For sophomore diver Maren Taylor, collegiate competition just doesn’t cut it any more.
Last year, Taylor was already a standout at Texas. Her many successes throughout the year culminated in an impressive NCAA performance where she was an All-American honorable mention diver in the one-meter event. This year, she has moved past the basic concepts of diving and is using her past performances as motivation in upcoming national-scale meets.
“My freshman year, I was working on a lot of more basic things so I didn’t quite get to where I wanted to be,” Taylor said. “This year I feel like I am finally starting forward to where I want to go. This fall and winter I’ve made some really big steps in terms of learning new and bigger dives like the Olympians compete with.”
On Wednesday, Taylor finished fourth in the final round of the one-meter diving event at the 2011 USA Winter National Championships, held at the University of Iowa.
In addition to the added practice that this major competition provides, many athletes use it as a stepping stone to the Olympics, one of the many goals that Taylor has her eyes on.
“I can use it as a practice college meet towards big college meets coming up,” Taylor said. “Since it’s the year before the Olympics, they use it as a qualifier for a bunch of teams and if you do well enough you make the trials.”
After she gets back to Austin, the next big stop on her schedule is the Big 12 Championship and NCAA Championship meets. This year they are being hosted at UT, which is a huge advantage for the team, both swimming and diving. To a diver, location may be one of the most important things about competing.
Because of variances in pool design and architecture, each pool is unique and sometimes glaringly different. Everything from the color of the pool and walls, and the objects around the pool and on the walls, to the location of surrounding boards influence the execution of a dive.
“For divers it’s all visual — the way we know when to come out of a dive,” Taylor said. “When you go to a new pool, the visual aspect is something you have to think about and get used to, but here you don’t have to think about it. You can focus on competing.”
This advantage will be the cherry on top of a great season of preparation for Taylor. Throughout fall and winter competitions, Taylor has consistently finished at, or close to, the top of the field. She is still perfecting her platform dive, her favorite event, but Taylor is well known for her performances on the tower.
In July 2010, she finished fourth on the tower at a USA Zone Diving meet which qualified her to compete in the U.S. Diving National Championships the following month.
Though platforms are her favorite, she also excels at the spring board events. In October 2010, she was named Big 12 diver of the week based on her first place finishes in both the one-meter and three-meter springboard events in a meet against California.
“Three-meter is the one that I have made the most jumps as far as new dives go,” Taylor said. “I feel like I am going in with more of a degree of difficulty and I feel like I have a chance to do really well at it.”
The star diver has wanted to come to Texas since she started high school. The chance to work with head coach Matt Scoggin at a university that was known for its diving program was a chance she couldn’t pass up. To her, being able to compete for a top tier university, both in athletics and academics, instills a sense of pride.
“Since I was a freshman in high school, I just wanted to come to Texas,” Taylor said. “When I go home and wear my burnt orange, someone will say something. People kind of look up to you.”
Taylor and her teammates host SMU on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the final home meet of the season.