March 10, 2012
USAFA, Colo. - Kahley Rowell became just the second California women's diver to qualify for the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships with her third-place finish on the platform final Saturday at the NCAA Zone E Diving Qualifying Meet at Air Force's Cadet Natatorium. Senior Alissa Barker also reached Saturday's final, placing 10th. Rowell, a sophomore, notched a score of 542.35 and Barker scored 448.30 on the platform.
"There are so many great divers in the competition, but I knew I had a chance," Rowell said. "My coach said, 'You could be first or 11th; it's just how your perform.' I felt good going into the competition."
Rowell is the first diver to qualify for the NCAA Championships since Teri McKeever has been Cal's head coach and is the second - after Melissa Graviss in 1991 - to qualify for the national meet in the storied history of the Golden Bear program.
Arizona State's Elina Eggers, who won the platform final (598.90), and Rowell are two of eight divers from the Zone E meet who will compete at the national meet from March 15-17 in Auburn, Ala.
In Saturday's platform preliminary round, Rowell collected a score of 247.85 to finish fourth and Barker placed 11th with a score of 215.95.
"In prelims I was actually doing really well until my last dive (a back two and a half somersault), which was the turning point for the worst," Rowell said. "I did one of the worst dives I had ever done. In the final, I hit all my dives, and it came down to the last dive I missed in prelims. I hit it, and it was the best dive I had ever done.
"I didn't even believe that I'd made it till a while after the event just because it's so surreal. You're diving with such great divers here including a girl who had been to the Olympics. It's just so exciting to finally get to be where the swimmers are - NCAA Championships - and get to experience what we always hear about."
Rowell credited Cal diving coach Todd Mulzet, who is in his second year on McKeever's staff.
"Todd's done a great job," Rowell said. "He helps me so much during competition, calming my nerves and talking me through it. A lot of this success should be attributed to him and how he's helped us turn around and get the dive program back on track."
The zonal meet ends the college careers of Barker and fellow senior Molly Hayes.
Hayes produced Cal's best finishes in the one-meter springboard final (11th, 520.20) on March 8 and in the three-meter springboard final (15th, 548.40) on March 9.
Cal competes at the NCAA Championships from March 15-17 in Auburn, Ala.