Oct. 27, 2009
Thirteen may be an unlucky number for some people, but Arizona State University head diving coach Mark Bradshaw cannot be more excited about his 13th season in Tempe. With three 2008 Olympians and four returnees, the Sun Devil diving team looks to be one of the top squads in the country.
"Overall this is the best group I have assembled from top to bottom at any one time," said Bradshaw. "Obviously we have had some very good divers here, but as a group, as a whole, there is more talent top to bottom. I am looking forward to this group."
The men's team, which has produced All-Americans such as Joona Puhakka and Micky Benedetti, looks to be one of the strongest in years. Two 2008 Olympians will compete on this years squad and additionally the Sun Devils return Cameron Bradshaw and Chris Pasanella.
"We probably have more firepower on the guys' side than the girls," said Bradshaw.
The Sun Devils most seasoned, in a collegiate sense that is, male diver is Cameron Bradshaw, who is the son of head coach Mark Bradshaw. Highlighted by a sixth-place finish on the 1-meter at the Pac-10 Championships, the younger Bradshaw had a successful freshman season, despite suffering a few injuries early last year that held him back in the fall.
"We're looking for a healthy Cameron this year," said the elder Bradshaw. "I think he will have a great year. He's one of those six or seven guys who is on the fringe of making the NCAA Championships and can if he takes advantage of the opportunity. It's a good goal for him."
Chris Pasanella also returns to the Sun Devils for his junior season. The Scottsdale native spent his sophomore season as a successful dual meet diver and looks to attempt to make the NCAA Zone Championships this season.
"Chris did a very good job of being productive in dual meets and in the Pac-10 Championship," said Bradshaw. "Right now, he's a better practice diver than he is during the meets and we need to flip that. When he makes that change in the competitive part of his diving, the sky is the limit."
Constantin Blaha, a 2008 Austrian Olympian, will begin his Sun Devil career in January. Blaha, who came to ASU last spring, will sit out the fall season to serve the last half of his year of residence. Referred to as Coco by his team, the sophomore will compete in both springboard events and Bradshaw expects him to score points at the NCAA Championships.
"He is eager to compete and it's a shame he can't compete until January," said Bradshaw. "He is a world level diver and is a veteran even though this will be his first year of diving. The best thing about Coco is that he trains hard and has the right attitude. We're looking forward to reaping the benefits in January."
Another 2008 Olympian rounds out the men's team. Canadian platform diver Riley McCormick comes to ASU as one of the most touted recruits in the county. A world-class tower diver, McCormick placed 16th on the platform at the 2008 Olympics and finished ninth in the event at the 2009 World Championships.
"Riley is probably more highly touted than Joona," said Bradshaw on his newest recruit. "He is a legitimate guy that can win a national championship and he is a freshman. He just turned 18 and he is ninth in the world. What is even more exciting is that there is still a lot he can do to improve and he is motivated to do so."
Although Bradshaw admits there may be more "firepower" on the men's side; that is not to say that the women's team will be weak. In fact, Bradshaw expects it to be quite the opposite.
The most experienced diver, in a college sense that is, returning is Brittany Jumer. Jumer, who has twice been named ASU's Women's Diver of the Year, has proven to be successful in all three events. The Minnesotan was the lone diver to reach the final of all three events at the Pac-10 Championship her freshman season and narrowly missed obtaining the feat a second time her sophomore one. Both her freshman and sophomore season, she almost qualified for the NCAA Championships after having a strong Zone competition.
"Britt suffered through some injuries last season but did a very good job of coming back from that and making the best out of the season," said Bradshaw. "It affected her mostly in her strength and consistency. Now that we have her back healthy, I look for her to make another step towards improving what she had done the previous year."
Like the men's team, the Sun Devil women's team will be able to benefit from having Olympic experience. Elina Eggers, who was forced to sit out last season due to obtaining her year of residency, will finally be able to compete for the Sun Devils. Eggers was a finalist on the platform at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. One of the top-ranked platform divers in the world, the Sun Devils look to use the Swede on all three events.
"Elina will add a lot of power," said Bradshaw. "While she excels on the tower, she is a pretty good springboard diver as well and will do great in dual meets. She has a chance to score some big points for us at NCAAs as well."
After transferring to ASU mid-season last year, Marissa Johnson looks to benefit from preseason training and an entire season of competing. Despite only competing in one dual meet during last season, Johnson managed to make the final in the 3-meter.
"We've had a chance to work together over the summer and she is improving," said Bradshaw. "She will be a strong dual meet competitor and can score points for us at the Pac-10 Championships. Her goal for the season is to make the NCAA Zone meet."
Ciara Gellar rounds out the women's diving team. Although a bit of a newcomer to the sport, Gellar was a successful, athletic Level 10 gymnast who brings a strong desire to improve.
"She is athletic and she can move," said Bradshaw. "I saw in her a person that has athletic ability and a strong desire to get better. It is new and fresh and she is eager to learn. I think her biggest impact will be on platform."
Overall, Bradshaw cannot wait for the season to get started so he can view the results of the talented team he has put together.
"This is the best group I've had and I'm looking forward to going to some dual meets with some of the top diving schools and outscoring them in the diving well," concluded Bradshaw with a smile.