Cal women’s diving had its diving debut over the weekend at the USC diving invitational. Both the men’s and the women’s program each sent one diver to compete for the Bears. Although this program has been a point of weakness for Cal’s aquatics sports, this weekend fans caught a glimpse of what is yet to come under the new leadership of head diving coach Pei Lin.
There were a total of five top-10 dives combined from the Cal diving team. The senior and veteran diver for the Cal diving program, Cassie Graham, did not compete at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, but her teammate Danielle Killeen was the representative for the Bears. The sophomore started off the weekend in the three-meter competition Friday. In the preliminary round, she placed 12th overall with a score of 191.20. Later that day in the finals, she finished with a score of 176.70. Tallied up, Killeen entered day two of the invitational with an overall score of 367.90, placing her 13th overall.
Saturday events featured women’s platforms where sophomore Killeen competed in this event for the very first time in her collegiate career. During prelims, she achieved an opening score of 158.00, which placed her 11th. In the finals, however, she climbed up the rankings, executing a dive with a score of 166.45. Combining her performance for the day, Killeen concluded Saturday with an overall score of 324.45, which moved her up into ninth place.
When the final day of events was upon the Bears, they aimed to keep the momentum going of securing those top-10 finishes. Killeen answered the call with a season-best score of 218.90 in the preliminary round of the one-meter dive. In the last round of finals for the weekend, she dove ahead with a score of 214.70, placing 10th in the one-meter with an overall score of 433.60.
Showing improvement and adjustment as the weekend progressed, fans wonder if this is what Cal diving has set the stage for the rest of its season. Historically, Cal swimming has had a reputation of such tenacity and accolades with multiple Olympic athletes on both the men’s and women’s side. The diving program, however, has yet to see success like the swim teams and even its Pac-12 swimming competitors have with their dive programs.
USC won seven out of a total eight events over the weekend, as its diving programs strengthens with each passing year led by coach Hongping Li. Li is entering his 23rd year coaching at USC and with such time, he has shown success every year. The Bears are facing somewhat of a transition period now with new coach Lin.
She began coaching as an assistant coach at Ohio State University in 2019. Within two years, she mentored three Big Ten champions with six of her divers qualifying for the NCAA championships. Lin most recently came from her position as head coach at the University of South Dakota for the 2021-22 season. Cal divers and fans can only hope to share a sprinkle of the success Lin has already acquired as she develops this young program.
The Bears have a short break until they dive back into the pool on Wednesday, Nov. 30 when the entire Cal swimming program will compete in the Minnesota Invitational hosted by Minnesota at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center in Minneapolis, MN. This four-day meet will grant Cal swimmers and divers the opportunity to post championship-qualifying times as regular season meets become scarce.