For Kalamazoo College's diving teams, it already feels like a victory: The largest contingent in K history will be competing in the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships March 21-24 in Indianapolis.
"It's really exciting," said Madeline Woods '18, who represented the College at the 2016 championships. "I don't think anyone expected this outcome—to have everyone make it."
Out of the College's six divers, three women—Woods and first-year students Madeline Jump and Nicki Bailey—and men's diver Colin Grogan '18 will compete at the Indiana University Natatorium against divers from colleges across the nation.
K Diving Coach Kyle Oberhill '05, himself a member of the 2002 and 2003 MIAA championship Hornet diving teams, said that although diving is a sport dependent on individual performances, this year's divers have shown how being part of a group with a "great team dynamic" can make a difference.
"The seniors have done a really good job of leading the two freshmen through the performances," Oberhill said. "They had lots of inside team jokes and had lots of fun at the competitions."
He said Woods' prior experience at the championships, where she was an Honorable Mention All-American in 2016, was especially valuable to her teammates.
"She's a really good leader," he said. "If the other divers miss something, she says, 'Stay focused, pick yourself back up and keep trying.'"
Woods, an anthropology/sociology major who has been a College Swimming Coaches of America All-American Scholar, said the secret of the team's success has been that "we don't take ourselves too seriously." She concurred with Oberhill that her prior experience at the championships—as well as years of diving at the middle school and high school level—helped her when it came to keeping up her teammates' spirits.
"I've definitely had my rough spots," she said. "Once you've been there, it's pretty easy to empathize and talk people through it. The only way to overcome it is to have the support of the team."
She said she is proud to be able to go to her final diving competition as a student athlete with so many of her teammates—and to represent Kalamazoo College.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," she said. "Diving has been the time of my life and I'm so glad I came to K and did it here."
Four divers, the largest contingent in Hornet history to qualify: Nicki Bailey '21, Colin Grogan '18, Madeline Jump '21, Madeline Woods '18, led by Coach Kyle Oberhill '05
Indiana University Natatorium, Indianapolis