Daily Egyptian

Diver works through offseason

By Aaron Graff

Senior diver Kegan Skelton likely would have spent his summer as a lifeguard if he didn’t cross paths with West Virginia University’s diving coach.

Skelton trained this summer in Minneapolis with University of Minnesota diving coach Wenbo Chen and U of M diver Manny Pollard.

“The training we did was the same training we do year round at Minnesota,” Pollard said. “Nothing changed for me besides having Kegan next to me.”

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Chen was an assistant diving coach for USA in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He also coached two-time NCAA champion diver Kelci Bryant while at Minnesota. Bryant went on to win a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics in London with Abby Johnston in synchronized three-meter diving.

Skelton said West Virginia’s diving coach Michael Grapner noticed similarities between him and Pollard.

“I found out about [Pollard] at the Missouri Invitational,” Skelton said. “One of the coaches there said ‘Would you be interested in synchro, because I know there is a guy who has a similar diving style as you?’”

Skelton said he was interested, and paid his own way to Minneapolis.

“He came up to do synchro,” Pollard said. “We were making sure we got that done, we made it our business. It was our job.”

Skelton said when they first started to work on synchronized diving, it was challenging because he walked a little slower than Pollard. Skelton said he had to start his dive slightly earlier than Pollard so the tricks and entry would match up.

“Our actual approach was off,” Skelton said. “But we actually managed to get the timing down right to where we would land on the board and do the dive into the water at the same time.”

Pollard and Skelton competed in the USA Diving tournaments this summer. They finished third place at Zone Diving in Washington, D.C. with a score of 339.96, which qualified them for the AT&T National Diving Championships in Knoxville, Tenn.

They finished seventh there with a score of 298.17, which was one place shy of qualifying for finals.

Pollard also competed in the senior men platform dive, where he finished fifth with a score of 414.50. He said he wants to focus more on individual diving. Pollard and Skelton will no longer be working with each other.

“It’s not like we signed a contract saying we were going to be together forever,” Skelton said.

Skelton said overall it was a positive experience working with Pollard, and it was probably the best summer he has had. He said if he did not go to Minneapolis, he probably would have trained with his high school coach, which he has done in previous summers.

Last season he finished third in the one-meter dive and second in the three-meter dive in the Mid-American Conference Championships.

Saluki diving coach Joy Zhao said it was a great opportunity for Skelton, and she is proud of him.

She said she did not contact him much during the summer because she was in China for a large portion of it, but occasionally checked up on him.

She said she texts all returning and new divers at the beginning of every season to motivate them.

“First of all, I really care about the attitude,” Zhao said. “I tell my divers every year ‘I’m a good coach, I have 50% and you have 50%, we have to work together as a team.’”

The Saluki swimming and diving teams start the season with the Maroon & White Meet at 10 a.m. Sept. 20 in Carbondale.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at [email protected]@Aarongraff_DE or (815)-483-3781

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