July 28, 2014

Elyria
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Tweardy earns spot in international diving competition

MacKenzie Tweardy didn’t have much time to prepare for the World University Games trials May 20 at Florida State University.

It didn’t matter.

Tweardy and her partner, Minnesota’s Sarah McCrady, took third in the synchronized platform competition with a score of 263.43. The duo qualified for the World University Games from Saturday to July 17 in Kazan, Russia, in what will be the Purdue junior’s first international competition.

Being from different schools, it was the first time the pair had dove together. And they did it with just about a week to prepare.

“I was thrilled with our performance,” said Tweardy, an Elyria Catholic graduate. “I dove very, very well. One of the dives was relatively new to me so I wasn’t very sure about it. In prelims I didn’t hit it very well, but in finals I came back with sixes.
For having just learned that dive it was really good for me.”

The dive she had to learn was a front three-and-a-half somersault in the pike position. She had never performed the dive in competition before. But she has executed the same type of dive from the tuck position.

Tweardy wasn’t planning on competing until her junior year began in the fall. A wrist injury she suffered in 2012 had been nagging her for the better part of her freshman year and continued to flare up during her sophomore season. The doctor said to take at least 10 days off when the season ended and Tweardy was content to take it easy.

That plan lasted a week. The itch to get back to diving became too great to ignore.

Tweardy was encouraged to try and qualify for the World University Games via the synchronized competition. Her teammates and coach thought the synchronized field in Tallahassee was lighter than normal. But she needed a partner and started scouting the Big Ten standings for one who matched her style. McCrady fit the bill, but the two didn’t get to practice together until five days before they left for Florida.

“The thing about syncro is if you get two divers who can do high quality dives, the syncro portion of it isn’t that hard,” Purdue diving coach Adam Soldati said. “It’s a lot easier to take two great divers and sync them together than it is to take two great syncro divers and make them individual.

“It’s still not common for a team to come in there, compete for the first time ever and have them make that team. I think it’s a testament to their hard work and their perseverance to believe in themselves even though it was their first time together.”

Once the duo arrived in Florida, they only had three more days to practice. But the pair quickly gelled.

“We got pretty lucky that our diving styles were very similar,” Tweardy said. “It was a lot easier than a lot of syncro teams pairing together. We already had the same takeoff, techniques and mechanics while flipping in the air. We just had to figure out the timing.”

Due to summer commitments, the two haven’t had much prep time since the preliminaries.
Tweardy is working at the university’s mechanical engineering department in a research lab designing football helmets to minimize concussions. But the pair landed in Russia on July 1 and will have 10 days to smooth things out for the final on July 12.

Tweardy, like many of the other athletes, is excited to experience an Olympic-like environment. Like the Olympics, the athletes live in a village together.

“I’m not actually nervous yet,” Tweardy said. “I don’t think the nerves will hit me until I actually see the other competitors. In the USA I almost always see at least three or four divers that I know. When I go over there, I’m not going to know anyone so it will be very different for me.”

Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or at ctsports@chroniclet.com.