Cal senior posts NCAA Zone qualifying score ahead of Pac-12 competitions

Maya Valluru/Staff

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The Cal men’s diving team has had, to put it kindly, a rough start to the season. With the two returning members of the team sidelined with injuries early on and the newest member of the team quitting after a semester, things were looking pretty grim for diving coach Derek Starks.

The one caveat of starting at the bottom: The only place you can go is up.

In his 2019-20 season debut, senior Connor Callahan certainly proved that that was the case, putting up an impressive performance over the weekend at the UCLA Diving Invitational. Callahan and junior Johnny Robinson both suffered shoulder injuries last semester that prevented them from competing. But while Robinson’s injury was severe enough to keep him out of the water for the rest of the season, Callahan dove back in around the end of the semester.

“He got in right around finals week, that was the first week he was allowed back in, so he kept it kind of basic to see how things felt,” Starks said. “He’s been feeling good so he’s been back in the water since (Jan. 3).”

Heading into the weekend, Starks stated that Callahan would be focusing heavily on staying in control of his emotions and breathing, as well as demonstrating self-control with his dives, something that he has historically struggled with.

“He’s always been a very powerful, very talented diver, but sometimes, he can get a little ahead of himself and that’s something that’s cost him throughout the years, cost him a scoring spot at NCAAs last year,” Starks said. “Even though he hasn’t been in the water, that’s what he’s been working on all season and so we’re hoping to see that pay off.”

The time off and the emphasis on active visualization seems to have worked. In the 1-meter finals, Callahan scored 302.15 points, a score high enough to pull him from 13th place to ninth place. Not only did it allow him to place in the top 10, it was also high enough to meet the NCAA Zone Championship-required score of 300.

Callahan also managed to place 10th in the 3-meter event, posting a preliminary score of 299.25 points and a score of 306.85 points in the finals, just shy of the NCAA Zone Championship-required score of 320. According to Starks, hitting a qualifying score in the 1-meter means that Callahan can qualify for the NCAA Championships on the other boards even if he doesn’t post a qualifying score by Pac-12.

“Let’s say you qualify on one board, you can still go to the zone meet, compete in all three boards,” Starks said. “As long as you make a qualifying spot and a qualifying score while you’re there, you can actually still qualify to NCAAs on those other boards.”

The Cal men’s diving season started off with a bang last weekend, and this weekend, the swim team will be hosting their first Pac-12 competition of the season. The Bears will host No. 8 Arizona at Spieker Aquatics Complex on Friday at 2 p.m. and No. 12 Arizona State at Legends Aquatic Center on Saturday at noon.

The blue and gold are coming off of a solid performance at the Minnesota Invitational last month, where they placed second to No. 1 Texas. Key members of the Cal roster were missing, however, as senior Zheng Wen Quah, junior Jarod Hatch and redshirt sophomore Hugo Gonzalez attempted to qualify for their country’s Olympic teams. The full team is expected to compete in both dual meets this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how the Bears fare.

According to head coach David Durden, the team has just gotten back from their training ground in Colorado Springs, and is looking to use their time in Colorado to propel them through these meets.

Amber Fang covers men’s swim & dive. Contact her at [email protected].