Dragon Diver Prepping for NCAA Division II Championships
By: Geneva Nodland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this month, MSUM’s Swim and Dive team traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to compete in the 2018-2019 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship.
From Feb. 13-Feb. 16, the team practiced and competed against seven other teams participating in the NSIC championships. It was a successful week for both swimmers and divers, with a school record broken and personal bests achieved. St. Cloud State University took first among the teams, and MSUM took seventh. MSUM will be sending one diver to the NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships March 13-March 16 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Amber Westereng, 22, received fourth in one-meter dive with a score of 393.00, and second in three-meter dive with a score of 418.35—both NCAA pre-qualifying scores. Of the three divers on the scoring team for the event, Westereng is the single diver from MSUM going to the pre-qualifying meet. The diving events were held on Thursday, Feb. 14 (one-meter) and Saturday, Feb. 16 (three-meter).
Westereng is a senior majoring in advertising and public relations. She has been diving since her sophomore year of high school with the Minot High School Magicians, in Minot, North Dakota. In her past four years going to MSUM, she also dove for MSUM’s Swim and Dive team. This was her final year diving, as she plans on graduating next year and will not be diving in her last year of schooling.
After graduation, Westereng plans on staying in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She currently coaches at West Fargo Public Schools for West Fargo Sheyenne’s swim and dive team.
“I love coaching … so I really want to continue doing something with the sport as well,” Westereng said.
Lexi Eissinger, 25, MSUM’s diving coach of three years, thinks that Westereng’s performance was positively affected by her mindset.
“Amber is an athlete that just loves the sport. You can tell when she dives that she just absolutely loves it, and she’s just happy to be here,” Eissinger said. “Going into your senior season with that attitude is the best possible thing you can do, just leaving it all in the water, leaving it all on the board and just doing the best that you can and not holding back.”
Overall, she and Eissinger agreed that this last competition went well for not only Westereng but for the whole team.
“I anticipated fourth for one-meter because that’s where I was seeded before,” Westereng said. “With three-meter, I was actually seeded sixth, after prelims I was first, and then after finals I was second; so I’m happy with how it went, I got a personal best and it was awesome.”
Before Amber and the team were able to go to the NSIC championships, they had to prepare. Divers have a list of specific dives they must do, so Eissinger explained that they focus mainly on those dives toward the end of the season, until they get comfortable enough to do them correctly. Although they don’t follow a particular diet, their workouts both in water and on land are very detailed. At the start of the season they are easing back into the practices, then the workouts shift as the season progresses.
“The middle is definitely a lot harder work. They’ll lift pretty heavy and usually they’re pretty tired and pretty sore,” Eissinger said. “Near the end, they’ll taper off of the lifting aspect and dry land stuff, and really focus on water practice.”
Westereng said her season went amazing, even though she wasn’t able to compete in an 11 dive meet for one-meter until three months into their season. This was at the Dragon-Cobber Invite meet Nov. 30-Dec. 1, and she already had a pre-qualifying score of 393.70 for the NCAA nationals event.
“I kind of anticipated qualifying, but I didn’t know if I was going to quite do it, just getting it at that first meet was like icing on the cake,” she said.
Back in June 2018, Charles King was named MSUM Swim and Dive head coach, this being his first full season at MSUM. He is only the second person to be named head coach in the swim and dive program’s history.
“At the beginning it was kind of a hard transition in getting a new head coach, but I think the overall dynamic really shifted into a more positive direction than it had been in the past,” she said.
Before coaching at MSUM, Eissinger came from the University of North Dakota after four years of diving with UND’s swim and dive team. Before that she competed with Fargo Davies High School. Eissinger discussed her first year coaching at MSUM.
“At the beginning it was a little bit difficult because I had just come from another team,” Eissinger said. “I think they respect me as a coach and as a person, and they do know that they could come to me with issues or if they need someone to talk to.”
Eissinger also believes that having an athlete qualify for nationals can motivate the team.
“I think they see that it is possible and that it is achievable, that they could go too if they put in the work and work their butts off to get there,” she said.
As Westereng and Eissinger prepare for the NCAA meet, they will work on fine tuning the harder dives. Eissinger anticipates a good week of competition at nationals and is interested to see the other teams outside of their conference.
“I have never gone to the pre-qualifying meet so I’m not 100% sure (what to expect),” Westereng said.
She is fairly confidant and hoping to do well in her three-meter event but is slightly unsure about the one-meter.
“One-meter is all up in the air, honestly anything could happen,” she said, “because anyone can fail a dive, anyone can have the meet of their life—it’s just a toss-up.”
No matter what happens, Westereng said that even though it’ll be a long meet, it’ll be a fun one, and she hopes to gain good experience.