With a majority of the team already qualifying for the national championships in Indianapolis on March 19–22, the Maroons have some time to start tapering and fine-tuning before their final meet. For the divers, though, there is one last hurdle before nationals. Today and tomorrow the South Siders will be competing in the NCAA Diving Zones meet to try to qualify for the national championships. Chicago will be sending two divers, third-years Matt Staab and Tony Restaino, who will be representing the school in both the 3-meter and 1-meter diving events.
The Maroon divers are coming off a successful showing at the UAA Championships two weeks ago in Atlanta, where Staab won the 3-meter dive and was second in the 1-meter dive, while Restaino placed second and third respectively. Staab was also named the UAA diver of the year for the second year straight.
Both have put down some of the highest diving scores in the nation this year, but unlike in swimming events where competitors qualify for nationals by meeting a certain time standard, one must place in the top nine at the regional diving zones meet to qualify in a diving event. With this in mind, the South Siders have tailored their expectations for this event.
“I’d say our only goal is qualifying for nationals regardless of the score it takes to get there,” Staab said. “I think Tony [Restaino] and I will have a pretty good shot of qualifying if we can score around 500 points on either board. Again, though, as long as we are both able to grab two of the nine spots that have been allotted to our zone, we will definitely view it as a successful weekend.”
Competing against them will be some of the top divers from the Midwest, all of whom are on the verge of qualifying for nationals next month. Diving Zones looks to be the biggest test for the Chicago divers so far this season.
“The competition at zones is already going to be hard; to be able to compete a diver has to make the NCAA Nationals qualifying score,” Restaino said. “This goes to show that the level of competition that we are up against is going to be similar to what we are going to see at Nationals.”
The Maroons are not strangers to this level of competition, though. Last year Staab placed 9th in both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events at the national championships, and Restaino placed 10th in the 3-meter dive and qualified in the 1-meter dive. However, nothing is guaranteed, and the Chicago divers have been working to make sure that they are in the best possible position this weekend.
“In the end, the only thing we need to focus on is hitting 11 dives up and down two days in a row,” Staab said. “Once you get caught up in who around you is doing this dive well or that dive well, it’s easy to psyche yourself out and compete less successfully as a result; we are primarily trying to focus on ourselves for now.”
The South Siders will be in Granville, Ohio, today and tomorrow for Diving Zones.