by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Laura Ryan has enjoyed an exception diving career as an individual and in duo’s. Last week, the former Elk River state champion experienced one of the pinnacles of sports from a team standpoint — she helped Georgia capture the NCAA swimming and diving championship.
“This is so exciting. It’s going to be hard to top this,” said Ryan, 21, who placed fifth in platform and 12th in 3-meter to contribute to Georgia’s 477 points, well ahead of runner-up California’s 393.
Ryan, who transferred to Georgia after two seasons with Indiana, also placed 20th in 1-meter diving the first day of the three-day meet at Indianapolis. The top 16 count.
“I had a slow start the first day, but got better every day and did pretty well in platform,” said Ryan, contacted Tuesday by the Star News.
Georgia was runner-up the past two years. This year, they had 17 qualifiers, most of any team, and captured their fifth national crown in the last 14 years under Jack Bauerle, named national coach of the year.
“I want our ladies to enjoy every moment of this. This is something that few student-athletes get to enjoy,” said Bauerle in a UG web site report. “This is as special as it gets. As long as I coach, I’ll always want this for my squads because I know how good it feels and how it impacts the rest of their lives. This is something that can never be taken away. It’s a pretty neat legacy.”
Ryan’s other highlight this year was winning 3-meter diving at the Southwestern Conference meet on Feb. 13 at the University of Texas, with Georgia capturing that team title as well.
Ryan was state champion for the Elks in 10th grade and runner-up in 9th grade. She was injured her junior year and didn’t return her senior year, already involved in national competition.
At Indiana, she was Big Ten 1-meter champion her freshman year and placed third in 3-meter. She missed Big 10 her sophomore year to compete in the world meet in synchronized diving. At nationals last year with Indiana she placed 8th in 3-meter and 12th in both 1-meter and platform. In synchro, she has won four national titles with an Indiana teammate.
Ryan grew dissatisfied with Indiana, however, and decided to leave. Two-time Olympian Chris Colwill recommended Georgia, his alma mater. “I grew up watching him dive and got to know him over the years through diving meets,” said Ryan. So I talked to him a lot about his experience in the program before committing to the school.”
She added: “It was an incredible opportunity to join a team a chance to win a national championship.” Her Indiana team placed 12th last year.
The psychology major said moving to Georgia has been fulfilling all around. That includes having a good football team to root for, a nice perk for a Minnesota native who attended Indiana two years. Georgia was 12-2 and averaged 93,000 fans.
“Coming from up north, it’s a new experience, being where the football team wins a lot! At Indiana I think we won one game last year,” she said. “Student athletes get tickets and I went to the games.”
Ryan qualified for Olympic team trials in platform this summer but placed 11th. With her junior season done, she says she’ll have some time off, then gear for the Canada Cup and World Championship tryouts in May.