Over the weekend, the Massachusetts men’s and women’s diving teams found success in the diving portion of the Frank Elm Invitational in New Brunswick, N.J., as senior Michaela Butler and sophomore Josh Koppel won the one-meter and three-meter springboard diving events in their respective divisions.
The two diving teams did not finish well in the invitational as a whole, with the men finishing in fifth place out of seven competitors, and the women finishing eighth out of 10 competitors. However, it isn’t as bad as it looks, as the men’s and women’s teams both only competed in two events of the invitational. If all of the events in the invitational aside from the two diving events each team participated in are overlooked, then UMass would have finished first for both teams.
Butler led the way for the women’s team by winning both events she competed in, which improved her undefeated mark in springboard events this season. On the men’s side, Koppel is also undefeated in his sophomore season for UMass after the two wins over the weekend.
Aside from Butler and Koppel, Mikhaila Eckhardt also performed well for UMass, as she finished in second place in the three-meter dive, and in eighth place in the one-meter dive. With those two finishes, Eckhardt earned 50 points toward the final tally, making her the second highest contributor for the women over the weekend.
Invitational shows progression in both diving teams
With each team finishing first in the diving events over the weekend, UMass diving coach Mandy Hixon says that she sees a lot of positive performances for both teams, especially in the freshmen who still need improvement.
“I think they are doing a great job,” she said. “We had all of the freshmen compete this weekend on at least one board and they did a great job. All of them made finals on one-meter, and two of them made finals on three-meter, so it was good.”
Even with those performances, improvements can always be made. Hixon said she sees a lot of fundamental mistakes that the team needs to correct before Christmas break.
“We have a lot of work fundamentally that we need to go back and do,” she said. “That’s what happens when you start the competitive season because you have to start getting dives off and you kind of lose some of the fundamental work you did in the beginning.
“We have a couple of weeks now before they leave to go home for the break, and now we can go back a little and work on that fundamental stuff again. It’s the perfect time right now with these two weeks [to work on those things].”
Hixon has highlighted Eckhardt as a diver who has been the most impressive on a team that has featured positive performances from most of the squad.
“She has done a really great job,” Hixon said of Eckhardt. “She has really come together over this past month.”
Hixon said one of the more surprising divers on the team thus far has been freshman Robert Barry.
“[He’s surprising] because he is 6-foot-1,” she said of Barry. “He’s not quite built to be a diver but he has worked really hard and is coming along quite nicely.
“I mean, they are all doing really well, and I hate to just pick out one [impressive diver],” she continued.
“They each have their own things they are doing well and they are all working really hard. I think right now they are all on track and I’m really proud of them.”
Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]