By Brandon Cruz
It may have been a relatively cold few days in Flagstaff, Arizona, but that did not stop the Nevada women’s swim and dive team from burning all its competition at the NCAA Zone E Diving Regional. Two-time Mountain West Diver of the Year Krysta Palmer, senior, led the charge as her and her two teammates, sophomore Sharae Zheng and freshman Zoe Lei, qualified for the NCAA championships.
Opening day at the NCAA Zone E Diving Regional at the NAU Aquatics and Tennis Center was an eye-opener. Nevada came in with a purpose and showed its dominance from the start. The day featured the daunting 1-meter springboard finals, but Nevada’s divers approached it with confidence and serenity. Palmer went on to place first in the 1-meter springboard, posting an impressive cumulative score of 654.80.
Palmer’s teammate Zheng followed closely behind as she acquired a score of 643.25 and became the runner-up for the competition. The last seven qualification spots were still in contention, and Lei knew she couldn’t miss out on a chance to go to the NCAA championships. With this in mind, Lei fought tooth and nail, landing the ninth and final qualifying spot with an overall score of 568.90. Palmer, Zheng and Lei mark the largest group of divers Nevada has sent to the NCAA championships in the past decade.
Day two of regionals proved to be just as fruitful for Palmer and Zheng. The 3-meter springboard title was on the line. As usual, Zheng and Palmer showed out. At this point pressure is a mere formality to them. Zheng earned her first career regional title with an extraordinary score of 698.00. If Zheng is performing this well as a sophomore, one can only imagine how talented she’ll be by her senior year. Palmer wasn’t fair behind as she took third place with an overall score of 666.05. With both of these amazing finishes, both Palmer and Zheng had now qualified for two separate events at the NCAA championships.
As if Palmer’s name wasn’t already going into Nevada women’s swim and dive history, bystanders and competitors attending the final day of the NCAA Zone E Diving Regionals saw her claim yet another title. Palmer seized a profound score of 638.15, as she captured the platform title.
When it comes to perseverance and a will to succeed, look no further than Palmer. She epitomizes these two words because even through her multiple knee surgeries and countless injuries, she still found a way to push through the pain and become successful. No wall was ever tall, or strong enough to stop Palmer from pursuing her dreams. But behind every successful person is another who pushed them to be great.
Jian Li You is the person who pushed Palmer, Zheng and Lei to be great. Let’s face it, no diving coach wins the title Mountain West Diving Coach of the Year for four straight seasons unless they deserve it. You always tells her divers, “If you have fun, you will do well.” Her relaxed attitude towards coaching comes from years of experience. Her extensive knowledge of the sport allows her to see all the flaws her divers may have and remedy them before they compete. You, might just win Mountain West Diving Coach of the Year, every year until she decides to hang up her whistle.
Regionals gave the women’s swim and dive community a lot to think about. First off, Nevada is a powerhouse team that continues to topple its competition. While this may be Palmer’s final season, she is looking to take it all. Finally, Nevada will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come, due to its immense depth.
Brandon Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.