At the beginning of every new year, people pay close attention to the first time they do anything — their first meal, first party, first class and first existential crisis. With this new year marking a new decade as well, the significance of these firsts is heightened.
Come Jan. 17, Cal women’s dive will experience its first diving invitational of the 2020s. The UCLA Diving Invitational will not only be the first of the decade, but also the last diving invitational of the season. With Pac-12 Championships fast approaching — only 5 weeks away — the pressure is on to get qualifying scores for Zone meets.
Being the last diving invitational of the season only adds to the importance of getting high scores.
“Because this is our last championship setup, and this is going to be set up just like the NCAA Zone meet. There’s going to be prelims and finals,” said Cal head diving coach Derek Starks.
Among other Pac-12 teams, the Bears will face off against out-of-conference teams including Missouri and Hawaii.
Coming off of a long winter holiday break, the Bears have had ample time to do some off-campus training as they are getting ready for the home stretch before Pac-12s and NCAAs.
“We’ve been training two-a-days here at the Marguerite Aquatics Complex, which is where I dove and coached as a junior diver and a junior coach after college,” Starks said of the Bears’ Mission Viejo training trip. “So just hitting the home turf a little bit, using their dryland facility and their platforms.”
The Bears’ ability to push themselves to the limit is just one of many factors as to why they are currently the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. Traveling across the state and having practice sessions twice a day, every day, leading up to an important invitational demonstrates Cal’s commitment to excellence.
The UCLA Diving Invitational will have both 1-meter and 3-meter springboard and platform diving events, which makes it an excellent opportunity for the Bears to see what their two divers — junior Briana Thai and freshman Cassie Graham — are capable of doing for both the Pac-12s in February and the NCAA Championships in March.
Their goal is to get NCAA Zone qualifying scores. “Briana has gotten her scores, but we do expect her to maintain that quality and continue making those scores. Cassie is going to be working a couple of new dives and I think she has her best shot on platforms of making that score,” Starks said.
The UCLA Diving Invitational will take place Jan. 17-19 at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center.
Tom Aizenberg covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at