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Feb. 10, 2011

social_twitter_16h.gif=”” alt=”Twitter Logo” border=”0″ class=”imported”>Live Updates @GamecockSwim on Twitter | SEC Championships Central

By Wes Todd
Assistant Media Relations Director

Coach Sherritt Previews SEC Diving

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Swimming and diving championship season kicks off this weekend as South Carolina’s divers head to the SEC Diving Championships, which run Friday through Sunday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium in Gainesville, Fla.

Three men’s and four women’s divers will be in competition for coach Todd Sherritt and the Gamecocks as they prepare to square off against some of the nation’s best. The Gamecocks boast a pair of All-Americans and a former SEC Champion among their ranks as South Carolina continues to be among the league’s elite diving programs. This year’s SEC Championships are being split over two weeks as necessitated by Florida’s swimming & diving facility that does not contain a separate diving well; the swimmers will take to the water in Gainesville next week (Feb. 16-19).

On the women’s side, senior Taryn Zack will be making her final appearance at the SEC meet. The native of Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, won the 2009 SEC Championship in 1-meter diving and was the runner-up on the 3-meter board the same year. In her other two SEC Championship appearances, she finished fourth on both boards as a junior last season, and took fifth-place finishes on both boards her freshman season of 2007-08. Zack’s high scores this season are a 313.73 on the 1-meter board (5th-best in SEC) and a 360.75 on the 3-meter board (3rd-best in the league).

Junior Courtney Forcucci will make her first SEC Championship appearance after transferring from the University of Houston prior to last season, then missing the second half of the 2009-10 campaign with an injury. The Fort Mill, S.C., native enters the meet with the SEC’s top score in 3-meter diving (367.80). She is no stranger to conference championships, though – while competing for the Cougars, she captured the Conference USA 3-meter championship in 2008 and was the runner-up on the 1-meter board. The following year, she took runner-up honors on both boards and finished in third place on the 10-meter platform. Last week, Forcucci put together a strong performance at the USA Diving Winter National Championships, advancing to the 3-meter finals and securing a spot in next year’s U.S. Olympic Trials.

Senior Allison Barr is a story of courage and perseverance as she makes her final trek to the conference meet. Six weeks ago, she was thought to be done for the season – and her collegiate career – after a practice mishap at the Tennessee Diving Invitational left her with a concussion and multiple facial injuries. But through hard work and dedication, she is slated to make her return to competition this week in Gainesville, not far from her hometown of Orlando. She has advanced to at least one final in each of her three seasons at Carolina, including the 3-meter and platform finals last season and the 1-meter and platform championship in 2009.

Sophomore Chay Malvasio rounds out the women’s lineup as she completes her first season in the Garnet and Black after transferring from North Carolina prior to the season. She has qualified for the NCAA Zone Diving competition with a 321.60 on the 3-meter board against Clemson, and she earned a pair of wins in dual-meet action against UNC Wilmington. At last season’s ACC Championships, she advanced to the finals of the 1-meter event and took eighth place.

For the Gamecock men, sophomore Rylan Ridenour returns after barely missing the finals at last year’s SEC Championships on both boards. He finished ninth on the 3-meter board with a 342.85 in prelims, then took 11th place in the 1-meter competition. This year, he has the league’s third-best score in the 3-meter event (407.17) and has shown improvement on the 1-meter board, winning twice on the low board in dual-meet action this year.

Sophomore Nikolas Sachs and freshman Andrew Helmich will be looking for their first SEC Championship points this week. Sachs barely missed out on the scoring last season, finishing 17th on both boards. Helmich will be making his first SEC Championship appearance after competing in every dual meet this season. Both are also looking for NCAA Zone qualifying marks.

The meet begins with men’s 1-meter preliminaries at 11 a.m. Friday, followed by women’s 3-meter prelims at 1 p.m. Men’s 1-meter finals are at 5 p.m., with women’s 3-meter finals set for 6 p.m. The groups will switch for Saturday’s competition with the men on the 3-meter and women on the 1-meter boards, and both platform competitions will take place on Sunday.

Fans can receive live updates throughout both the diving and swimming portions of the meet by following @GamecockSwim on Twitter. For the most complete coverage of South Carolina swimming and diving, visit