BLOOMINGTON, Ind, March 14. NOTRE Dame senior Meghan Perry-Eaton (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale H.S.) took first place in the one-meter competition in the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships Friday afternoon to assure herself a return trip to the NCAA Championships, slated for March 18-20 in College Station, Texas. An honorable mention All-American a year ago after finishing ninth in the NCAAs, she is the first Notre Dame diver ever to win an event in the NCAA zone meet. Perry-Eaton has been defeated only once all season in one-meter diving.
The Irish senior was first among 35 competitors in the preliminaries with a six-dive score of 274.65. The second-best prelim tally was 268.20, turned in by Big Ten Diver of the Year Carrie McCambridge of Purdue. Perry-Eaton then delivered a score of 289.65 in her second six dives for a total of 564.30 points. McCambridge had a 262.35 in the finals to finish with 530.55, but Michigan's Tealin Keleman, the only diver to defeat Perry-Eaton in any competition this season, posted a score of 276.60 in the finals to finish second with 535.35 points.
Perry-Eaton, Keleman, McCambridge, and Indiana's Lindsay Weigle, who was fourth with 523 points, guaranteed themselves berths in the NCAA Championships, while seven other divers from zone C will qualify over the next two days — the top five finishers in Saturday's three-meter competition and the top two in Sunday's platform diving. A total of 35 divers earn berths to the NCAA meet, all through performances in the five zone diving championships.
Perry-Eaton joins freshman Katie Carroll (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy) as Notre Dame's qualifiers for this year's NCAA Championships. Carroll, the BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Swimmer, will compete in the 100-yard freestyle, the 200 individual medley, and the 400 IM.
To date, Perry-Eaton is undefeated in three-meter diving in 2003-04, having topped 11 different teams in dual-meet competition and taken first place in the Texas A&M Invitational, Notre Dame Invitational, Michigan Invitational, and BIG EAST Championships. Perry-Eaton has been beaten just once off the lower board. At the Michigan Invitational, Keleman took first place, 8.10 points ahead of the Irish senior. Perry-Eaton got a measure of revenge a few weeks later, defeating Keleman in dual-meet action in the Rolfs Aquatic Center.
Perry-Eaton was named the BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Diver for the second consecutive year after sweeping the diving competitions. She held comfortable margins of victory in both events, defeating Miami's Emily Spychala by 49.25 points in the three-meter competition and by 41.80 points off the one-meter board. Also the 2003 champion off the one-meter board, she is the only non-University of Miami diver since 1996 to win an event in the BIG EAST meet. She also has a pair of runner-up finishes ('02 in 1-meter and '03 in 3-meter) and a fourth at the conference meet.
Perry-Eaton holds three of the four diving school records, while the last – 10 dives off the one-meter board – is not used in competition any longer, eliminating her chance of breaking Heather Mattingly's record. Perry-Eaton broke her own school record in six dives off the three-meter board with a score of 335.85 in the Michigan Invitational. Perry-Eaton also holds the Irish records for 11 dives off the three-meter board (586.43) and for six dives in one-meter competition (331.58), as well as the Rolfs Aquatic Center records for six dives off both boards (322.64 in 1m, 333.82 in 3m).
The Notre Dame senior, who could apply for a fifth year of eligibility after competing in just two events as a freshman, finished 20th in the NCAA Championships in three-meter diving a year ago.
Prior to Friday, the best finishes by an Irish diver in the NCAA Zone Diving Championships were runner-up results by Mattingly in 1999 and 2002 off the three-meter board. The top Notre Dame performances in one-meter diving were third places by Mattingly in '99 and Perry-Eaton a year ago.