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Pioneers dive team put in great performance at regionals

Sophie Wojdylo ’22 mid-dive. She and other team members competed at the NCAA Division III Regional Conference. Contributed photo.

By Jonathan Gomez

Last weekend, the Grinnell College diving team competed in the NCAA Division III Regional Conference at the Russell K. Osgood Pool in Grinnell. After being awarded first as a team at the Midwest Conference Championships, Celeste Kaspar ’21 and Sophie Wojdylo ’22 represented the Pioneers at the regional tournament. Kaspar placed 10th and 11th respectively in the 3-meter and 1-meter events, while Wojdylo demonstrated her well-rewarded progress throughout the season, finishing first in the 3-meter event and second in the 1-meter event.    

“I think making it to regionals was a big accomplishment for both of us, kinda just being able to do something that we both love. Speaking for the whole team, we had the most female divers that Grinnell College has ever had at Regional Conference. So that was really special and cool to be a part [of],” said Kaspar. 

Kaspar said the team’s diving coach Mike Retelsdorf has made their continued success possible. “I think Mike is a really talented coach and knows how and when to push you to learn new dives or work on certain improvements. So I think he is a really big part of it. As well as our team being super supportive no matter where you are at in your diving experience.” 

Wojdylo stated similar gratitude, claiming the team’s coaches as a major part in her decision to join the Pioneer’s dive team. “When I came here, I was not thinking about diving. I visited here as a regular student not going through the recruiting process, but then I met the coaching staff and I thought, ‘wow this is a really great coaching staff and great swimming program,’” she said. “But I think coming to practice every day and hanging out with the team for those two hours, and then going to dinner with everybody, just hanging out with the team everyday was really special because the support system that we have within the team is really positive and helpful when facilitating the growth that we went through.” 

This was both Kaspar and Wojdylo’s first season on the dive team, making their achievements even more impressive. “I think [I] was similar to Sophie. I met with the coaching staff and they were just easy to get along with and love, as well as the team as a whole. Also I just really missed the sport,” Kaspar said.

Wojdylo said she was even skeptical of her ability to perform at such a level. “I came into it with a really negative mindset. I was really disappointed with my progress in high school. I was just in a really negative space with diving and I didn’t know how to get out of it until I met with coach Mike [Retelsdorf] and coach Erin [Hurley] and actually talked about my issues with the sport and managed to get over it that way. You can tell how passionate the coaches are with supporting the student-athletes. They are not just there to push you in order to get a win, they want to push you so you can be better.” 

Despite her lack of confidence at the beginning of the season, Wojdylo said she recognized the quality of effort and development that the whole team experienced throughout the season. “You can tell how hard everyone worked and how much it all paid off. There was never a day at practice where anyone was like, ‘oh we should not have to do all this work because we had a long day or didn’t feel like it’. I feel, pretty consistently, we came and did our dives or laps and it all showed.” 

As a result of her title win, Wojdylo secured a spot at the NCAA Division III National Championships in Greensboro, NC, taking place from March 20 to March 23. “It’s crazy! I didn’t even think regionals were in the cards for me. I was not diving on the prospect of going to regionals, I was just diving to get more meeting space and have a good time. Then qualifying for regionals was really great surprise. Then regionals went great and now I get to go nationals. I didn’t really know how to react in the moment. I just had to sit down and take a breather because I was in shock … I’m really excited and honored to represent Grinnell College,” Wojdylo said.

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