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Swimming/Diving
No Crest In Sight For ASU Diving Program
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 09/17/2005
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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Sept. 17, 2005

by Matt Storey published in The State Press on Thursday, September 15, 2005

ASU freshman Michele Benedetti rotates in a dive during practice at the Plummer Aquatics Center Wednesday.

The ASU men's and women's diving teams have a bright future thanks the addition of several talented freshmen.

Though four-time NCAA Champion Joona Puhakka is entering his last year of eligibility and former All-American Trisha Tumlinson has graduated, the program is prepared for the 2005-06 season.

The women welcome Canadian Erin Hobbs to their squad this fall while the men's team added Micky Benedetti, from Rome, and Billy Sweeney, a Tempe Corona del Sol graduate.

Hobbs, who graduated last spring from William Aberhart High School in Calgary, will likely be the most immediate contributor of the freshmen. Junior Cassidy Farwell, who qualified for the U.S. Diving National Championships this past summer, is the only other woman diver, so the door is open for Hobbs to contribute early.

"She came in as one of our top recruits," diving coach Mark Bradshaw said of Hobbs. "Our expectations are for her to do well at our Pac-10 meet and to further qualify for the NCAAs this year."

Hobbs brings with her a wealth of diving experience, including second-place finishes in the 1- and 3-meter events at the Canadian Junior Nationals in 2003 and a fifth-place finish in the 2004-05 Canadian Senior Nationals in the 1-meter. She has also qualified for the Australian Open and the Sydney Olympic Youth Festival.

"She is probably the most athletically gifted female diver I have ever had here at ASU," Bradshaw said. "She is not just a springboard diver or a platform diver. She is good on all of them."

Benedetti was the men's top diving recruit, having competed at the World Championships and medaled in several Grand Prix diving meets, but he will not be eligible to compete this year. Since he graduated from high school in 2004, the NCAA mandates that he sit out his first year in college.

"We sure would love to have him dive this year and have him as part of a one-two punch with Joona," Bradshaw said. "But he'll gain some valuable experience this year, and he can train full time and compete exhibition in our home meets. He can't travel, which is unfortunate, but that is just the rule."

The other freshman is Billy Sweeney, who finished third in the Arizona state tournament in each of the last two years and won his region title last season while a part of the Corona del Sol diving team. He was also a member of Bradshaw's club team, Sun Devil Divers, where he finished ninth in the 1-meter and 11th in the 3-meter in last year's Region 9 Championships. However, he still had to earn his way on the team this year.

"He wanted to try to walk on the team, and I set criteria for him where if he could do certain dives then I would let him walk on, and he achieved that," Bradshaw said.

Sweeney is relatively inexperienced, having only been diving since high school. Bradshaw expects his progression to be a bit slower than some, but he thinks his future is bright.

"Billy is really in a developmental stage right now," Bradshaw said. "He is a guy that I can see by the end of the year he will make some probably surprising contributions. He is the type of diver that maybe in two or three years could be scratching at possibly making it to the NCAAs."

Both Benedetti and Sweeney also have the advantage of getting to spend a year learning from Puhakka.

"I hope they pay attention and see how a champion really carries himself," Bradshaw added. "What Joona brings is that he is ready to go every day. From a physical and mental standpoint, he is always prepared. He works real hard and things don't get to him very easily, which is one of his great qualities."

The program would have been even stronger, but Maria Marconi, an Italian recruit, left to return home after just a few days at ASU, and Dwight Dumais, a top high school prospect, chose Stanford over ASU at the last minute.

Reach the reporter at matthew.storey@asu.edu.

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