FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – On Thursday, sophomore Tanya Kurach will end a three-decade Northern Arizona University drought for Northern Arizona at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championships. Kurach will compete in the 1-meter springboard competition at the IU Natatorium on the IUPUI campus in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. with preliminaries set to start at 9:30 a.m. Arizona time.
Kurach, who will be the first Northern Arizona women's diver to compete at the NCAA Championships since Valerie Carter in 1986, will cap what has been a spectacular debut season in Flagstaff.
The first-year transfer from Saint Petersburg, Russia was a consistent performer during the dual meet season before earning WAC Diver of the Year honors at the conference championships. In Houston, she captured the WAC 3-meter gold medal along with a bronze medal on platform and a seventh-place finish on 1-meter.
"She has made an immediate impact on our program and she's been very strong every single time on 1-meter," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "I do think she's improved throughout the year and to cap it off with NCAA qualifying, it's amazing. She jumps a lot better than a lot of divers, so if she can jump that well and do quality dives, it's going to be exciting this week."
For Kurach, her goals of qualifying for NCAA Championships dates back to November when she totaled a pair of finals appearances in her first multi-team invitational at home during the Lumberjack Invite. She would then go on to a spectacular performance with a pair of second-place finishes in the springboard events and a sixth-place platform finish at the Air Force Diving Invite before conference.
Kurach earned her NCAA Championships spot by placing seventh at the Zone E Diving Championships last Tuesday. With the top 11 divers earning automatic qualification, Kurach held steady throughout the two-round competition and even improved her positioning in the finals by moving up from ninth to seventh.
"I started thinking about it in November after Lumberjack Invite," Kurach said. "It was my goal to make NCAAs, it was never a question. I was happy to make it, especially on 1-meter because everyone has the same dives so it comes down to who does it better. I'm excited to compete against the other divers because I've only seen the West Coast (at Zones) and it's going to be such a high level."
While Thursday will mark Kurach's first Division I National Championship appearance, it will not be her first time in the bright lights on the national stage. Last season while at Henderson State, Kurach recorded an eighth place finish on 1-meter at the NCAA Division II National Championships, which garnered her Division II All-American honors.
"Tanya is stronger on 1-meter; I've seen her be amazing on 3-meter but on 1-meter she's consistently better," Huffman said. "She missed one dive at conference, but that was one dive out of 12. What I've seen recently is who dives the best, and she's got some good ones if she puts it all together."
Thursday's trials will start at 9:30 a.m. Arizona time with the consolation finals for the ninth through 16th spots to immediately follow. Should Kurach qualify for the top eight, she would return for the finals session starting at 3 p.m. Arizona time. The 1-meter diving finals would be later in the session.