Hope College diver Jean Luc Miralda feels well-prepared for his first trip to the NCAA Division III Championships this week.
The senior from Tegucigalpa, Honduras (American HS) heads to Woodlands, Texas after being one of seven qualifiers out of his regional last month in Grand Rapids. That's one region accounting for nearly a third of the 24 national qualifiers.
Competition for men's diving begins on Thursday with the 1-meter event. One-meter diving is the last event for a morning session that begins at 10 a.m. Central. The evening's finals start at 6 p.m. Central.
On Saturday, Miralda will do 3-meter diving that is the last event in a morning session that starts at 10 a.m. Central. The evening's finals start at 6 p.m. Central.
"I think we have the most competitive region in Division III, full of outstanding athletes that in my opinion could even surpass those in Division II," Miralda said. "I think prepping for such a competitive level brought out my best efforts. I do have to say that I usually do not think much about who else I am diving against but how I am doing against myself. We prepared our best dives and prepared for a mentally exhausting competition and all the efforts paid off.
"I think that my teammates made it all worth it though. Every year I feel really stressed at this time, but we with such a great group of diver that kept me loose there was nothing I could do but enjoy it."
Diving coach Zack Golin said the regional diving competition recently has been almost as competitive, if not more competitive, than the national meet.
"The men from our zone who have moved onto the national meet have consistently scored in the top several spots for the last five, six years," Golin said. "Jean Luc has competed at the regional meet all four years, so he's competed against the best divers in Division III since he was a freshman. Jean knows the level of diving he can expect to see at nationals and, if anything, I think the pressure will be much less at the national meet than it was at regionals.
Miralda has a legitimate chance to be an All-American on the 3-meter board with a top-eight finish and an honorable-mention All-American on the 1-meter board, Golin said.
"Consistency has always been Jean Luc's biggest strength," Golin said. "The focus will be to keep that consistency, but to also focus on two to three dives that he knows he can nail for some huge points."
Qualifying for nationals is the last of three goals Miralda set for himself when he came to Hope.
"I could only imagine ever getting this far. At the beginning of my freshmen year I posted three goals in the back of my locker at hope: a) Break the school records, b) Win a title in any board in the MIAA and c) Qualify for nationals," Miralda said. "Above those I wrote really what keeps being my day-to-day motivation. "I dive to give hope to my coach, my parents and my country. To show all those who never believed in my work, efforts and sacrifices that: it is possible to achieve success if you just put your mind to it".
"Four years later, I can finally say I have achieved my goals. it still is a very surreal moment and I can only thank all of those who have believed in me and stuck with me for all these years. It's been a long and rough journey but we realize that it is possible and I am just beyond excited to be there and be in the position that I am in."