WOMEN’S DIVING: Diver wins championship

Bring out the paintbrushes.

With a score of 362.60, sophomore Brittany Viola became the third Miami women’s diver to win an NCAA Championship Saturday evening at the 2008 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships at Ohio State University’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.

“I got out of the water and looked up to see my name go to the top and then looked at coach and my family,” Viola said. “Getting the title was huge and just great because I worked so hard this year. I put my heart into it and had a goal in mind since September.”

In accordance with Hurricanes tradition, Viola’s face will be painted on the wall of the UC’s pool deck. Her image will join those of divers like Wendy Williams and Greg Louganis.

Her winning score was the highest since 2005 when Indiana’s Cassandra Cardinell received a mark of 501.45.

After a seventh place finish in the one-meter finals Thursday and 37th in the three-meter finals Friday, which caused her to miss the cut in the event, Viola set her sights on her strongest event: the 10-meter platform.

Viola finished 15.40 points better than Stanford freshman Margaret Hostage, who saved her best dive, an 81.60, for last, though it wasn’t enough and brought her total count to 347.20. Hostage never scored below a 60 on any of her dives.

Opening the finals with a 63, Viola came back to score an 86.40, the highest of the night, and 81.60 in successive dives. Her fourth dive – her lowest at 58 – didn’t stop her as she ended with a solid 73.60 to secure the title. Viola came in first in the preliminary round as well.

She first earned All-American status last year as a freshman with her sixth place finish at the 2007 platform finals and she earned it again Thursday by placing seventh in the one-meter springboard.

On Monday it was announced that Viola earned NCAA Diver of the Year honors along with Ohio State junior Chelsea Davis and Hawaii sophomore Emma Friesen.

Viola’s victory gives Miami its 25th diving title in the school’s history. The last female championship came in 2000, when Jenny Keim won in the same event. Keim also won the three-meter springboard title in 1999. Olympic medalist Wendy Williams’ victory in the 1999 platform event was the first of now four championships on the women’s side.

“We were both ecstatic because it was one of our goals,” head coach Randy Ableman said. “She works so hard. In my mind she’s the best girl in the country at the 10-meter platform and she came through in the clutch. She did everything right.”

Christina De Nicola may be contacted at c.denicola@umiami.edu.