Jan. 4, 2009

Courtesy of Tennessee

The pool deck at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center was crowded Saturday as the Tennessee Diving Invitational began its first day of competition. Coaches, athletes and spectators representing 17 different universities watched as some of the nation's top divers battled in the one-meter event.

Nine of the twelve divers that made it through the men's one-meter preliminaries into the finals were from Southeastern Conference schools; three of the nine were Volunteers. Freshman-sensation Ryan Helms finished second in the prelims behind Alabama's Aaron Fleshner. Junior college transfer Michael Wright finished sixth and the Vols' lone returning letterman Michael Muscari placed eighth.

"Overall, I am really pleased with the men's team performance," UT diving coach Dave Parrington said. "I was happy with Muscari's prelims and Brent Sterling is so close to breaking out."

In the one-meter finals, Helms continued to battle for the top spot with Fleshner while Wright steadily climbed the leader board. After six rounds, Fleshner, with a career best score of 371.40, proved to be too much for the rest of the field. Helms finished second at 354.15 and Wright placed third with his best one-meter performance as a Vol at 342.45. Muscari finished 11th with a score of 267.90.

"Mike Wright really opened some eyes today," Parrington said. "He is starting to buy in to what we have been working on. Ryan (Helms) had some great dives today. I love his composure and he is just a freshman. I am happy with where he is right now."

Results for day one of the Tennessee Diving Invitational are posted at divemeets.com.

Competition will resume Sunday at noon and will feature both the preliminary and championship rounds of the women's one-meter and the men's three-meter events.