Captain prepares for NCAA meet
The Rutgers diving team heads into the pool for perhaps the final time this weekend at the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
The Zone Championships are regional postseason competitions where divers with the best scores can advance to the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, later this month.
"It's definitely exciting to be able to go to the Zone Championships again as a senior," said captain Jen Betz. "It's a big meet and it will be a good way for me to end my career."
Betz is the Scarlet Knights' lone senior and embraced the leadership role on a young team all season long. While the Rutgers community undoubtedly wants to see her succeed at the Championships, the meet will be bittersweet for everyone involved with the program, including Betz herself.
"I think I'll be dealing with a lot of emotions," Betz said. "It will definitely be sad knowing this could be my last meet, but I'm so happy with the way things have gone this season. My goal is to just go out and have fun."
Betz paced the Knights in diving throughout her senior campaign and leads them into the Zone Championships after garnering a bronze medal in the three-meter dive at the Big East Championships. Betz was ranked fourth after preliminaries, but posted a score of 316.40 to take third in the conference.
"I was definitely happy with my finish in the three-meter at Big East," Betz said. "Placing third definitely gave me confidence going into Zones, but this is a whole new meet and anything can happen."
The Knights lose Betz next season, but still have a bright future with their promising young crop of divers, including freshmen Nicole Scott and Valentina Gordon and sophomore Katie Kearney. Kearney placed sixth at the Big East Championships in the one-meter dive, while Scott had an outstanding freshman year in all major diving events.
"I am really excited for the opportunity to compete at Zones this year," Scott said. "My goal was to make Zones on platform this year and I was very happy to qualify for the springboard events as well."
The pressure of postseason tournaments may not faze a seasoned veteran like Betz, but it can get into the heads of some younger divers. It is important for the rookies to maintain their composure and retain their mental toughness to ensure they dive to the best of their ability.
"I was really nervous for my first Big East Championship, but I worked through it and learned that I need to relax and just focus on the dives one at a time," Scott said. "Hopefully I can bring this attitude to Zones so that I can dive consistently."
The Knights practiced for about a month leading up to tomorrow, when the Zone Championships begin. The team decided not to alter its training techniques after the Big East Championships in order to keep up the level of consistency and success it enjoyed all season.
"It was hard to come back from Big East and maintain the focus for another whole month of training without competition, but I think as a team we did a great job of getting back into the training mode," Betz said. "After a few great weeks of training, I think we are all ready to get back on the boards to compete."