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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Grado spotlights wildcat dive team

Colin+Prenger+%2F+Daily+Wildcat%0ABen+Grado+at+the+Wildcat+Dive+Invite+at+the+Hillenbrand+Aquatic+Center+Saturday%2C+Nov.+19.+Grado+took+first+in+the+finals+on+the+last+day.+
Colin Prenger / Daily Wildcat
Colin Prenger / Daily Wildcat Ben Grado at the Wildcat Dive Invite at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center Saturday, Nov. 19. Grado took first in the finals on the last day.

As a member of the Arizona diving team, senior Ben Grado knows by now that there is not a lot of attention given to him, nor to the rest of the dive team.

The diving platform is hidden behind the main competition pool, a metaphor to where the dive team is seen in relation to the successful swim program.

Grado is out to change that with his successful start to this season.

He has been on the Arizona dive team since 2008, and has always been competitive, being named an All-American in 2010 and also qualifying for Olympic trials during the summer of 2011. According to former dive coach Michele Mitchell, his success has not come from what he’s doing on the deck.

“Ben’s at the best level of fitness that he’s ever been in,” Mitchell said. “He’s stronger, quicker and lighter. Matching that with his confidence, it’s a recipe for success.”

It’s still early in the season, but Grado has been making a name for himself. Through five events, he has lost only once — the 3-meter dive — but remains undefeated in both the 1-meter dive and tower dive. Grado hopes to use his success as a tool to garner more attention for not only his sport, but the dive team specifically.

“It’s kind of hard because the swim team is very good, so if any recognition is given to our sport, it’s going to go to the swimming end,” Grado said. “I’m hoping that with not only my success, but on the girls’ end as well, we’ll be able to get more attention and people will start to realize that there are two teams instead of just one primary team.”

New diving coach Omar Ojeda says that Grado, “a natural leader,” can use his success in another way: to help the rest of a young team, one that includes just three seniors.

“The best thing about having him on the team is when we’re at NCAAs competing for championships, the swim team can look over and rely on Ben’s ability to get us points and help us win,” Mitchell said. “He gives rest of team something to shoot for. You know you have firepower. He’s a role model for younger teammates.”

That firepower will be on display next at the USA Diving Nationals on Dec. 19 in Knoxville, Tenn. Despite having already qualified for NCAA Championships as well as Olympic Trials, Grado still has his goals set high for this meet, and the rest of the season.

“My goal is pretty much being top three at Nationals, Pac-12 top three and then getting top two for NCAAs,” Grado said. “I definitely want to finish strong, and hopefully make into all top three’s or top eight’s at every event.”

In order to accomplish those goals, Grado knows he must work harder than ever, harder than when he was named All-American, and harder than when he earned the right to compete at the Olympic Trials.

The only thing missing from Grado’s illustrious career is a national championship.

“I wake up every day and want to go to practice, and want to put out my full effort at every practice,” Grado said. “I’ll go in for extra time if I need to. All those things together will create success for me and for us.”

Grado’s confidence is apparent not only when talking to him, but also when talking to his coaches.

“Ben proved himself last summer, that he was to be considered a force to be reckoned with,” Mitchell said. “He has nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

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