Final splash: Martin chasing national title

Colorado Mesa University diver Brock Martin at the CMU pool.



Colorado Mesa University diver Brock Martin at the CMU pool.



QUICKREAD

Going to Nationals

Colorado Mesa senior diver Brock Martin will be joined by six teammates at the NCAA Division II national championships March 12-15 at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

The Mavericks’ Amanda Jennings and Savannah Craft are making a return trip in women’s diving along with swimmer Briana Purkapile.

From the Mesa men’s team, swimmers Jarren Brinton, Justin Hastings and Kent Olsen-Stavrakas are making their first trip to the national meet.

“If you look at the different variety of swimmers we have going, from a sprinter to a stroke specialist to a distance swimmer, I think that does show the strength of the program and that the training works,” CMU coach Ron Allen said. “If we all score as high as they possibly could, top 20 is a realistic goal (for the men). Besides Brock, this would be the opportunity for our first true All-American swimmer. We’ve had honorable mention, but nobody in the top eight.”

Olsen-Stavrakas may have the best chance of winning a national title. He is ranked third in the 50-yard freestyle. The senior will also compete in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly.

“I wish we had (Olsen-Stavrakas) for another year,” Allen said. “He’s so raw for a senior as powerful as he is. He’s still learning right now. He’s been a pleasure to coach. He’s been like a sponge.”

Brinton qualified in the 1,650 freestyle, but he will also swim in the 200, 500 and 1,000 freestyle. The freshman will be gone from the program the next two years on a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission trip, Allen said.

“Jarren is kind of deceiving size-wise and talent-wise because he doesn’t talk much at all,” Allen said. “Boy, oh boy, he’s going to be good. He’s showing that training pays off.”

Hastings qualified in the 200 backstroke and will swim in the 50 and 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

“Justin has more raw talent than anyone I’ve ever coached,” Allen said.

Purkapile qualified in three events: the 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley. She qualified in one event last year.

“That’s the big difference,” Allen said. “Both the IMs are her strongest suits. I think she’ll do very well there, I really do.”

Allen, though, is disappointed Mesa didn’t qualify at least one of the men’s relay teams.

“I really thought we had a chance of getting at least one relay in,” Allen said. “Now, I can’t take anything away from some of these incredibly fast times that anyone did across the country, but those things are out of our control. I thought what we had in our control was enough to get a relay to nationals.

“I think from a coaching standpoint, I was missing a little fine tuning of getting us there.”



Brock Martin grew up in a family of wrestlers. Martin wrestled, too, but he started out in gymnastics.

“My mom put me in gymnastics because I was bouncing off the walls and jumping off couches,” Martin said. “She put me in tumbling and figured out I was pretty good at it. I love gymnastics, and I still love it. I still go to the gym here sometimes and tumble.”

The Colorado Mesa University diver, who was born and raised in Evanston, Wyo., started out as a gymnast from kindergarten through seventh grade. He started diving in sixth grade and quit gymnastics in seventh grade because of the travel and cost. Martin also wrestled and played football in middle school.

“I did the other sports for the social aspect,” he said. “Wrestling and swimming was at the same time, so obviously I went with diving, and I liked it more.”

Diving was a natural fit with his gymnastics background.

“The only difference between diving and gymnastics is you land on your head,” Martin said. “In gymnastics, you land on your feet.

“When you twist, you twist differently, but I twist like a gymnast when I’m diving. It definitely made me a better diver being a gymnast.”

Martin became a four-time all-state diver and an All-American in high school.

“I competed against divers that are now divers for the University of Wyoming,” Martin said. “I dove against a kid that dove for St. Cloud (Minn.). It was us three. We had a really friendly rivalry. It was nice.”

The University of Wyoming was interested in Martin, too, but he wanted to come to Colorado Mesa, where he’s flourished.

The CMU senior has qualified for the NCAA Division II national championships all four years, earning All-America honors on the 1-meter board the past three seasons and the 3-meter board the past two years. This year’s championships begin with prequalifying diving today and continues through Saturday in Geneva, Ohio.

“He’s gotten better every year,” CMU diving coach Chuck Edgar said. “This year, he’s doing well again. He has a chance to win it all.

“It’s rare for him to show flaws or errors. He’s very consistent. He’s one of the most consistent divers I’ve ever seen.”

Edgar has coached diving “off and on,” he said, for 30-plus years. He’s coached two high school state champions.

Martin has a chance to be a national champion because he’s added two dives on each board and increased his degree of difficulty.

The dives are a forward 1 1/2 somersault with three twists and a backward 1 1/2 somersault with a 2 1/2 twist.

“It’s rare a diver can do that (forward 1 1/2 somersault) on the 1-meter board,” Edgar said. “You only see that at a high level in Division I.”

On the 3-meter board, Martin learned a backward 2 1/2 pike tuck and a triple twist.

“He’s a once- or twice-a-lifetime diver that comes in a coach’s life,” Edgar said. “He has a rare ability to perform every time he gets on the board.”

CMU head swimming and diving coach Ron Allen was in his first season at Colorado Mesa a year ago, and he spent most of that season unaware of what Martin could really do.

“I wasn’t sure what everybody was talking about until we got to nationals last year when he found another gear,” Allen said. “The limited amount of competition he gets within the RMAC itself lends to a little bit of complacency. When he goes against Air Force, he knows he’s diving against a different level of divers then. It cracks me up; he can cruise through the RMAC and not have the greatest meet and win it by 100 points.

“I think him wanting to go out with a bang his senior year is evident because he’s learned some harder dives. He’s put more pressure on himself. His desire to perform is high.”

Martin also achieved Academic All-America status last year and will likely repeat this season.

“I got more involved in my major my junior year,” Martin said of his academics. “The general (education credits) were hard for me. They didn’t interest me. I did OK my freshmen and sophomore year. My junior year, I started getting more involved in my major.”

Martin is studying physical education and plans to get his teaching license. He plans to be an elementary school physical education teacher and possibly a high school diving coach.

“When I first came here, he had an average GPA,” Edgar said. “Every single year, it got better. He loved diving. He seemed to be focused. He worked hard on his grades.”

Martin is looking forward to becoming a teacher and coach, but he hopes to complete his collegiate diving career on top first.

“I’m going to try not to worry about it as much,” he said of this trip to nationals. “I just want to do my best. I’d like to take at least top three on both boards. I’d love to take first place, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s OK. I’m not going to dwell on it. Whatever happens, I’ll be OK with it as long as I know I did my best.”


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