This past weekend, five Cal divers ventured into Buckeye territory to compete in the Ohio State University Invitational — a swimming and diving meet that featured athletes from schools across the country. While the invitational included an array of events from both sports, Cal elected to compete exclusively in the diving events.
The women’s team kicked off the invitational Nov. 16 with the three-meter preliminaries. Both Cal divers comfortably qualified for the finals as Caroline Li placed fourth with a score of 268.15 and Ariana Drake earned sixth place with a score of 251.20.
Drake elevated her performance in the finals, finishing third overall with a score of 291.50, nearly a 40-point increase from her preliminary performance. Li placed fifth and fell short of her prelim score, chalking up a 249.45.
The second day of the invitational called for one-meter dives from Drake and Li. The preliminaries ended with Drake taking the eighth seed and Li narrowingly beating out University of Pittsburgh diver Emma Gravgaard for the twelfth spot, qualifying for the final event.
Li’s slim lead over Gravgaard, with a margin of less than one point, proved to be crucial as it led her to secure a fourth-place finish in the finals with a score of 266.45. Following closely, Drake finished at sixth with a score of 256.90 overall.
The rookie divers took on their last event of the invitational Saturday with the platform dive, Drake with a 213.50 point fifth place finish and Li coming up two points behind at sixth.
After three days of diving, the Bears finished with 171 points, placing last among all participating teams along with those that were diving only. University of Pittsburgh came out first among the dive-only schools, accumulating 253 points — with Ohio University finishing with a total of 199 points.
Springboarding over to the men’s team, the trio of Joshua Thai, Geoffrey Vavitsas and Conrad Eck kicked off their Thursday with a strong showing in the one-meter event.
While Eck failed to advance to the finals, his preliminary score of 267.70 was enough to clock 15 points for the Bears in the overall competition.
Thai and Vavitsas, however, were able to advance to the one-meter finals. Coming in at ninth place, Thai recorded a score of 301.15 in the final round, which fell far behind his mark of 329.85 in the Pittsburgh dual meet back in October.
In the same event, Vavitsas splashed right into tenth place with a score of 293.30.
Fast forwarding to Friday, the same trio took on the three-meter event hoping to find better luck on the diving board. At the end of the day, it was the duo of Thai and Vavitsas that once again advanced past the preliminary round.
Snagging a podium finish, Vavitsas came away from the day with a third-place title and a score of 379.00. Improving from his placing in the one-meter, Thai rounded out his three-meter event in seventh place with a score of 371.20.
Ending the invitational with the platform dive Saturday, all three Bears found themselves in final form and ended the meet on a high note.
Thai found his way to his first podium of the weekend, with a 357.20-point finish that sealed a third-place result. Behind him, Vavitsas and Eck ended in respective positions of fourth and eleventh place.
Like the women, the men’s team found themselves in last place with 214 points after an eventful weekend in the Midwest. Unlike the women, Ohio University did not enter any divers into events on the men’s side. However, Pittsburgh sported seven divers — putting the blue and gold at a scoring disadvantage as well.
In sports, the scores do not always do the individual performances justice. In the case of Cal diving, the cumulative nature of the team competition should not take away from a string of top-ten showings in each event on the men’s and women’s side.
While a season of lackluster team performances certainly stands in the way of Cal’s diving success, there is no doubt that a burgeoning class of young divers is laying the foundation for the program’s future success.