Every detail matters when it comes to swimming and diving. One mistake can hurt a student-athlete’s chance to compete for a national title. The Razorback swimming and diving team executed under pressure, and four members earned a chance to participate in the NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships in Columbus, Ohio.
It started when they competed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the regional stage of the championship, March 5-7.
The first day of competition went in favor of freshman Brooke Schultz, as she qualified first out of the three Razorbacks.
Schultz, a six-time Southeastern Conference diver of the week recipient and SEC champion in the 1-meter and 3-meter competition, qualified in both events. She was the first to qualify.
Although Schultz was nervous, she settled in as soon as competition began, she said.
“I was expecting to continue to dive like I have all year and stay consistent throughout the meet,” Schultz said. “I knew if I did that it would turn out well.”
In order to qualify for nationals, divers must reach a minimum score in each event. In the 1-meter dive, a swimmer must score at least 265 total points. For the 3-meter competition, a swimmer must meet 280 points. For platform diving, 225 is the needed score.
In the 1-meter preliminary contest, Schultz placed fourth with a 303.55 score. The Fayetteville native moved on to the finals and held onto fourth place. She scored a 391.50 in the final round. Her accumulated score through both rounds was 615.80.
The next day, Schultz was set to compete again but this time in the 3-meter preliminary round. Again, Schultz finished fourth in the event with a total score of 336.25. Later that day she moved up in the finals with a score of 727.75, which is a personal and school record.
Now, Schultz looks forward to nationals this upcoming weekend, she said.
“I expect to keep diving consistently the way I have all season, and I’m confident that if I do that, then I will be happy with the results,” Schultz said.
Freshman Maha Amer, a native of Cairo, qualified during the second day of competition. She came up short in the 1-meter, but she stormed back in the 3-meter event and scored 327.40 in the preliminaries. She went on to finish ninth in the finals with a total score of 638.60, which was enough to punch her ticket.
Amer has been struggling with a back injury but achieved the minimum score to travel to Ohio.
“It wasn’t that easy qualifying for regionals having a lot of great divers and also coming back from an injury,” Amer said. “I think it was a great experience, and I definitely learned a lot from it.”
The third Hog to qualify for the NCAA Championships was senior Nicole Gillis. Gillis, a Johannesburg, South Africa, native, qualified for nationals two times prior in the 1-meter and 1-meter dive but will compete in Columbus in the platform event.
Although her first two competitions were less than ideal, Gillis remained hopeful, she said.
Gillis managed to stay focused, and although the platform contest is not usually her event, she managed to find a way to qualify, she said.
She achieved a 509.50 score in the platform finals.
“My experience at regionals was an emotional rollercoaster,” Gillis said. “I was hoping to qualify on the first day on the one-meter, as that is my best event. However, it wasn’t my best day, and I unfortunately didn’t dive as well as I hoped to. “
Gillis’ expectations are to compete and achieve a personal best score, she said.
“My ultimate goal is to become an All-American, and even though this is not an event I compete in, I’m still aiming for that,” Gillis said.
Another Razorback who qualified for nationals was freshman swimmer Peyton Palsha. She was chosen by the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Swimming Committee last week to compete in the 1650-meter finals.
The Razorbacks will have their chance at a national championship from March 14-17 at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.