Aug. 7, 2008
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - It took only 10 months but the Boilermakers' competitive diving season is finally over.
Sure, a lot of these student-athletes could have stopped following the NCAA's Championships in March, but Purdue head diving coach Adam Soldati is overseeing an elite class of performers who he wants to think beyond what's possible at the collegiate level.
"The Olympics are the milestone of our sport," Soldati said. "I want to produce Olympians, or at least bring them up to that level. And if they come here as Olympians, I want to get them back."
Soldati will accept that challenge once David Boudia joins the Boilermakers this coming fall. Only 18, Boudia has been one of the most-talked about U.S. divers this season thanks to his gold-medal winning performance off tower at Olympic Trials and his string of victories with synchro partner Thomas Finchum.
Boudia, a native of Noblesville, Ind., has already been featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine in addition to garnering a lot of local press from the Lafayette Journal and Courier and the Indianapolis Star. His name is also easily found throughout the USA Diving page at NBCOlympics.com.
Boudia will compete in both 10-meter events, synchro and solo, in Beijing, but before we go any further on the future of Boilermaker diving let's take a look back at some of 2007-08's highlights to see what makes Soldati's program such an attraction to the nation's elite divers.
The Rise Of Amanda Miller
To hear Soldati tell the story, Amanda Miller convinced him she was an Olympic-caliber diver after just one full week of training.
"From where she came from to where she is now is simply amazing and I'm incredibly proud of her accomplishments," he said. "If you told me on my first day at Purdue she would be a contender at Olympic Trials, I'd have said 'no way', but I knew it would happen after I coached her for a week."
Miller, a Purdue graduate and former All-American, had a tremendous 2008 competing in and reaching the finals of a number of national and international meets, including the Canada Cup, Olympic Trials, USA Diving Selection Camp and Senior Nationals.
And even though the Boilermakers' varsity record holder on 1-meter did not qualify for the Olympic roster, she did well enough at last month's senior national meet in California to convince both herself and Soldati that London 2012 is a realistic goal. Miller earned 47 points (the sixth-best female total) at the week-long meet on the strength of two silver-medal showings;the first coming on 1-meter and the other with Christina Loukas in 3-meter synchro. She also placed fifth on 3-meter with 309.15 points.
"She has combined her God-given gifts with pure physical ability and talent to go along with a coachable attitute, so I'm convinced she can go all the way," Soldati said. "But the next four years are going to be hard and there's going to be a lot of obstacles for her to overcome. It takes a serious commitment to want to continue diving past the collegiate level."
Karnes Rips It Up During Regular Season
If Amanda Miller can make to the London Games it may be because of the push she receives from training partner Ashley Karnes, who maintains the same training attitude and similar aspirations to wear the Red, White and Blue.
Karnes produced the definitive breakthrough year in 2008, which included well over a dozen victories during the regular season, three Big Ten Diver of the Week awards, 33 points scored at the conference championships and two springboard triumphs at NCAA Region C Zones.
She also led the Boilermakers with personal best scores of 317.45 (1-meter) and 364.55 (3-meter), totals that rank her third all-time at Purdue right behind Miller and Carrie McCambridge.
Unfortunately, NCAA's did not go according to plan for Karnes, but she quickly rebounded from that heartbreaking experience with a strong showing at April's Spring Nationals, where she placed fourth on 1-meter and 10th on 3-meter. And at Senior Nationals, Karnes tied for the meet's 11th-highest total of 26 points thanks to a pair of top-10 finishes on springboard.
"Ashley is one of the most talented, flexible and quickest divers I've been around, and what's better is that she's become a student of our sport," Soldati said. "She's here (at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center) every day reviewing her dives and I've seen her reading books on sports psychology. There's still a lot of untapped talent within her and I'm excited to see what her future holds."
Freshman Colturi's & Cook's Postseason Triumphs
Rookies David Colturi and Kara Cook were two more brightspots for Purdue in 2007-08 as both walked away with their first All-America titles.
Cook's postseason run was a bit of a surprise considering she never placed higher than second in any event until winning the 10-meter crown at the Big Ten Championships with 289.00 points. From there, she captured one of the final Zone C allocations for the NCAA Championships by finishing as the runner-up on tower with 534.90 points, then claimed a bronze medal in this event at nationals.
Cook's NCAA total of 311.00 points served as a personal best and placed her behind only Miami's Brittany Viola and Stanford's Margaret Hostage.
With veterans Zach Schultz, J.P. Perez and Danny Cox all unable to compete for the Boilermakers during the fall semester of 2007, rookie Colturi made it his mission to lead Purdue diving and he did not disappoint.
The Sylvania, Ohio, native led the Boilermakers with eight wins during the regular season and his team high scores of 423.15 (3-meter) and 453.65 (platform) doubled as varsity records. At Big Ten's, Colturi finished among the top five in each of the three events and medaled on 1- and 3-meter.
After winning the tower competition (849.60) and placing third on 1-meter (672.95) at Zones, Colturi made his NCAA debut and left with one All-America and another honorable mention All-America citation. Colturi was ninth on 1-meter at nationals with 363.85 points and came in third on 10-meter with his varsity record 453.65 points.
"David's results speak for themselves and he's strong on all levels, even on 1-meter, where he finished fourth at senior nationals," Soldati said. "He had a good freshman year, but it was hard for him as he made the transition up from the club level while dealing with a sore back as well as the academic demands of Purdue. But it was good to see him make the right adjustments to deal with these trials and I think we've developed a very effective relationship."
Rewriting The Record Books
Soldati's divers continued to rewrite the Purdue record books in just his third season at the helm. Colturi stamped his name at the top of the varsity record lists for 3-meter and platform in addition to recording the third-highest 1-meter score with 363.85 points. The only two performers ahead of Colturi on 1-meter are Schultz, who totaled 377.45 points in 2007, and Steve LoBue, who posted 369.85 points.
All three of Colturi's scores also served as freshman records, but those will certainly be challenged upon Boudia's arrival this October.
Although Purdue men's diving's been around since the first half of the 20th century, only three individuals not coached by Soldati still have their names ranked among the school's top-10 performers. Frank Latt's score of 332.55 on 1-meter from 1992 still holds up as the sixth best score in that event and Bill Smith, who competed in the 1970's, currently claims the ninth-best score with 315.55 points.
Mark Virts, who would have been on the U.S. Olympic team if not for the boycott of the 1980 Moscow games, has the eighth-best score on 3-meter with 340.45 points.
The women's side of the record book is also innundated with performers coached and trained by Soldati, with Karnes, Cook, Katie Berg, Emily Wetzel and Emily Griesemer all adding their names to the top 10 during the 2007-08 season.
No varsity records fell on the women's side in 2007-08, but Karnes was able to post the school's third-highest score on both 1- and 3-meter (317.45; 364.55), and Cook cracked the top 10 on 3-meter in addition to being the No. 3 on platform with 311.00 points.
Berg, Wetzel and Griesemer's names are all listed among the school 's top 10-meter divers at the No. 5, 7 and 10 positions.
Competitiveness of Men's and Women's Teams
2008-09 should mark the beginning of the most competitive era in Purdue diving history.
On the men's side, Colturi has three more years remaining as do redshirts Cox and Perez. Cox, a former Big Ten Freshman of the Year, missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury, but appears fully recovered as evidenced by his 396.65 point semifinal performance off 10-meter at senior nationals.
Cox made it to NCAA's as a freshman in 2007 and left with honorable mention All-America titles for 3-meter and platform.
"Danny was the man his freshman year," Soldati said. "And now that he's got his shoulder back to where it should be we've been adding some bigger dives to his platform list, which should allow him to consistently score above 400 points or even get up to an elite level of 500 points."
Perez also was dominant during his freshman campaign of 2007, scoring as much as 368.15 points on 3-meter and 351.45 on platform. After missing all of last season, Soldati believes Perez has put in the work required to score over 400 points on tower and become a contender for Big Ten and NCAA titles.
The team's elder statesman, Zach Schultz, is about to enter his final season as a Boilermaker. The redshirt senior and Chicago native has had a career marked by significant ups and downs, but Soldati believes he'll be coming in fired up this season to see what he can accomplish against his younger teammates.
"This is a great group of guys because they're always helping yet competing against one another in practice, and that's made it easier for us to create that championship environment we all desire," Soldati said. "We're a unified family."
Schultz missed the first half of last season, but came back strong during winter semester, winning the 1-meter title at Miami University and scoring off all three boards at Big Ten's. He came as close as one could get to NCAA's without being invited, as he earned a pair of fourth-place showings on springboard and took eighth on 10-meter.
Kyle Mitrione, who has two years of eligibility left, has always been that one diver who's been able to coast under the radar even though he's won quite a few events and is always a threat to score high points at Big Ten's.
Last year, Mitrione won four titles on 3-meter as well as the tower competition at the Purdue Invitational. He went on to have a solid Big Ten meet, finishing among the top-nine in each event, but did not make it to Zones or NCAA's due to an injury.
Soldati said injuries the last two seasons have caused him and Mitrione to always be playing catch up, but now is the right time to have that breakthough year.
"Kyle had a good showing at senior nationals in both 1-and 10-meter," Soldati said. "He's learning new dives on platform, and I thnk as long as we continue to bump him up, he's going to reach those higher goals he has set for himself and just experience a tremendous rate of success."
Based on their high-level performances during last year's postseason Karnes and Cook appear to be the headline acts for the women's diving program, but they'll be pushed by senior Emily Wetzel, junior Emily Griesemer and newcomers Ashley Beal and Casey Matthews.
Beal scored a handful of points at senior nationals after placing 13th with 239.25 points on 3-meter while Matthews and men's team recruit Jimmy Page made it as far as the senior national qualifying round.
Wetzel was an NCAA qualifier two years ago thanks to an inspired performance at Zones, and last year chipped in 23 points for Purdue at Big Ten's and secured a number of top-three finishes during the regular season. Wetzel's shoulder has been an issue so she gave it a rest this summer with the exception of some training.
Griesemer's status is up in the air for now as Soldati contemplates whether or not to redshirt her after undergoing shoulder surgery. In her first full year as a Boilermaker after transferring from Auburn, Griesemer posted 14 points at Big Ten's and was second on 3-meter at the conference quadrangular and vs. Northwestern and Texas A&M.