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ND Women’s Swimming and Diving: Casareto prepares for national diving competition

Brian Hartnett | Monday, February 27, 2012

In the world of sports, there are few events more stressful for an athlete than standing alone on a diving board and facing the anxious eyes of the crowd, all while preparing to time a perfect jump into the watery abyss below. It is enough pressure to rattle a veteran diver, much less an inexperienced freshman.

But Notre Dame freshman diver Allison Casareto handled that scenario with poise beyond her years earlier this month at the Big East championships, rattling off a series of impressive dives to place second overall in the one-meter dive championship.

“It was an almost unbelievable experience, since I didn’t honestly think I would do that well,” Casareto said of her second-place finish. “I was one of the last ones to go in finals and somehow I dove the best I have all year.”

Casareto’s impressive showing at the Big East championships is merely the latest chapter in a strong freshman campaign that has seen her also reach the finals in the three-meter dive event at the championships and garner all-conference honors.

Another highlight in her first season included a victory in the one-meter dive against Michigan State, in which she scored a remarkable 304.12 points.

Casareto said her transition to college diving was not seamless, as she struggled at times in the beginning of her Notre Dame career. She said the strong support shown by her teammates was essential to making her feel like she could contribute at the college level.

“Everyone on the team was supporting me, especially the upperclassmen,” Casareto said. “They really helped me a lot in the transition by letting me know that I was improving.”

In particular, Casareto said her relationship with junior diver Jenny Chiang, a three-time Big East champion, has been vital to her early improvement.

“I had never really trained with anybody who competes at a higher level than myself, so training with Jenny really pushes me to my limits,” Casareto said. “I wish I could have had someone as talented as her to train with in the early years of my diving career, since I can tell that I’m getting better much more quickly with Jenny helping me out.”

Equally important to Casareto’s success is the diving team’s unique training regimen, designed to mimic the spotlight of a major competition like the Big East championships. Casareto said the team stages practice meets during weeks before major competitions, exposing divers to conditions similar to what they will likely see during competition. Additionally, she said the team’s coaches design practices with an emphasis on the quality rather than quantity of dives, forcing divers to strive for perfection.

With her goal of competing for a Big East championship now checked off, Casareto will turn her attention to the national level, as she will compete in the NCAA Zone Diving Meet in Bloomington, Ind., in early March.

“I never would have thought that I would be at NCAA level in my freshman year, so I don’t really know what to expect,” Casareto said. “But I think it will be really fun and a great experience for me.”

Competing on the NCAA level is only the latest in a series of Casareto’s goals that started popping up when she first fell in love with diving as a third grader in her hometown of La Habra Heights, Calif., and have gradually been accomplished since then. These conquered goals include being nationally ranked in diving, earning All-American status in high school and earning a spot on the Notre Dame diving team.

“Notre Dame had always been a huge consideration of mine for college, so it was like a dream come true when I got my first call from [Irish] Coach [Caiming] Xie,” Casareto said. “Now that I’m here, I’ve found everyone to be so collaborative at this place.”

Although her first season isn’t over yet, Casareto has already raised her expectations for next season, as she is looking forward to reliving her Big East success.

“I think this year’s performance sets the bar higher for next year,” Casareto said. “I can’t wait to compete again, and I hope to get top three on both boards in next year’s championships.”

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu