For many competitors, the USA Diving Winter National Championships is a reprieve from the stressful academic and athletic workload that student athletes across the country face. With final exams in the rearview mirror, competing divers can put blue book essays behind them and focus solely on gold medals.
That is, unless you’re Michigan freshman Kristen Hayden.
Hayden traveled to Columbus on Monday, Dec. 19 as the only Wolverine diver competing at the meet. Hayden had qualified for three events at the Championships, but because she had finals over the previous two weeks, she could only compete in the three-meter springboard event.
“Going into Monday, my expectation was basically to dive the best I could, the way I’ve been practicing,” Hayden said. “Then hopefully that was good enough to allow me to make it to finals on Wednesday.”
While she scored just a 218.85 in the preliminaries, Hayden successfully improved her score to a 243.10 in the semifinals — good for ninth place overall, and enough to earn a spot in the final round of the event the following Wednesday. Many divers were able to use the time off to focus on the competition.
But Michigan’s finals schedule forced Hayden to quickly change her mindset after she got out of the pool.
“I had papers due after my semifinal, so that was a little bit different,” Hayden said. “I couldn’t just relax and focus on the meet, I also had to do my papers. The day before the competition, I was sitting at the pool typing a paper.”
Wednesday, Hayden stayed the course of her previous routines, scoring a 678.00 in the final round of dives. Overall, the performance put the freshman diver in 10th place for the event.
“We’re definitely using this meet to get ready for Big Tens and NCAAs,” Hayden said. “We’ve already talked about what I need to work on, and this is going to shoot me forward and get me ready for the rest of the season.”