The first weekend of March was a triumphant one for the diving squad, especially for third-year divers Matt Staab and Anthony Restaino. In the 2014 NCAA DIII diving regional meet, which took place over two days in Granville, Ohio, both divers unofficially qualified for Nationals. Staab secured a sixth-place finish in the three-meter dive with a score of 483.65 and Restaino took eighth with a score of 466.60. The official list of qualifiers will be published tomorrow.
Since this is the most competitive men’s diving region in the country, it is allocated the largest number of qualifying spots for NCAAs. The regional meet is the most important, and as head diving coach Kendra Melnychuk puts it, the “most nerve-racking” event of the year because it is the athletes’ only opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championship.
The first day went off without a hitch for Staab as he clinched his qualification for Nationals early on. However, Restaino ended Friday in seventh place on the one-meter, which meant he needed a bit of luck on Saturday. Things ultimately fell into place for him and he became one of the nine NCAA qualifiers, making it the second consecutive year the two athletes have qualified.
Legendary New York Yankee Yogi Berra once famously said of baseball, “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” Like baseball, diving is a high-stakes sport with a great deal of pressure riding on every dive. Even the countless repetitions of a specific routine in practice cannot ensure that the limited dives in actual competition will be placed successful. This means an extra emphasis must be on mental focus.
The Maroons showed that they understood that type of concentration was essential this weekend, but nevertheless prepared for this zone meet no differently than they did any other meet. Restaino said, “I just tried to remember to take it one dive at a time and remember that it wasn’t over until the last diver did his last dive.” The divers could not afford to let mistakes distract them from their goal.
The divers set their goal of making it to NCAA Championships at the beginning of the season and refused to lose sight of it all year. In addition to their mental focus and physical training, the divers attribute much of their success to Melnychuk.
“There is no one better to point out what I am doing wrong than her [Melnychuk], and there is no one better to help me fix it,” Restaino said.
Melnychuk understands her responsibilities.
“As their coach, it’s my job to get them in the frame of mind to prepare them to dive their best at the NCAA Championship,” she said.
Physically, the training schedule until NCAAs will not vary from what it has been in the previous months.
In addition to the divers, Chicago will also send 21 swimmers to Nationals, making it the swimming and diving team’s largest National-bound team by a considerable margin. The NCAA DIII Swimming and Diving Championships will take place Wednesday through Saturday, March 19–22 in Indianapolis, Indiana.