WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, May 20. PURDUE divers put together the best season in program history during the 2008-09 campaign, which saw the Boilermakers bring two NCAA titles, two US crowns, five Big Ten championships and 11 All-America certificates back to West Lafayette.
"It was really an unbelievable season," head diving coach Adam Soldati said. "I would say it surpassed expectations. We had expectations for certain individual divers to accomplish certain things and with many divers we reached expectations, but as a program we exceeded expectations and it was a great season."
Soldati was not the only person impressed with the Purdue divers this season, as evidenced by the plethora of awards that came rolling in. Freshman David Boudia brought home the biggest haul. The Noblesville, Ind., native was named NCAA Diver of the Year, Big Ten Diver of the Year, Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Diver of the Championships. He also was named Big Ten Diver of the Week seven times during the season, which broke the previous single-season conference record of five. In addition to Boudia's accolades, junior Ashley Karnes was awarded co-Big Ten Diver of the Championships and named Big Ten Diver of the Week once during the season. Freshmen Ashley Beal and Casey Matthews also each brought home one Big Ten Diver of the Week honor.
"These awards recognize where we've wanted to be for four years," Soldati said. "(Volunteer diving coach) Kimiko (Soldati) and I have worked hard since we got here to create this kind of environment and to recruit these kinds of athletes. It's a testament to recruiting. It's a testament to our whole athletic department with everything they've done to support diving and our swimming coaches to put us in a position where we can recruit and train kids at that level."
In what surely was a runaway vote given the athlete recognitions, Soldati was awarded as well. His trophy haul began at the women's conference championships, where he was voted Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year. The next week, the men's coaches voted the same way and he was again named the conference's best diving coach. His final trophy of the season was awarded in March when he was named men's NCAA Diving Coach of the Year. After the collegiate season, Soldati also was selected as Team USA's coach for the USA Grand Prix after his Purdue divers won the overall team title at the USA Diving Spring National Championships.
"It's a great honor to be recognized by your peers," Soldati said. "It's great for our program. It's great to be recognized like that and have some of those accolades when you are out recruiting, but overall those awards aren't what we strive for. We strive for each diver that comes through here to reach their greatest potential. I think when you create the environment for that to happen, awards and accolades come. They're a great honor, and we are blessed to be awarded with them."
Boudia made an immediate impact in his first season of collegiate diving. The Beijing Olympian continued to excel and wrapped up the collegiate schedule by becoming the first diving national champion in school history. Boudia won the 3-meter and platform titles at the NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas, with Texas A&M Student Recreation Center Natatorium records of 493.10 and 530.45, respectively, and finished second from the 1-meter. Boudia swept all three boards with conference-record performances at the Big Ten Championships in front of the home crowd. His 446.65-point score off the 1-meter and 533.60-point effort from the platform also stand as Doris Z. Holloway Pool records and Purdue school records. Boudia also broke the 3-meter facility and school records with his score of 495.30 during a dual with Eastern Michigan in November.
Sophomore David Colturi also was responsible for bringing multiple titles to the Purdue program. The Sylvania, Ohio, native won the platform and then teamed with Ohio State sophomore Sean Moore to take the synchronized platform at the USA Diving Spring National Championships. Colturi was an outstanding performer during the collegiate season, which saw him earn his second All-America honor from the platform and second honorable-mention All-America acclaim from the 1-meter. The school record holder from all three boards entering the season, Colturi improved his score from each and currently is second on Purdue's all-time performance lists. At the Big Ten Championships, Colturi placed third on the 1-meter and platform and fourth from the 3-meter before he won the 1-meter at the NCAA Zone C Championships to clinch his trip to the national championship meet.
Karnes and senior Emily Wetzel gave Purdue two more conference titles after topping the fields of the 1-meter and platform, respectively, at the Big Ten Championships. Karnes broke two school records while at the conference meet and was honored, along with 2008 Beijing Olympian Christina Loukas of Indiana, as co-Big Ten Diver of the Championships. Karnes won the 1-meter with her school-record score of 341.55 points one day before finishing second from the 3-meter with another school-record score of 385.35. On the final day of competition, Wetzel claimed her first conference crown and the second straight platform title for Purdue. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native topped the field with a score of 293.90.
Karnes and Wetzel were joined by Matthews at the NCAA Championships, where all three earned All-America certificates. Karnes took All-America honors from the 1-meter, while Wetzel and Matthews dove to honorable-mention acclaim from the lowest springboard. Karnes also claimed All-America honors the next day off the 3-meter, and Wetzel earned her second consecutive honorable-mention honor.
At the men's national championship meet, junior Kyle Mitrione joined the All-America fraternity with his 15th-place showing off the platform. Mitrione scored from all three boards at the Big Ten Championships, including a fifth-place effort in the platform. Sophomore Danny Cox also added points to Purdue's total from all three boards at the conference championship meet. Fellow sophomore J.P. Perez added scoring from the 3-meter and platform.
On the women's side, Purdue had all four of its competitors score in at least one event at the conference championships. In addition to the titles won by Karnes and Wetzel, Matthews finished third in the 1-meter and ninth in the 3-meter and sophomore Kara Cook added eighth-place points in the platform final.
The Purdue diving all-time performance lists also underwent a huge remodeling effort during the 2008-09 season, courtesy of nine Boilermaker divers. In addition to Boudia and Colturi sitting atop all three lists on the men's side, Mitrione's score of 359.25 from the Indiana Intercollegiates placed him fifth on the 1-meter list. Cox dove to seventh on that same list with his 333.52-point effort against Notre Dame. Mitrione also moved to fourth on the school's 3-meter list by scoring 380.95 at the Big Ten Championships, and Cox used his score of 359.30 from the same meet to move to eighth. Perez led the charge behind Boudia and Colturi up the platform list with his 412.45-point effort at the Big Ten Championships, which places him fourth. He is followed directly by Cox, who scored 409.90 at the conference championship meet, and Mitrione, who shows at sixth with 402.10 points.
Behind Karnes on both the 1- and 3-meter lists sit Matthews, Wetzel and Beal. Matthews and Wetzel rank in the top-10 from all three boards, while Beal added her name to the 1- and 3-meter lists. Matthews recorded a score of 319.90 at the Big Ten Championships and moved to fourth on the 1-meter list. The Getzville, N.Y., native also scored 334.35 from the 3-meter at the conference championship meet and moved to fifth on Purdue's all-time list in that event. Her score of 250.50 from the platform at the Big Ten Dual places her 10th. Wetzel's conference-championship winning platform score of 293.20 ranks her fourth on the school's all-time list, and her 318.75 score in the 3-meter from the Big Ten Championships inked her name in seventh on that list. At the NCAA Championships, Wetzel moved to sixth on the school's 1-meter list by scoring 300.75 points. Beal, a Midland, Texas, native, used the Eastern Michigan Dual to move to seventh on the all-time 1-meter list and fourth on the 3-meter with scores of 297.98 and 349.80, respectively.
"We had an unbelievable season with a tremendous amount of accolades and recognition for a lot of hard work," Soldati said. "But, the reality of it is, we need to do it all over again. We need to get back to work, ground ourselves and have a great summer. We have a lot of meets coming up with the World Championships and US Nationals, and we have to keep getting better because everybody is going to be chasing us. They're going to be coming after us, so we can't sit on our heels. We need to keep moving forward and get better."
Boudia is slated to rejoin Beijing teammate Thomas Finchum in the synchronized platform competition and compete individually in the platform at the FINA World Championships in Rome, Italy, July 18-Aug. 2. The US Nationals are scheduled for Aug. 11-18 in Tallahassee, Fla.
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