Kings Point, NY. February, 1. DESPITE a career riddled with injuries and set backs, Mariner diving captain Marlaina Pippin looks to make her impact on Nationals this year.
The senior diver from Huntsville, AL, qualified for the second phase of Diving Nationals at the Mariner vs. Mount Saint Mary swimming and diving meet on Jan. 27, with a score of 248.85 on the 1-meter board.
Last week against Hunter College, Pippin qualified for the first phase of competition, with an Academy record breaking score of a 252.30. During this weekend's meet at New York University, she broke another Academy record on the 3-meter board with a score of 250.57. Both records were previously set by Michelle Wysocki in 1994.
"NYU has some really good divers who are regular NCAA qualifiers," said Pippin. "I have high hopes to qualify, for now I am going to get as much sleep as I can."
Her trip to National qualification is not yet over. In order to completely qualify for the NCAA diving nationals, held at the University of Minnesota on March 9 -11, she must pass the third and final phase of qualification, which includes submitting a video tape of her qualifying performances to be judged by a review panel.
Last season, the Mariner swimming and diving team, coached by Sean Tedesco, had five national qualifiers. Pippin is the second Mariner woman to qualify in two years, joining Robyn Jimenez, a sophomore breaststroker.
For Pippin, this was her first year of real competitive diving at Kings Point. Due to injuries and the sea-year requirement, she could not really focus on her diving until this season.
As a freshman, Pippin suffered a knee injury, which kept her off the boards for her sophomore season.
Her bad luck persisted last year, when she punctured the bone under her eye socket doing a front 2 ½ off the 3-meter board. As the result of the injury, Pippin was not able to dive for six weeks and missed the end of the season. The first time she attempted the dive again was at the Metropolitan Championships last February.
Due to the Academy's sea year requirement, Pippin was away from the pool for eight months. When she returned from sea, she had to focus on getting her confidence back to make the jump off the high dive.
This season Pippin has found that focused and is ready to dive her way to Minnesota.
"It is much easier for me this year to train because I didn't have eight months off for the sea semester," remarked Pippin.
"This last year I've enjoyed her work ethics, leadership and desire to succeed and deal with anything I've thrown at her as a challenge," said Mariner diving coach Kevin Ryan.
Taking deep breaths before each dive, Pippin calms her nerves by doing the dive first on the ground to prepare mentally.
"We are getting her dives to look as good as she does on a regular basis," said Ryan. "She's a great team leader and at times she is beginning to sound like me."
Only three female divers from Kings Point have ever made it to Nationals. Coach Ryan expects Pippin to do the best of all the divers in Kings Point history.
Ryan's goal for Pippin is for her to make it to the top-16 at Nationals or make All-American.
USMMA has two All-American Certificates in women's diving, Jackie Miller, earned both as All-American in the 1-meter and 3-meter boards in 1989.
After being a competitive level-7 gymnast and high school cheerleader, Pippin began to dive competitively in the summer for the Jones Valley Pool. In 2000, she acted as assistant diving coach for the same pool club. Pippin chose the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy for its career opportunities post-grad and the sea year requirement. She was not recruited to dive for the school and didn't become serious about diving until she got to the Academy.
A graduate of Grissom High School, Pippin is studying Logistics and Intermodal Transportation at the Academy.