January 31, 2013

College Connections: Falmouth diver finds success as a freshman at Bentley

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Having success as a diver is nothing new for Nicola Mancini of Falmouth.

Being relaxed enough to enjoy the success? That's something refreshingly new for Mancini, the former three-time state Class B champ.

In her freshman season at Bentley University, Mancini has repeatedly broken school and pool records off the 1- and 3-meter boards. Last week Mancini turned in the school's first 300-point, six-dive scores on both boards, scoring 306.64 on the 1-meter and 305.55 for the 3-meter.

"I would say I'm just very much more consistent with my dives," Mancini said Tuesday. "I'm more relaxed. I would get so nervous in high school."

Mancini will compete Thursday in the 1-meter event at the Northeast-10 championships at Southern Connecticut State. The 3-meter competition will be held Saturday. She enters as the favorite in both.

"This is basically what we've worked for all year, our conference meet," Mancini said.

On Tuesday she was named the NE-10 women's swimming and diving rookie of the week for the fifth time and the women's diving athlete of the week for the fourth time.

Mancini is the only women's Division II diver to top 300 points (as of Jan. 17); she's done it three times. Early this season she met the prequalifying standard for the NCAA Division II championships March 6-9 in Birmingham, Ala.

According to Bentley diving coach Rick Danehy, approximately 50 prequalified divers will compete at the NCAA site in a qualifying round. The top 22 in each event will advance to the championships, where an 11-dive morning session will determine the eight divers for the night finals.

"We've had two male diving All-Americans and several women make it to the meet but not get into the final, so we're hoping for our first female All-America diver," Danehy said.

Mancini said one key to her success this season is learning to slow her approach on the board, allowing her to transfer more energy vertically. A gymnast before she began diving competitively in the fifth grade, Mancini said she habitually sprinted down the board as if she was trying to "back hand spring across the pool."

"In diving you have to be patient. That was a big challenge for me," she said.

Mancini was unbeaten in Maine high school competition, but never reached her goals.

As a senior she scored 448.60 at the state meet -- the first time a Maine high school diver topped 400 points in 14 years, but it was nine points shy of Katie Mailman's record set in 1998.

"Nine points. That's a toe point," Mancini said.

A week earlier Mancini won the North Southwesterns by over 100 points but what she remembers is a dive that earned zero points. An average score on that dive would have earned her the Southwesterns' record.

"I put so much pressure on myself to get those records. I wanted them," Mancini said. "I failed a dive. That's something you don't do unless you're a beginner. I just kind of choked."

At Bentley, she said she's enjoying being part of a successful team with several talented divers. She also likes that the diving is contested during the swimming events, rather than in hushed silence -- the practice at high school meets.

"Diving with these girls makes it so much more fun and it's just awesome to have everyone at a good level," Mancini said.

Danehy said Mancini's power, speed, spatial awareness and "uncommon grace" is top Division I caliber.

"I believe she probably could have (competed) anywhere she wanted to dive," Danehy said. "We're extremely lucky to have her. She might not have been the top diver coming in (at a top Division I school) but I believe by the time she graduated she would have been."

(Continued on page 2)

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