The Vassar Swim and Dive program competed in the Skidmore Sprint Invitational this past weekend (2/9), and diver Jane Cardona ’15 dominated, winning both the 1 meter and 3 meter dives with scores of 212.65 and 229.55, beating out 8 other divers for the top spot overall. This was just another step forward in Cardona’s rapid ascension toward the top of the Liberty League.
Cardona had never participated in competitive diving before Vassar, but has quickly acclimated to the scene. “I have been diving for a year and a half now. I was originally a competitive gymnast, but I used to play on the diving boards at my local pool. I started diving my freshman year at Vassar to stay in shape and because I missed flipping around all the time,” shared Cardona. This positive attitude has helped Cardona achieve many great successes in League competition, including being named Liberty League Diver of the Week twice, for the weeks of 11/5/12 and 2/4/13, a feat only surpassed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute freshman Maggie Cullather who has received that honor three times.
Previous meets saw evidence of Cardona’s improvement. At the New York University meet in January, her score was a season best (239.71) for the three meter board, and her score of 214.42 on the one meter board earned her a second place finish.
Swim & Dive Head Coach Lisl Prater-Lee praised Cardona’s energy and work ethic. “Jane is very enthusiastic about diving and she applies consistent effort to achieve her full potential,” she shared. “Whether \her determination to achieve, learn new dives and perfect her list comes from her former athletic background or not, Jane has really taken off with diving while at Vassar.”
Beyond that, she believes Cardona is an example of the collective mentality the Swim & Dive program possesses. “She gets up and gives new dives a try, has the drive and determination to be better but, in so doing, she helps those around her be better, too; she is not in it for just her own accomplishment; we have a great diving group this year that is very supportive of one another and knows how to pull and push each other along to help make each other better; one’s accomplishments are the group’s accomplishments,” continued Prater-Lee.
Despite having never dove before college, Cardona believes that her previous experience with gymnastics has aided in her learning curve, saying “[t]hat it helped a lot with body awareness and strength.”
Additionally, both Cardona and Prater-Lee praise the work of Dive coaches Brian Bolstad and alum Greg Sullivan ’12. Prater-Lee shared that “[They] teamed up to coach the VC divers since late November. The swim/dive program certainly benefited by having both of them involved. More recently, Brian has been the lead coach and the divers are excelling, having fun while still very much achieving. We are fortunate that Brian has been able to join Vassar’s swim/dive program.” Cardona persisted with the praise of Bolstad, saying, “He’s extremely encouraging, I never come out of a practice upset because I messed up dives or anything. But he’s also very constructive, and my dives have improved exponentially since I’ve started working with him.”
The feelings between the two are mutual, as Bolstad returned the praise, saying, “Jane sets a great example for the athletes around her; she brings a high level of positive energy and motivation to practice and competition.”
Bolstad and Prater-Lee agree that Cardona has yet to max out her skills, with Prater-Lee suggesting that “Jane is becoming an even higher top performer in Liberty League and UNYSCSA, our conference and association sport affiliations. She is working towards attaining NCAA qualification scores. With her getting another season of competitive diving in, it can be seen that Jane realizes that she can be a great competitor in collegiate diving. She has improved her championship meet performances which, most recently, resulted in a new 11-dive [Vassar] school record at Seven Sisters tournament.”
Diving is composed of two events, the one meter board and the three meter board, a difference for which Cardona has an evolving appreciation. “I originally preferred 1m because it was lower, but now that I’ve grown accustomed to 3m, I like it much more. There’s more time to do each dive, which allows for more grace in the air, and more accuracy on lining up entries.”
The challenge of the dive and the work that goes into the preparation are motivation enough to continue, but diving means much more to Cardona’s Vassar experience than just a pastime. “A lot of my best friends are swimmers/divers, so half of the reason I dive is to spend time with them, and the other half because it’s genuinely fun.”
Despite having such a successful year on an individual level, Cardona’s favorite part of the season so far has had nothing to do with competition. “Our training trip this year was definitely a high point. It’s a great period of bonding for the team: none of us has any other commitments other than swimming/diving, so it’s an awesome way to spend time together both in and out of the pool.”
Though diving is an individual event, being a part of the Swimming and Diving program transcends class year, event, and even between sexes. “Although we don’t practice with the swimmers, we are very close with them. We have team dinners at the Deece whenever our practices line up. We [also] have separate women’s and men’s pasta dinners about twice a semester, where we set goals and just chat. The men’s and women’s diving team practice together, which is really nice.”
This is reflected in Cardona’s willingness to help her teammates, as Prater-Lee attests to her flexibility. “Jane is fun to have around. We enjoy watching her achieve on the diving end. We’ve been thrilled when she has helped us out by swimming relays legs on the swimming end.”
With the season drawing to a close, the Men’s and Women’s Swim/Dive program gears up for the Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association championships on Tuesday, February 19th. Hosted at Ithaca College, Coach Prater-Lee shared her thoughts on the occasion. “With 14 women’s teams and 13 men’s teams and hundreds of student-athletes, it’s a big event. Vassar divers, swimmers, coaches, and all will be very ready to get up and give it everything we have.”