Five UNC divers qualify for NCAA Championships
Led by senior Jack Nyquist and junior Elissa Dawson, five North Carolina divers qualified for NCAA Championships after a successful run at the NCAA Zone B diving championships.
The Tar Heels got off to a hot start on Monday, as Nyquist finished third in the men’s 1-meter diving with a score of 713.45. Redshirt sophomore Sean Burston jumped from sixth in the preliminary round to fifth and finished the event with a score of 685.35. Those scores were good enough for both to qualify for the NCAA championships. Dawson finished second in women’s 3-meter diving with a score of 636.85.
On Tuesday, the third Tar Heel ticket was punched to the NCAA’s as sophomore Maria Lohman moved up from eighth to seventh from preliminaries in the 1-meter platform to clinch a bid with a score of 559.80. Dawson finished fifth with a score of 563.50 to qualify for her second NCAA championship slot. In the 3-meter men’s event, Nyquist finished third to qualify with a score of 775.85. Burston just missed qualifying for his second event as he finished 14th on the day.
On the final day of competition, first-year Bryan Allen and Dawson picked up the final two bids for NCAA’s in the 10-meter platform event. Allen finished seventh with a score of 661.15. Dawson placed fourth at 523.45 points in her final event.
Who stood out?
All five aforementioned divers stood out for the Tar Heels, but Dawson and Nyquist were especially spectacular. The two divers, who have been stellar all season, continued their great runs, qualifying for five combined events in the NCAAs. Burston qualified for the 1-meter diving event in the NCAAs with his fifth place finish. Lohman qualified for the NCAAs for her second year in a row in the 1-meter platform and Allen qualified for 10-meter platform in his first year as a Tar Heel.
When was it decided?
The first three bids were punched by Nyquist, Burston and Dawson on opening day. Dawson proceeded to get two more bids on Tuesday. Finally, on Wednesday, they were joined by Lohman and Allen.
Why does it matter?
Diving coach Abel Sanchez was pleased with his divers’ performance at the Zone Championships and thinks it speaks volumes to his program’s ascension.
“I think what it means to the program is that it's grown in the right direction” he said. “We’re not there yet, but one day we would like to be the best diving program in the country. We are a long way from that, but definitely at least heading toward that direction. Speaks volumes as to how hard the kids work. The fact they bought in and they all have their own goals, which match up with my goals, so it’s a good thing.”
Sanchez is very proud of Dawson, who he believes is one of the top divers in the country and spoke to the growth of first-year Bryan Allen as the season has progressed.
“Bryan Allen, I am very excited about him” Sanchez said. “ Our goal for him is to get platform. We drive to Greensboro twice a week because we don’t have a platform here and he’s willing to make the commitment and here we are going to NCAAs which is really awesome I think.”
With the NCAA championships still to go, the Tar Heels could continue to build on their success and Sanchez is optimistic for the future.
“Sean is up and coming and he is definitely someone to be watching” he said, speaking about Sean Burston. “Jack, our senior, has been very solid. I am excited for him to finish strong his senior year. Maria, as well, is a sophomore. I think having her there at the show again speaks volumes to all of them that we had goals at the beginning of the year and the goals were to come and we are not done yet."
"I am just really excited for all of them.”
Where do they play next?
The NCAA women’s championships begin Wednesday, Mar. 15 to 18 in Indianapolis. The men’s championships run from Mar. 22 to 25 in Indianapolis.