Diving is a sport that is unique to the swimming world because it is closer to gymnastics than it is to swimming because of what the divers can do in the air.
“I started out with gymnastics, but then decided I didn’t want to continue, so then I started diving because it seemed more interesting and was similar to gymnastics,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore diver Sara Troyer said.
Being able to twist and flip in the air is not something that comes easy. Working toward becoming better at a sport takes time, as the Huskers diving team can attest to.
The Nebraska women’s diving team made a splash within the first few meets of this season, however, this is no surprise.
With former Olympian Natasha Chikina in her 14th season as head diving coach, she has brought her own experiences into coaching to make sure the Huskers are prepared.
Especially in the opening meets, the diving team has performed well placing in the top three in both of its meets to start off the season.
“All of the girls want to step up and get better every time they dive … it’s fun to watch them push themselves in practice,” Chikina said.
A swim meet is formatted so that towards the middle of the meet, there is a break to watch the divers compete in their events. Since the majority of the team is swimmers, there is a huge cheering section from the Huskers side of the pool for the divers.
“We are able to get together with the swimmers to keep that bond, we are a really close team as a whole,” Troyer said.
Since diving and swimming are pretty different, they train differently. However, sometimes the divers do relays and in return, the divers are able to teach the swimmers how to dive.
“I am not a good swimmer with technique, but for the intrasquad meet we had divers swimming for a race and we taught three swimmers the three dives they needed for the meet, that is just something fun we are able to share with each other,” Troyer said.
Like the swim team, the diving team is young, but that does not stop the upperclassmen from stepping up as leaders.
“We [underclassmen] are very goal driven and look up to them for their leadership,” Troyer said. “We want to be like them, we don’t want to just follow them, we want to lead.”
One upperclassman is senior Abigail Knapton, who is a captain for the swim and dive team. She is one of the first divers to be a captain of the team, and brings “experience and being a part of the team” according to Chikina.
Divers like Troyer have been diving for a long time, but still love the sport because of the connections she’s made.
“All of the people that I have met diving, from [Nebraska] and at the meets … it’s something that brings me joy with the sport,” Troyer said.
Along with Knapton, who has been diving at Nebraska for four years, the Huskers have junior diver Grace Tiernon, who placed 21st on platform at the 2019 Big Ten Championships.
Sophomore Hallie Roman has also made an impact. As a freshman, Roman competed in the one-meter and three-meter dives at the Big Ten Championships last year.
Fellow sophomore Jessica Warak is redshirting because of an injury, but last year qualified for the NCAA Championships on the platform as a freshman, and had a three top-20 finishes at the Big Ten Championships.
The team also added freshman Reagan Hinze, who was a first-team all-state performer in high school and is looking to make an impact on the Huskers roster.
The diving team is shining for the Huskers this year not just with Knapton but with all of the divers. The Huskers have been able to score NCAA-qualifying scores this year and will continue to do so as the season goes on.
“All of the girls here are special and bring different things to the team that makes this group so special,” Chikina said.