After making a splash at the U.S. Diving Winter Nationals in December, Purdue sophomores Jordan Rzepka and Sophie McAfee are ready for the transition to Big Ten events.

“The college season is always super fun,” Rzepka said. “There’s more on the line than just yourself. You are competing for the whole university.”

Unlike some other sports, a year for a Purdue diving athlete contains both team and individual competitions. Typically, the fall is filled with standard dual meets focused on getting practice and getting comfortable with competing.

Winter and spring bring the collegiate season, with dual meets and the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. The USA Diving season, however, lasts 11 months per year and typically contains the more significant ticket events for an athlete, like the National and World Championships.

To begin the college season, the fall is focused on refining technique and getting reps in.

“At the beginning of the season, we did a lot of dryland just to hone in on the basics, so it was a balance between mimicking the dives in the water and on land,” McAfee said.

With all of the intense repetition, the athletes need to make sure they take care of their health.

“We have to count the number of reps we do (and) impacts we do each week to make sure our bodies are feeling good, and we don’t overdo it,” Rzepka said.

However, the type of dives used in college-level competitions, six for men and five for women, don’t need to be relearned by the divers; they’re already in their repertoire and the same season to season.

“I’ve been diving for almost 13 years, and I’ve been doing the dives I compete now for almost five years,” McAfee said. “That’s really helpful when you’re doing them over and over again. It just becomes muscle memory up there.”

Many of these athletes have been competing in USA Diving events since high school, so college competitions are usually a new environment with the added pressure of representing your school.

As sophomores, both Rzepka and McAfee said their first year in college took some getting used to.

“Collegiate athletics is much more difficult in a good way, and so a year of college under my belt has really helped me and given me more confidence,” McAfee said.

Even this year, Winter Nationals in December was accompanied by more stress than just regular competition: semester finals.

“Every year since high school, Winter Nationals has been during my finals week,” McAfee said. “My professors have been very accommodating though, so I appreciate them.”

Overall though, both divers agree the Big Ten competitions are an exciting atmosphere.

“The environment for the collegiate side is different than the USA events because you have swimmers there who are cheering you on,” Rzepka said. “It doesn’t seem as serious even though it is, they lighten the mood, while at USA events it’s just you in your zone.

“The amount of support you have from your teammates and other swimmers is awesome, it just makes the room light up.”

Rezpka, McAfee and the rest of Purdue Swimming and Diving are set to compete Jan. 21 in a dual meet against Indiana University at the Morgan J. Burke Aquatic Center.

Recommended for you