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Friday, November 16, 2018

Sports

Diving team creates winning legacy for UH


Junior diver Lauren Burrell is one of Houston’s key divers this season. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

In the past two years, the UH swimming and diving team has had one of the best stretches for any sport in school history. After two straight conference championship wins, the Cougars have created a winning culture and plan on continuing its winning ways.

The team understands it will need to lean on its upperclassmen and high performers to do well. The divers are a huge contribution to the team’s success, but they came into the season with an extremely young group as they do not have a senior in their ranks.

The upperclassmen divers, however, have the success and experience to help the team win another conference championship.

Junior diver Lauren Burrell is one of the key competitors on the team. Last year, she beat many of her personal bests and won first place in the conference championship for the three-meter springboard dive.

Burrell and fellow junior diver Claire Liptak have taken it upon themselves to help the freshmen get on board with the team’s philosophies.

“I feel like we have (taken a leadership role),” Burrell said. “With three freshmen, we try to lead them along and keep them under our wing.”

With so many new additions to the team, there could have been a drastic drop off in production to start the season. After winning four of the first five meets in the season, however, it is clear another quality season is on the horizon for UH.

The freshmen have some work to do to catch up with their elder teammates. The juniors have won the conference championship every year of their college career, and they have no intention of slowing down.

“We’ve been winning since I got here, so I just expect it to keep going,” Burrell said. “We’re getting better people since we are winning, I feel like we’ll continue to win.”

Diving coach Bob Gunter has helped the team gain its recent success. UH hired Gunter in 2015, and he has been positively affecting the team’s success since.

Gunter was an award-winning diving coach for the Woodlands Diving Academy and won the AAC’s Diving Coach of the Year award in 2017. He has also earned the respect and trust of his divers.

Gunter’s effect was immediate, as he has helped the team win the conference championship in two of the three seasons he has coached at UH.

“With Bob, it was pretty easy to come in and do what he wanted to do, and that bettered me,” Burrell said. “So having him here again, I feel like I’ll continue to get better.”

After nearly a month of consecutive competition weekends, UH is caught in a month-long hiatus before it returns to compete in mid-November.

This competition will be huge, as it will feature the return of Burrell, who suffered a concussion from a diving accident and missed every meet to start the season.

“This will be my first meet, so I’m excited,” Burrell said. “I think I’m ready.”

So far, the rest of the divers have proved they are ready as well. If the swimming and diving team can keep up the momentum it has created from the early season, then there is no reason it will not have a good chance to repeat for its third conference championship in a row.

The team is confident and has a lot of expectations for itself, but this is only because of the standard of excellence it has created. It accepts nothing less than the best. For Burrell and the divers, the best is expected.

“I expect 100 percent that we will three-peat,” Burrell said. “Actually a four-peat. I’m trying to get four rings.”

After becoming one of the teams that has won the most in UH’s athletic history, the swimming and diving team still has its sights set high.

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