After four days of competition, the North Carolina diving team placed first overall on the women’s side and second on the men’s side at the Auburn Diving Invitational in Auburn, Alabama. The competition lasted from Wednesday to Saturday and saw the Tar Heels compete against schools like Auburn, South Carolina and Louisiana State.
Wednesday began with the men’s 1-meter event, where junior Anton Down-Jenkins scored a 393.25 to earn second place. In the same event, sophomore Alex Hart placed fifth with a score of 307 and first-year Connor Watling finished in sixth with a 297.15.
In the women’s 1-meter dive on Thursday, first-year Aranza Vazquez took first place with a score of 322.40, which was the highest score of the day. Junior Emily Grund placed second with a 300.95, while sophomore Paige Burrell finished in fifth place with a 270.65 and senior Taylor Hockenberry took tenth with a 246.90.
The second day of competition also featured the men’s 3-meter dive, where Down-Jenkins finished in second with a score of 435.90, while Hart placed fourth with a 386.60 and Watling placed fifth with a 349.05.
Friday started with the women’s 3-meter event, where Vazquez took first place yet again with a score of 347.10. Burrell followed in fourth place with a score of 306.20, while Grund took fifth with a 302.20, and Hockenberry placed sixth with a score of 297.25.
During the men’s platform event that followed, Auburn's divers swept the top three spots, with Waitling's score of 292.70 good for fourth place.
On the fourth and final day of competition, during the women’s platform event, Vazquez claimed another victory with a score of 282.75. Grund came second with a score of 280.85 — a personal best — while Hockenberry finished in seventh place with a 218.35.
At the end of the competition, the UNC men placed second overall with a total of 105 points, while the women placed first with 169 points total. Their combined score of 274 was good for second overall.
Who stood out?
Vazquez's score of 322.40 in the 1-meter competition was the highest score of the day and the third-best score in the history of Tar Heel diving. Her score of 347.10 on the 3-meter dive also put her in the record books as the fifth-highest score in school history. This impressive debut competition for the first-year diver will naturally create excitement for her future as a Tar Heel diver.
Down-Jenkins, with a score of 393.25 in the 1-meter dive finals and 435.90 in the 3-meter, surpassed his previous season's record en route to being the third best scores in UNC diving history.
When was it decided?
Auburn and UNC both had strong showings, and neither team was assured victory. UNC held the lead after two days of competition, but because of a strong showing from the men's team, Auburn took first place after day three and held onto it for the remainder of the competition.
Why does it matter?
With North Carolina facing an 0-2 record so far, the Auburn Diving Invitational was an opportunity for them to earn a collective victory. Despite the team not finishing in first overall, several divers showed promise for the team moving forward — Vazquez and Down-Jenkins chief among them. The two divers' impressive results helped the team stay competitive throughout the meet.
When do they play next?
The dive team will travel to Blacksburg, Virginia on Jan. 12 and 13 to compete in the Virginia Tech Invitational.
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