Updated: Oct. 2, 2014 at 5:15 p.m.
For the first time in four years, the men’s and women’s swimming program will compete with a diving program.
A new coach and a new team are preparing for their first events since the diving program ended in 2009. Divers will compete at a two-day meet Oct. 10 and 11 against American, Loyola and Catholic.
The athletics department announced last September that it would reinstate the program, and as recently as June, athletics director Patrick Nero said he was working to install diving boards in the natatorium in the Smith Center. GW announced Sept. 11 that diving head coach Anthony Crowder would lead the team.
“I expect to build a team, to get these guys to a point where we are competitive when we go to A-10’s later this year,” said Crowder, who was recruited to Western Illinois in high school, though he didn’t dive collegiately due to medical problems. “I hope to open their eyes to the world of diving at the college level, and that should be fun for all of us.”
While building the team may be a long-term challenge, the addition of diving will make the swimming team more competitive. Swimming ranked 7th (men’s) and 8th (women’s) in the preseason coaches poll released last week.
In past years, the swimming team would receive zero points for the diving portion, which made it virtually impossible to compete for a conference championship.
“Often times, having a diving team that is able to score points is the difference between second, third, fourth and first place,” Crowder said. “Usually the swim teams will be really close in the top five, and having a diving team that scores 10, 15, 20, even that will help teams out. Hopefully we can raise the level a little bit.”
The new team consists of just two divers, freshman Iman Lee and sophomore Jessica Ryabin, but Crowder wants to see the team grow and is confident it will once he starts recruiting for next season. While Crowder will look to expand the roster in the coming seasons, he views this year’s roster as an opportunity to establish strong relationships with GW’s newest divers.
“As far as diving goes, it is a smaller team, especially at the college level. So I have more opportunities to talk to them,” Crowder said. “With them being in and out of the water, we can communicate more.”
For the diving team this year, anyone who had an interest and some experience in diving could try out for the team. Three students, including Ryabin and Lee, tried out and made the team. The other student elected to drop out of the program.
Lee had experience with gymnastics in high school, which she translates well into diving. She said she wished she could have dove in high school, but diving and gymnastics were in the same season.
Ryabin dove while at Natick High School in Massachusetts, and was named her team’s MVP her junior year. Both Lee and Ryabin said they aim to make diving a strong sport for GW.
“We are really excited and we will show how great GW diving can be,” Ryabin said. “It would be cool to connect the swimming and diving team better, and hopefully get younger people and recruits.”
Crowder contacted the University when he heard about the head coaching job opening while looking for a collegiate coaching opportunity. He coached a nationally competitive diving team in North Carolina before arriving at GW. He also was a coach at Wingate University (Division II), where he produced a one-meter National Champion and All-American.
Despite that success, Crowder described his coaching style as “laid back.”
“I try to build a relationship with the divers where we are all on the same page, we know what we’re doing and know our goals and where we are headed, but I don’t have to be over the top of them,” Crowder said.
Crowder and his new divers said they understand building a new program will take longer than this season, but the divers are optimistic as they prepare to take their first competitive dives in just a few days.
“I think, like anything, it will take some time but I think we have a lot of potential,” Ryabin said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that diving would compete for the first time Friday. Divers will compete for the first time Oct. 10 and 11. We regret this error.