The X Factor: Zone Diving

By Jason Marsteller

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 21. WITH NCAA Division I Championships soon upon us, took a peek at the often-overlooked weekend that can become a major factor during the championship season – Zone Diving Qualifying. These meets will take place the first weekend in March to pick the divers that will head to NCAAs.

For those that might not understand the set-up, divers must qualify through a separate meet instead of just meeting a set standard like swimmers. Since diving is subjectively scored, these zone meets drastically reduce the impact that any given set of diving coaches scoring diving at dual meets can have on the NCAA meet by forcing zone-cut divers to compete against each other regionally.

Based on the NCAA Championship Handbook, the following zone spots have been allocated to advance divers to NCAAs

Northeast Region (A) – 4 men/4 women
South Region (B) – 8/11
Central Region (C) – 7/9
Midwest Region (D) – 7/7
West Region (E) – 9/10

In the men's meet, the West Region, with divers primarily coming from the Pacific 10, the Mountain West and the Western Athletic Conference, has an advantage. Meanwhile, divers from the South Region – mostly the SEC – along with the West Region will have a much larger contingent for the women.

One might ask how these spots are awarded.

They are based on a rich get richer and the poor get poorer set up where zone divers earn more spots for their zone based on last year's success.

The following order of priority is used to determine who advances through zone qualifying to the NCAA Championships based on the allotted spots per zone:

1. Winner of Platform
2. Winner of Three-meter
3. Winner of One-meter
4. Second-place Three-meter
5. Second-place One-meter
6. Third-place Three-meter
7. Third-place One-meter
8. Second-place Platform
9. Fourth-place Three-meter
10. Fourth-place One-meter
11. Fifth-place Three-meter
12. Third-place Platform
13. Fifth-place One-meter
14. Sixth-place Three-meter
15. Sixth-place One-meter
16. Fourth-place Platform
17. Seventh-place Three-meter
18. Seventh-place One-meter
19. Eighth-place Three-meter
20. Fifth-place Platform
21. Eighth-place One-meter
22. Ninth-place Three-meter
23. Ninth-place One-meter
24. Sixth-place Platform
25. 10th-place Three-meter
26. 10th-place One-meter
27. 11th-place Three-meter
28. Seventh-place Platform
29. 11th-place One-meter
30. 12th-place Three-meter
31. 12th-place One-meter

Where things get a bit tricky is when someone doubles or triples up priority spots. The previous system of handling doubles during a four-year experiment that ended this past year confused a lot of people. Luckily, diving coaches across the country decided to return to the much simpler system which began in 1995.

Under this system, whenever a diver earns a priority spot, the rest of their performances from the weekend are skipped over to the next priority spot.

Simply put, if you have an allotment of eight divers in your zone, then you go down the priority listing until you have eight different divers.

For those chart junkies, here is a grid format of the above information that is presented in the NCAA Championship Handbook

Event Finish, One-Meter, Three-Meter, Platform
1, 3, 2, 1
2, 5, 4, 8
3, 7, 6, 12
4, 10, 9, 16
5, 13, 11, 20
6, 15, 14, 24
7, 18, 17, 28
8, 21, 19
9, 23, 22
10, 26, 25
11, 29, 27
12, 31, 30

Special thanks to Wayne Burrow of the NCAA, Michele Mitchell of the University of Arizona and Mike Brown of the University of Hawaii for taking time out to help explain the selection process.