With the music blaring and the Athletics and Events Center mostly empty after a morning session of swimming prelims, a group of divers is warming up in a corner of the Aquatics Pavilion at the Liberty League Championships on Feb. 22.
It’s just before 1 p.m. on a snowy Thursday, and the Ithaca College women’s diving team is dancing and singing between taking warm-up dives. Most people watching would assume it was a light workout, but for the divers this is all just a part of their competition routine. The group doesn’t turn serious until seconds before the meet begins, where the divers go on to crush the competition in prelims.
The group of five — graduate student Nickie Griesemer and seniors Anna Belson, Lindsey Suddaby, Katie Helly and Alyssa Wishart — would later go on to sweep the competition in the 1-meter finals. One week later, at the regional diving championships, all five of them secured their places at the upcoming national championships.
It’s unusual for teams to qualify more than one diver to nationals. Last year, the Bombers qualified three, which was more than any other college.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what the team has accomplished in the past four years, and their story is still nowhere near finished, as it is possible that the five could come home with multiple All-American finishes at the Division III Swimming and Diving Championships, with several of them capable of placing in the top 10.
When people think of dominant athletes in the professional world, the names that come to mind are Tom Brady, Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. But even those athletes lose, which is something that this team has yet to experience this season.
Over the past four years, an Ithaca College diver has taken the top spot at either the Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association Championship or the Liberty League Championship, the meet that replaced the state championship. One of the five has finished first at almost every dual meet, and three of them have recorded All- American finishes at the National Championships, including Griesemer, who finished second last year.
Although they are just at the Division III level, they are competing at a level unmatched in their conference, and they’ve done so by seemingly enjoying every second.
This will be the last year of eligibility for all but Belson — who has the option to dive during her first year of graduate school if she chooses — so nationals might be the last time the Bombers will be this dominant for a long time, as there is no telling when a team like this will come along again.