Hawaii hoping to sustain its All-America lineage
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Taking inspiration from the past and — of all things — the Winter Olympics, five Hawai'i divers take an upbeat attitude into the NCAA Zone E Meet today at Austin, Texas.
Why not? Rainbow divers have earned 28 All-America honors and six have placed in the NCAA's top four since Mike Brown and his wife, Anita Rossing, came to Mānoa 10 years ago. QiongJie Huang (2005) and Emma Friesen (2008) captured NCAA titles, while Magnus Frick and Rui Wang have been NCAA runners-up. Mats Wiktorsson and Megan Farrow were fourth.
Friesen, who was third last year on the 1-meter, isn't even among the five headed to zonals. She broke her ankle in three places in a skateboarding accident last summer and is just getting back on the board during her redshirt year.
Two other Canadians have helped ease the loss. Stephanie De Lima, from Montreal, just became the first to sweep all three diving events (1 meter, 3 meter, platform) at the Western Athletic Conference Championships. She is the eighth Rainbow Wahine to be named Diver of the Year the last nine seasons. Just behind her was freshman Hannah Bocksnick from Edmonton.
"Stephanie has no fear," Bocksnick said. "She has fear, but she doesn't show it. She just does her stuff, comes to practice and gets it done. She really gets to the point. That's why she was so successful (at the WAC). It's hard when so much is going on, but she doesn't over-think anything."
The moment the plane landed in Honolulu after the WAC Championships, both checked the results of the gold medal hockey match between the U.S. and Canada. When they discovered the home team's overtime win, the "True North" twosome sang "O Canada" to the plane before disembarking.
They are not alone chasing one of the six NCAA championship spots up for grabs — among 48 women — this weekend. Swedish sophomore Daniella Nero recently came back from her national championship, where she was second to five-time Olympian Anna Lindberg.
All three have often been within a point this season, yet their styles are all their own. De Lima's dives are higher and more powerful. Bocksnick exudes grace and is more precise. Nero might be a combination of both, with a drive for perfection that sometimes helps and sometimes hurts.
"At a lot of meets they go 1-2-3 and they are all within a point of each other," Brown said. "Nobody really won, they just got an extra point. If it was a cross country team we'd be great because they are all leading the pack. When you get into zones, the stars from other teams are good so they just have to step up and be right on They all have a shot at making it, but nobody is for sure."
The trio does know, for sure, that training together helps. Their work ethics inspire each other and the closeness of competitions provide plenty of motivation.
"When you see teammates who can do all their dives really well you are like, 'I want to be on the podium too,' " De Lima said. "We're all doing pretty much the same dives. You see it and know that's how it's supposed to be. I want to do the same dive. When they do it better, then you learn from them."
They have. Friesen sees her teammates less often because of her injury. It only makes their progress seem more dramatic. "All the girls have improved so much this year," she says. "It's cool to see. I'm excited for them all."
The guys have also had more than their share of success the past two seasons. Seven will advance from zonals in another crowded field. Sophomores Douglas Cohen and Thomas Rugg have a shot after helping the Rainbows come in second at the Conference USA Swimming & Diving Championships.
"Doogie finally looked like where he should be," said Rossing, who primarily works with the men. "Leading up, he didn't feel strong and ready, but at the (conference) meet he looked better and did well."
Cohen is strongest on platform and could have a chance on 3-meter as well. Rugg's dives are easier and at this stage what he needs most is the unique experience of an elite competition, with all its crazy distractions. Cohen said he relies on his IPod to calm him during the crowded postseason competitions, which can last up to four hours.