MIDDLEBURY — Sara Troyer should be enjoying one of the highlights of her athletic career by competing in the NCAA National Diving Championships that were scheduled for yesterday and today in Athens, Georgia.
Instead, the Northridge High School graduate and current University of Nebraska sophomore is home in Middlebury trying to make sense of the whole situation as the NCAA Championships were canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The first day I was upset, but now I am thankful that I’m not a senior. At least there is the chance to do this again next season,” Troyer said. “This is something out of my control, so it is not beneficial for me to keep worrying about it.”
Troyer shared how she was informed about the NCAAs being canceled.
“People that work with the athletic department at Nebraska came out and told us during practice,” she said. “The coach had warned me it was a possibility, so I was prepared. In the back of my mind I knew it could happen, but I wasn’t able to fully process things until it finally happened.
“It’s just a shame I didn’t get the chance to showcase my talents and skills at the NCAAs.”
Troyer was a double qualifier after finishing fourth in the three-meter event (653.10 points) and 11th in the one-meter competition (543.10) in the Zone Championships in Dallas. She would have been making her NCAA Championship debut.
“Making the NCAAs was my biggest goal of the season. The Zone Championships were my best meet of the season,” the 2018 Indiana state champion one-meter diving champion said. “It was all ripped away from me in a split second.”
After the first round of the three-meter competition at the Zone Championships, Troyer sat in seventh place (311.10) before moving up three more places to finish the final round in fourth.
“Sara has blossomed this year into a top level diver and the final round showed that she can compete against the top divers in the nation,” Nebraska head coach swimming Pablo Morales said in a press release on the school’s web site.
Troyer continued the streak of Husker divers making an appearance at the NCAA Championships, dating back to 2014 when Anna Filipcic qualified.
“It’s terribly frustrating. Sara has worked so hard,” Sara’s mother Shanna Troyer said about the NCAA cancellation. “As a mother it is really frustrating since I flew all the way to Dallas to watch her compete in the Zone Championships. Before she competed she asked me to pray for her because she had terrible anxiety, but during the competition she acted like it was not a big deal.”
Sara’s father, Steve Troyer, has tried to comfort his daughter.
“I feel so bad for her and all the kids,” he said. “To get to her level and then not be able to compete is a little overwhelming for her and mom and dad.
“I tried to tell her she made it. She is one of the top 44 divers in the country. That was the bright side. She didn’t really like that since she wants to know where she stands.”
Steve shared with his daughter that others might have it worse.
“Sara is a sophomore and she will have other chances,” Steve said. “One of her teammates at Nebraska took an Olympic red-shirt year to focus on the trials and now that might be over. She can come back to Nebraska to compete, but who knows if she will have a chance at the Olympics again.”
Nebraska has shut down the campus and Sara has returned home to Middlebury.
“Sara is running and working out every day but she can’t get into a pool to dive,” Shanna said. “Sara is home for two weeks and while I love having her here I know this isn’t where she wants to be right now.”
Sara said, “I have basically been using the past week to rest my body.”
Shanna pointed out that Sara would not be where she is today without the help of Northridge diving coach Bob Burns.
“He is such a big factor in where she is,” she said. “We try to get to every meet, and as soon as we find out how Sara did, Bob is one of the first we let know.”
Sara agreed with her mother’s assessment of Burns’ contributions.
“He has helped me so much. He was the only diving coach I’ve ever had until I got to college,” she said.
Natasha Chikina is Troyer’s diving coach at Nebraska.
“Natasha is amazing. She is a two-time Olympian. She knows so much about the sport,” Sara said.
Chikina was a two-time All-American (1997, 1998) for the University of Southern California Trojans and she place fourth in the NCAA Championships in platform diving in 1998. She was an Olympic qualifier for the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2000 Sydney Games.
Sara is already thinking about next season.
“I am going to use this experience as fuel to motivate me for next season,” she said. “I want to comeback next year and prove to myself that I can do this again.”