June 18, 2012
AUBURN, Ala. - One of the most decorated women's divers in Auburn history will compete in her final national meet this week as recent graduate Vennie Dantin will travel to Federal Way, Wash., for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials.
Dantin will compete in both the 3-meter and platform events; the 3-meter preliminaries get underway Tuesday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. It will be the same site where the Auburn men competed at the NCAA Championships in March.
"There's a lot of excitement for me," Dantin said. "As always, just as with all my other meets, it's about focusing on the basics and the corrections and just really having fun at this meet. It's my last one, so I just want to enjoy every single part of it."
The native of Conroe, Texas, said she plans to retire from competitive diving after the conclusion of this meet - unless, of course, she qualifies for the U.S. Olympic Team. And her coach, Jeff Shaffer, does not discount the possibility.
"We're not going as just a participant," Shaffer said. "She did a list on tower (last week) that, if we put it in every round of the meet, she's not just a competitor. She's a contender. Anything can happen at the Olympic Trials. I look forward to her having a great competition, and she has the potential to be in the finals on both 3-meter and tower. Most people that are competing at the trials are really specializing in one event. We're pushing a little harder on tower than springboard, but she's still a very good springboard diver."
Dantin, who graduated in May with a degree in exercise science, qualified for the Trials by advancing to the finals on both 3-meter and platform at the 2011 USA Diving National Championships. It will be the second trip to the Trials for the seven-time All-American and two-time SEC Champion. In 2008, prior to beginning her Auburn career, she advanced to the platform finals, finishing 11th at the meet in Indianapolis. She believes that experience four years ago will provide her with confidence for this week's competition.
"I think just having a little bit of understanding of what the meet may be about will be helpful," she said. "Also, having the college experience with SECs and NCAAs...those environments were very similar to the last Trials, so I'm hoping that all those put together will make it a little comforting this year."
Shaffer agrees, saying that Dantin is ready for whatever comes her way.
"Mentally, she's right where she needs to be," Shaffer said. "The same goes for her diving. She's made such tremendous strides in her competitiveness over the last four years. And what great timing for her to finish her NCAA eligibility, graduate, and then culminate her career in being able to participate in the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials.
"The way the format is set up, the most consistent diver is going to be first or second and make the U.S. Olympic Team. There's really not any pressure on her in the fact that she's not a favorite to make the team. She can just go there and focus on what we've learned over the last four years. Be consistent and control what you can do. If she does that, she can walk away from the Trials with a great experience."
The top 18 individuals from each preliminary will advance to the semifinals, and the top 12 will advance to the finals. Scores will be cumulative across three rounds, and the top two divers in each event will head to London for the 2012 Olympics.
Dantin will be the first current Auburn women's diver to compete at an Olympic Trials since Ashley Rubenstein finished sixth in the 3-meter event at the 2004 Trials. Shaffer said that Dantin and Rubenstein were two great examples of divers that had prospered in the Auburn program.
"Ashley came to Auburn as a one-time junior nationals qualifier, and four years later she's a U.S. national champion and NCAA All-American," Shaffer said. "Vennie has competed very well over her four years. This year was outstanding, but each year she was here, she got a little bit better."
Also competing this week will be incoming freshman Justin Youtsey. The Auburn signee from Fort Mitchell, Ky., will compete in the synchronized 3-meter event along with Missouri signee Clark Thomas. That event gets underway Monday.
"He's very talented," Shaffer said. "We have a very promising group of freshmen that we've signed. The majority of them will start classes (this week) and get going on their career."
The 2012 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials got underway Sunday, but Dantin's first event, the 3-meter preliminary, is set for a noon CT start. Women's platform preliminaries will get underway Wednesday afternoon following the conclusion of the men's 3-meter preliminaries. NBC will provide five hours of live coverage of the finals on Saturday and Sunday, and NBC Sports Network will have nine hours of live and tape-delayed coverage beginning Tuesday. Because of NBC's broadcast rights and access guidelines, no live scoring will be available, but results will be posted on divemeets.com at the end of each day.