’s first place finish in this weekend’s platform event earned him the Gophers’ only diving invitation to the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

Seven Minnesota divers competed at the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships held in Michigan this past weekend for one last opportunity to prolong their season.

But despite strong performances by the whole team, Kennedy was the only diver to advance to the NCAAs hosted by the Gophers March 15-17.

His victory also marks the first time Minnesota will be represented in diving action at the meet since 2001.

After the preliminaries for the platform event, Kennedy held a 17-point lead at 333.15 points.

His finals’ score of 341.90 made for a total of 675.05, allowing him to win the event by just 10 points over Purdue’s Danny Cox.

Coach Jason Baumann said he was really proud of the two great lists Kennedy put together, but also of his demeanor.

“He was relaxed and confident and just did a great job,” Baumann said.

Only after a reverse two-and-a-half somersault on his last dive did Kennedy start thinking about advancing to the NCAAs.

Before that dive Kennedy said he wasn’t trying to think about points, just his performance.

“I was trying not to look at the score books during that last dive because I knew it was going to be close,” he said. “I didn’t want to know what I had to get on that dive.”

Kennedy said he was flying high that he qualified his senior year, but was bummed for his teammates who didn’t make it.

Senior Holly Jakits had hopes of finishing her senior year on a high note too.

She finished fourth in the platform event, barely missing the cut for the second year in a row.

Jakits said she was disappointed because she feels she deserves to dive at the NCAA meet and could be a big contributor.

The fact that Minnesota is hosting this year’s NCAAs also made her want to qualify a little more.

“To finish and have my last meet in my home pool would have been nice,” Jakits said. “But I’ve had a great career.”

Many of the Gophers divers had personal successes this weekend.

Sophomore Cole Young, who couldn’t compete last year due to injury, took advantage of his opportunity this year.

He finished ninth in the three-meter with a total of 624.50 points.

His two lists on the one-meter gave him a score of 560.80, finishing 13th.

Baumann was happy with sophomore Erica Schiffler’s performances this weekend as well. She reached the finals in all three events, unlike last year.

Schiffler finished sixth in the platform with a score of 486.10, and 15th in the one-meter and three-meter events with scores of 478.80 and 472.85, respectively.

On Sunday, sophomore Brianna Hubbard put up her two best platform lists with scores of 221.50 and 235.40. Her total of 456.90 landed her eighth place.

Freshman Alexandra Barstad placed 11th in the three-meter event with a score of 482.75.

After the prelims, Barstad was in 17th place, but after a finals score of 251. 35, she jumped up to 11th.

The Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team will host the 2007 NCAA Championships Thursday March 8 through Saturday March 10 at the University Aquatic Center.

Ten Gophers have been invited to compete in the meet.

Kennedy will be joined by his teammates when the men host the NCAAs the following week.