Gophers diver discovers

by David La

Within the confines of a swimming and diving meet, Gophers diver Dan Croaston’s ability is not lost on other competitors or coaches. But high scores and peer adulation can’t compare to a simple smile from his father.
Surpassing even his inaugural honorable mention All-American acclaim from NCAAs was his father’s acknowledgement of a job done well at Big Tens a month before; a subtle expression with a meaning that runs deeper than any water his son dives into.
“He got me into (diving),” Croaston said of his father. “He used to dive in high school, but he had me when he was 20 years old so he didn’t get to do much (diving) after that.
“We’re not very affectionate toward each other. We’re kind of hard-headed, stubborn people. But when I do well and he sees it, I like to see a smile on his face.”
A collegiate athlete only has four seasons in which to achieve success, be it a parent’s smile or otherwise, underscoring the timeliness of Croaston’s performances in his second season.
“That’s what (coaches) want out of the first year, but I just wasn’t quite ready last year,” Croaston said. “You’ve got to have some guts, not have any fear about doing stuff. I prepared myself this year.”
The preparation paid off as Croaston enjoyed the finest season of any Gophers’ diver since All-American P. J. Bogart last toed the edge of the board in 1996.
During the dual meet season, Croaston won nine diving titles overall and was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week twice.
Following up his solid regular season, Croaston became a Big Ten champion in the 3-meter competition, his first-ever title.
One month later, Croaston qualified for NCAAs with a flourish with a victory on the 1-meter board at the Zone C diving championships.
While he did not win any titles at the NCAAs two weeks later, Croaston’s No. 11 placing on the 1-meter board was encouraging.
“It’s pretty good for my first year at NCAAs,” Croaston said. “I could have done a little better, but I scored points for the team so it felt pretty good.”
Croaston will attempt to qualify for the United States Diving Championships this weekend. As with the Big Ten title and the NCAA All-American honors, the nationals are a new experience for Croaston.
Diving coach Kongzheng Li believes Croaston will benefit from the confidence that comes with winning.
“My prediction right now is he will qualify, at least in two events — 1-meter (board) and platform,” Li said. “He’s still a little inconsistent right now on the 3-meter (board).”
Any inconsistency that Croaston is experiencing will most likely be relieved by his work ethic, which he tries to impart on other Gophers divers.
“He really trains hard all the time,” freshman diver Shane Hillsley said. “He takes his diving really seriously, and he also takes my diving seriously.”
Croaston may be a teacher at practice, but he’s not exactly a student at heart.
“If I wasn’t diving, I wouldn’t be (in college),” Croaston said. “My dad told me straight out, ‘If you want go to college, this is what’s going to pay your way through.’
“I’m trying to make the best out of the education part (of college) as I can.”
And trying to keep the smiles from his father coming.