Diver places ninth at Division II national meet


Going into last weekend’s Division II NCAA Championships, sophomore Kelli Vander Baan’s goal was to earn All-American honors, a title given to the top eight finalists in each event; she came agonizingly close, finishing a mere 1.05 points behind 8th place.

Vander Baan has been practicing and competing since early September, and saw her hard work rewarded at the D-II Championships in Houston with a ninth place finish in the 3-meter diving event. The finish was an improvement over her 12th place at last year’s National competition.

“I was happy I did better than last year,” Vander Baan said. “(But I was) sad I missed the final cut by one point.” Vander Baan was awarded Honorary All-American for the second year in a row.

Competition began on Tuesday, March 10, a day known to competitors as “black Tuesday” for its rigorous competition schedule. Although everyone in Houston already met the qualifying standards, only an alotted number of competitors are allowed to participate in the actual National meet.

That day, the field of athletes was narrowed to the qualifying 16 through preliminary competitions. Vander Baan’s 1-meter event performance did not qualify, but her 3-meter scores passed easily, allowing her to compete in the semi-finals on Saturday, March 14.

Between practicing and formal events, Tuesday saw Vander Baan diving from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. with only an hour of break.

“It is so tiring,” Vander Baan said, explaining that it was the least pleasant aspect of the experience.

In Saturday’s semi-final heat, Vander Baan placed 9th with a score of 357.40, with the top eight athletes continuing on to the final heat.

Of the eight divers who qualified for the finals, five are juniors or seniors, making the future look very promising for Vander Baan,.

Despite coming so close to the finals, Vander Baan is not dwelling on the way things turned out.

“It’s me, I’m the one that could have done better on any of my one dives,” she said. “I guess it’ll help me stay motivated.”

Aside from the strenuous first day, Vander Baan enjoyed her second national competition, something she believed to be a privilege.

“I loved being in Houston,” she said. “I love coming together with all the other girls that you don’t get to see that often, and just the experience of being at Nationals.”

Vander Baan’s coach, Andy Ward, was also happy with her performance.

“We are pleased that she did better this year than last,” he said. “I look forward to preparing her to return to the Nationals next year.”

Vander Baan believed that her experiences this year will help her compete in years to come.

“Every single time you go and you learn something more, it’s more familiar to you when you go the following year,” she explained. “It’s easier, I guess.”

Vander Baan will return to Northern next year for her junior season and will continue to pursue her All-American aspirations.