by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Laura Ryan is making a big impact in her rookie season as a Division I diver with swimming powerhouse Indiana.
The freshman from Elk River was Big Ten champion in platform diving — while placing second in one-meter diving and third in three-meter diving — in the conference meet hosted by IU this pastThursday though Saturday.
“I would have been happy to just make finals in all of them,” said Ryan. “This was a total surprise for me.”
The Hoosiers were team champions with Minnesota second, and Ryan was one of seven Hoosiers making all-Big Ten first team.
At Indiana, perennially a national power, her diving coach is Jeff Huber.
“He’s very good. He really pushes us hard,” said Ryan.
Ryan said swimming is “a pretty big deal” and source of campus pride at Indiana.
“This is the best place for me to be,” said Ryan.
She said she had a chance to visit briefly with former Elk teammate Hailey Szews, a freshman on the Gopher team.
Ryan’s five dives for the platform gold medal Saturday were a front 3 1/2 pike, a handstand back double with 1 1/2 twist, a back 3 1/2, an inward 3 1/2, and a back 3 1/2 with 1 1/2 twist. She scored 348.55 in the finals, 311.55 in the prelims.
The one- and three-meter events require six dives. In the three-meter competition, she botched a dive in prelims and made finals only with a strong sixth dive, then hit everything in the finals to move up from sixth to third.
“It was a very close contest and I think Laura was simply focusing on performing well,” said Huber. ”After the last round we both thought she might have finished second, but her high degree of difficulty and her consistency turned out to be the difference between first and second.”
Huber is impressed by Ryan’s progress.
“She is willing to do everything it takes to reach her greatest diving potential and I am looking forward to the future,” he said. ”She continues to improve daily and the next step is to work on her entries. Her board work and other aspects of her diving seem to be in place and I think her age group coach, Jason Baumann, did a great job of preparing her.”
Champion in the one- and three-meter dives was Minnesota’s Kelsey Bryant, who is from Illinois.
Ryan was state champ for the Elks her sophomore year. She missed her junior year with a shoulder and passed up her senior year to compete nationally. She has placed 12th and seventh in senior nationals 10-meter diving and was first in 10-meter synchro with an Indiana teammate in 2009. She has placed second and sixth in junior national 10-meter diving.
Indiana had 821 points, Minnesota 578, Ohio State 456, Penn State 391, and Purdue 385.55 in the top five.
Next for Ryan and the Hoosier is the zone competition in three weeks, which is the qualifier for nationals.