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Sophomore Jesse Dehnert had to hold up fellow diver sophomore Connor Walton as Walton nearly fainted in shock after he was awarded the highest score in Principia history for his 3-meter dive performance.
The Principia-hosted Liberal Arts Swimming and Diving Championships was full of successes. In the preliminary round, Dehnert set the team, pool and meet record with a score of 563.00. During finals, Walton raised that to 621.75. “I was not expecting such a high score. I had intended to break the 570-point record,” Walton said of his score that was 50 points higher than his prediction. “There wasn’t any pressure; it was just fun.”
Walton won the 1-meter and 3-meter dives; Dehnert placed second on the 3-meter and third on the 1-meter. Both were selected to compete in the NCAA regional diving meet in Ohio on Feb. 28.
Walton said that “mock meets,” which he suggested to the diving team after competing in such events at his home club in Colorado, really helped prepare him for the meet. “I’m really glad to have Connor here to dive with,” Dehnert said. “It can be easy to lose motivation to improve if there is nobody pushing you.”
Walton has been diving for the past five years. He started diving after he became too tall to compete in gymnastics, and his love of diving comes from the thrill of being in the air. “As a child, I was obsessed with airplanes,” Walton said. “When I was four, I pretended to be Superman.”
His diving dreams do not end at this meet or even at the regionals meet. Walton dreams of one day competing in the Olympics, but said, “I will see how things work out.”
Dehnert also started diving five years ago. He was inspired by the 2008 Summer Olympics and started diving at his high school.
“I am really excited to see where the next two years take me,” he said.
There were many other achievements at the meet. Freshman Hunter Mehring won the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke, making the NCAA Division III B-cut time in both. He also placed second in the 200-yard individual medley. Junior Josh Harmon broke Principia records for the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle.
The women’s team also made headway in the competition. Freshman Bailey Bischoff came in 12th in the women’s 100-yard backstroke. Senior Joanna Patzwald, sophomore Dani McKenzie, Bischoff and freshman Shelby Barner earned a top 10 place in the 400-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relays.
Head coach Carl Erikson said that this year’s team trained harder than any group he has trained in the last seven years. In his words, the team “showed a lot of potential and a lot of good work.”
Erikson noted that the 2014 team’s success is founded on the team’s “ability to become friends.” Erikson would like to thank assistant coach Tyler Loechner, volunteer assistant Laura Perry, the athletic department and the supportive fans for helping run a successful Liberal Arts Championship meet.