Earlier this week, the North Carolina diving team sent its divers to compete at the Virginia Tech Diving Invitational at the Christianburg Aquatic Center in Christianburg, Virginia. The team did exceptionally well over the two days of competition, taking first place in a plethora of races and setting some individual and school records.
On Tuesday, the first day of the invitational, North Carolina dominated, taking first in every event, whether men’s or women’s. First-year diver Aranza Vazquez ran the table on the first day, taking first in both the women’s 1-meter and 3-meter events. In the 3-meter, junior Emily Grund took second and sophomore Paige Burrell took third, giving the Tar Heels a podium sweep.
The first-place finishes in the men’s category were split among junior Anton-Down Jenkins, who won the 1-meter, and sophomore Alex Hart, who won the 3-meter. Hart also took third in the 1-meter, while Down-Jenkins finished runner-up to Hart in the 3-meter.
Wedensday, the second day of the invitational, saw with the platform diving trials take place, where first-year Connor Watling won second place in the men’s event with a score of 276.38. The more impressive showing, however, came in the women’s platform event, where the Tar Heels swept the podium yet again.
Vazquez continued her brilliant run of form, coming in first with a score of 277.95. Grund followed her in second with a score of 252.23, while senior Taylor Hockenberry finished third with a score of 231.45 — a personal record for her and a great way to cap off a successful invitational.
Who stood out?
Vazquez won both of the first-place prizes for the women’s events on the first day, with her 1-meter score of 331.13 being the second-best in the program’s history and her 3-meter score of 357.68 the third-best in Tar Heel history.
She then continued on the second day to win first in the platform event as well, finishing an impressive sweep of the whole invitational.
Hart’s individual scores in the 1-meter (368.55) and 3-meter (414.53) events are both good for fifth-best in school history, respectively.
When was it decided?
The first day was an absolute blowout for the Tar Heels as they stole all of the first place prizes, in addition to most second and third places.
A couple of records, such as Hart’s and Vazquez’s were set, making the first day even more of an accomplishment. This winning energy continued into the second day as the Tar Heels won first, second, and third place for the women’s platform trials and second in the men’s.
Why does it matter?
After an explosive performance earlier in the season at the Auburn Invitational where she won three events, Vazquez continued her meteoric rise as a Tar Heel with this week’s sweep. She has firmly cemented herself as UNC’s most exciting young diver.
The Tar Heels had been on a lengthy break since two early losses to NC State in November, and with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on, many competitions had been postponed. Doing so well in this invitational will help to boost the spirits of the team, allowing it to persevere through whatever further schedule changes it might encounter.
When do they play next?
The entire swimming and diving team’s next meet will come this Friday, Jan. 15, with a road contest against the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
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