Siloam Springs, Ark. (March 7, 2002) - Most of the JBU swim and dive team traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, last week with hopes of finding national glory and to represent JBU well.
They came back having achieved both with solid overall performances, a diving national championship and two national awards.
The men’s swim team placed seventh overall, one up from its eighth place finish last year.
The women dropped two spots from last year’s results to finish 11th.
The biggest highlight of the tournament, however, was senior diver Mark England’s national championship in the one-meter board diving event.
England also took second place on the three-meter board and was named the NAIA Diver of the Year.
England said that the national title was his goal from the beginning of the season. He said he was slightly disappointed that he didn’t win the three-meter board title.
“If the three-meter event had been later in the week, I know I would have won it,” England said.
The event was the first diving event of the tournament, and it was hard to adjust so quickly to the new surroundings, England said.
“I know I was the best diver there, and I guess that’s all that really matters,” England said.
Head Coach Brent Rush agreed.
“He was by far the best there,” Rush said. “That was obvious. Other teams’ coaches recognized it too and told me how impressed they were with him.”
Rush said that he was proud of England, and that he believed the senior simply “dove to the level he should have.”
England and his wife, Joy, had a baby, Hannah, last semester. England said it was hard to juggle family, diving, school and work all at the same time. He credited his wife as being one of the main reasons for his success.
“She’s been an incredible encouragement,” England said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her.”
Other highlights of the tournament included Rush receiving national Diving Coach of the Year honors. Rush didn’t comment on the award, but said that he was glad to see the diving competition in the NAIA “back up to where it should be.”
Senior Mance Buttram dropped two seconds off the converted time of the 100 meter backstroke, which he said was his best time in two years.
All personal times were converted to yards, which is the measurement by which JBU swam during the regular season.
Sophomore Nik Hook had his best time of the season during his leg of the 400 meter medley relay.
Junior diver Libby Mills finished sixth on the one-meter board and junior diver Daniel Ellis, who won the national championship on the one-meter board two years ago, finished seventh in the men’s division.
Ellis said that he was happy with his performance on the one-meter board, but that the competition had improved greatly since his freshman year. He said he is confident that he will compete for another national title next year.
Buttram said that it was hard for the swimmers to find a rhythm because the tournament followed a preliminary-finals format, where swimmers have to swim their respective events twice, once in a preliminary heat and then in a final race.
Rush said that despite this setback, almost all of JBU’s swimmers advanced beyond the preliminary heat.
Rush said that it was also hard for the swimmers to adjust to the races being measured in meters instead of yards.
“If we had swam in a yards pool instead of meters, we probably would have dropped more times,” Rush said.
Rush said he was most impressed with the women’s team this season and that he had “grossly underestimated” their capabilities.
If the [entire] team stays this good or gets better next year, I’ll be happy,” Rush said.