March 28, 2010

Doug Bean, Special to

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Brigham Young diver Brandon Watson went home Sunday a happy young man with two top-seven finishes at the NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.

Watson didn't lament the fact that he could have competed in platform diving on the final day of the meet. He chose to forgo the opportunity because Brigham Young, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, and its students do not participate in athletic events on Sundays.

When the NCAA decided to push back the championships one day after a nasty virus attacked athletes from Arizona, Texas and Stanford on Tuesday, platform diving and the final six swimming events were rescheduled for Palm Sunday.

NCAA officials were more than willing to accommodate Watson when the session changes were announced. They offered him the option to dive Saturday night after he had completed the 3-meter springboard finals or reschedule the platform competition for Monday at Ohio State University's McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.

Watson and his BYU coaches respectfully said thanks but no thanks to the proposed alternatives. Not that they didn't appreciate the NCAA's flexibility, but they were thinking more about the other divers and the disruption another change might cause.

They also were concerned about the risk of injury for Watson on the more difficult platform.

Nevertheless, BYU publicly expressed no anger or bitterness with the outcome.

"The main thing is the NCAA tried as best it could to make this situation as fair as it could for everyone," BYU diving coach Keith Russell said. "Platform is a little different diving event, though, and there just wasn't any way to make this fair for everyone and right for everyone.

"We appreciated that we had the option to dive on a different night. We just decided to concentrate on events Brandon had the best chance to score points in, the 1- and 3-meter events, although he possibly could have scored on platform."

And so Watson wrapped up his second NCAA championships appearance Saturday night with fourth place in 3-meter with 440.05 points. David Boudia of Purdue was the winner for the second straight year with a meet-record score of 494.90.

Watson moved up one place from 2007 when he took fifth in 3-meter as a freshman.

"I felt very good about how I dove," he said. "It's just exciting to be here with all of these great divers and compete against them.

"The thing is, platform is not my strongest event and so I feel it's OK if I don't do it. But I'm thankful they gave me the option. I'm happy to represent what I believe in."

The humble, soft-spoken native of Riverton, Utah, achieved two-time All-American status, which goes to the top eight finishers. He placed seventh Friday night in 1-meter springboard, also won by Boudia, to improve on his 16th-place showing at the NCAAs in 2007.

"We felt really good about Brandon getting All-American in both of his events here at nationals," BYU coach Tim Powers said. "Brandon did great this season and we are so proud of how he represented our men. Keith also did a great job in getting Brandon back in shape to do even better than he did his freshman year."

As BYU's lone representative, Watson scored all 27 of the Cougars' points. Texas (500 points) won the meet, while California (469.5) and Arizona (387) was third.

Last year, Boudia became the first collegian in history to win all three diving events since the NCAA added platform in 1990. But Purdue's sophomore sensation could not repeat the sweep, and finished seventh in platform on Sunday.

Texas placed two divers in the Top Eight in platform diving on Sunday - Matthew Cooper (third) and Drew Livingston (seventh). Their points proved critical in Texas' team victory over California.