INDIANAPOLIS -- When Wayne State (Mich.) diving coach Kelly LaCroix first saw Dylan Szegedi more than four years ago, one thought quickly popped into her mind.
“When he came to me as a freshman, I told him, ‘You’re going to be a national champion before you leave,’ ” she said.How about two times? Or three?
After just about every dive Wednesday night at the DII Swimming and Diving Championships, Szegedi emerged from the water and the first thing waiting for him were loud cheers rolling down from the stands at IUPUI Natatorium and high fives from the other competitors. He was that good.
Szegedi, who is now a senior, lived up to his coach’s words by winning a national championship in the men’s 1-meter event two years ago. Wednesday, he won the 3-meter championship with a school-record score of 587.65 -- more than 20 points better than runner-up Tyler Keelean of Grand Valley State. He also placed first in the preliminary round.
When it was over, you wouldn’t discover an ounce of arrogance. Only appreciation.
“This means everything,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard this year. It’s been a tough year. I’ve had injuries, had a back problem, had a knee issue for a little bit there. …
“I knew I could do this. I just needed to go out there and take care of my business. I’m so happy that I was able to go out there and do that.”
On Friday, he’ll attempt to win another national title in an event that has been his strongest through his collegiate career: the men’s 1-meter.
It could get a little crazy.
“I’m a senior. I’ve been diving since I’ve been six years old," he said. "I’m just going to go out and have fun."Szegedi has already made school history. He is the only Wayne State male in 31 years to win a national diving title, and now he has two. Don Mason was a national champion in 1982 and, until Wednesday, held the 3-meter scoring record.
"That’s amazing,” Szegedi said.
In fact, when he halted the 31-year drought in 2013, Szegedi wasn’t aware of it until a coach told him on the team bus. Szegedi’s response: "Are you serious?”
Along the road to his national championships, Szegedi has won three Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Diver of the Year awards, and won both the 1- and 3-meter diving titles the past two years. And the only reason he didn’t win the 3-meter national championship a year ago is that he faced Heath Calhoun of Clarion on a day that Calhoun won the title with a national-record 615.95 points.
“Heath dove an amazing meet, set an NCAA record. He’s a great guy,” Szegedi said. “I couldn’t have been happier. I couldn’t have dove any better. This year I couldn’t dove any better, either.”
LaCroix has been impressed with Szegedi’s consistency throughout the years.
“That’s the one thing that is solid with him. He has very good focus. He doesn’t let things get away from him,” LaCroix said. “With diving, it’s very mental. He has always wound up being very grounded.”
In addition to four years of diving and serving as a team captain this year, Szegedi served for two years at Wayne State in a student-athlete advisory committee and also on a leadership council in which he was on a board with athletes from other sports.
“It’s great to get with other athletes. We spend so much time training that we don’t always have a lot of time to get out,” Szegedi said. “That was a great experience for me. I was so happy and it was an honor to be picked for that.”
When he gets back to Detroit, he’ll have an incredible story to tell. And the story isn’t over just yet. Another adventure awaits him in the 1-meter Friday.
“I’m just going to let it loose,” Szegedi said.
“You know what? That’s the best way to go out as a senior,” LaCroix said. “I wish I had him for many, many more years. I’ve enjoyed coaching him for four years. I am privileged and grateful that he took a chance on me. He‘s been wonderful to coach.”