Gophers load up on divers as they prepare for trip to Purdue

Minnesota inked five divers – two men and three women – to letters of intent this week.

Samuel Gordon

The Gophers swimming and diving teams received some good news as they were preparing to head to Purdue for this weekendâÄôs meet: Each team signed divers to national letters of intent âÄî two men, three women.

Alex Fincher of Northland Hills, Texas and Erik Larson of Mequon, Wisc. inked letters and will be joining the menâÄôs team for the 2011-12 season.

Fincher, a senior at Keller High School, has partaken in several USA Junior National Diving competitions and was the fifth place finisher at the 2010 USA Junior National Championships in the 3-meter springboard event. For his part, Larson was the 2010 Wisconsin Division I diving champion in the 1-meter. The Homestead High School senior was also a Junior Olympic national qualifier.

âÄúAlex is one of the top diving recruits in the nation and we are excited to have him joining us at Minnesota,âÄù diving coach Wenbo Chen said in a statement. âÄúErikâÄôs strongest event is platform diving, which is an area of our program that we need to improve depth-wise.âÄù

The womenâÄôs team will be adding Olivia Evanson of Maple Grove, Minn., Bailee Meyer, of Woodbury, Minn., and Katy Etterman of East Gull Lake, Minn.

Evanson is a two-time sectional champion and finished fifth in the 2010 Minnesota Class 2A Championships. Meyer has competed in the USA Diving Regional and Zone Championships each of the past three years. Etterman was a finalist in the Minnesota Class 2A Championships in 2009 and 2010.

âÄúOlivia has a great talent for diving, something sheâÄôs been doing since she was four years old,âÄù Chen said. âÄúBailee is another former gymnast turned diver âĦ SheâÄôs been training year-round and continues to improve âĦ Katy is a talented diver who is going to bring great energy to our team.âÄù

As for this weekendâÄôs meet, both teams will be traveling to West Lafayette. The 15th-ranked menâÄôs team is set to take on Wisconsin and Purdue. The 13th-ranked womenâÄôs team will also be squaring off against Wisconsin and Purdue, as well as Illinois.

Both Gophers squads got a look at the Badgers on Oct. 29. The menâÄôs team won handily, by a score of 174-123.  The women won as well, but did so narrowly âÄî 152.5-146.5 âÄî their smallest margin of victory this season. WisconsinâÄôs womenâÄôs team is the only other ranked team at the event, at No. 17.

The Minnesota womenâÄôs team is coming off a win last weekend at the Rutgers Invitational. The men were last in action Jan. 15, when they comfortably defeated the University of Missouri.