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Nine Arizona Wildcats dive into invite

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Sam Pickens dives against UNLV on Oct. 25 at home.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics Sam Pickens dives against UNLV on Oct. 25 at home.

The Arizona diving teams enter their first non-dual meet of the season as they host the Arizona Diving Invitational at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center this Friday through Sunday.

Arizona has entered nine swimmers in the invitational, including NCAA champion in the 1-meter dive and senior Samantha Pickens.

“[The NCAA Championship win] has given me a lot more confidence in myself, but I have also learned that after it, you have to move on and forget about it,” Pickens said. “I’ve been learning a lot of new things this year, and it’s still just another meet.”

Pickens said she is looking forward to competing at the invitational this year after being unable to last season due to a back injury.

This is Arizona’s first diving competition with more than one other them. The meet will host 11 other teams, with 57 total competitors registered as of Tuesday.

“There are usually only three or so other divers aside from our team,” said Arizona head diving coach Omar Ojeda. “There are about 45 girls total competing this weekend, so that’s the biggest difference.”

Pac-12 schools like USC and UCLA, in addition to BYU, UNLV and Wyoming, are among the universities represented in this weekend’s contest.

“Because there are going to be a lot of people there, it will give everyone an opportunity to step up their game a little and show what we are doing and what we’ve been working on,” Pickens said.

Joining Pickens this weekend are junior Isabel Diamond, freshman Sally Hackett, sophomore Karolyn Loftus and freshman Michal Bower.

The UA men’s team will be represented by sophomore Rafael Quintero, sophomore Dominic Ricotta, senior Sean Clark and junior Carter Craft.

Quintero, who won the platform event at the Arizona Diving Invitational last year, has not been as pleased with his performance this year.

“I’m still working to be back to where I was last year,” Quintero said. “I’m not quite as confident as I was last year.”

In his last competition, Quintero edged out USC diver Collin Pollard in both the 1m and 3m dives at the UA-USC dual meet on Nov. 9. Pollard will be in attendance this weekend and is competing in all three diving events with Quintero.

While Quintero may not be as confident in his abilities for the weekend, he said he has tremendous faith in his teammate Ricotta’s ability to help carry the team.

“Dom is doing great right now,” Quintero said. “He is improving his degree of difficulty on every single board and doing new dives, so hopefully we will do really well this meet.”

Ojeda said that all the divers are where they should be, and that they are on track for great performances this weekend and as the Wildcats head into the USA Diving Nationals in December and conference in March.

The Arizona Diving Invitational starts on Friday at noon with the women’s 3m and men’s 1m dives. It continues Saturday at noon with the women’s 1m and men’s 3m dives and wraps up Sunday with the men’s and women’s platform events starting at 11 a.m.

—Follow Nicole Cousins @cousinnicole

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