Houston heads to Texas with Olympic dreams
Friday, July 6, 2012 | | 1
Securing a shot at the U.S. Olympic Diving Team trials took some synchronizing and circumstance for Meghan Houston.
The St. Andrew’s graduate worked diligently for years to qualify for the trials held last week in Federal Way, Wash., where she would have a chance to qualify for the upcoming Olympics in London.
Houston, who will dive as a freshman at the University of Texas this year, secured a spot in the trials in the 3-meter synchronized springboard competition along with her teammate, Sarah Bacon, but Bacon was injured before the trials and had to withdraw.
Current Texas diver Maren Taylor also qualified for the competition with her teammate, Samantha Holland. However, Holland fell victim to injury as well, and both divers were looking for a partner.
It just so happened that Houston and Taylor were originally going to pair together to see how they fit before Taylor was injured in the 2011 NCAA National Championships. The trials would mark Taylor’s first foray back into the pool, and once the duo petitioned to team up together and were granted the partnership, it was a matter of timing from there.
Though they fell short of qualifying in Washington, Houston and Taylor will likely continue to pair up in college with hopes of cracking into the 2016 games.
“My coach and the UT coach had been talking about the possibility of us doing synchro before she got hurt, so we couldn’t practice or try it at all,” Houston said. “Maren was just recovering, so we had a chance to try and do it because my partner was hurt, and Maren’s partner was hurt as well. Luckily, we got approved.”
Houston, 18, took up diving around age 10 and got into synchronized diving about three years ago with then-partner Alex Bettridge, a recent graduate of Lake Travis High School. Getting timing down with any partner takes some patience, time and practice and, the latter two Houston and Taylor didn’t have heading into the trials. The dual divers each take four steps then a hop leading up to their plunge off the board, and the pair had quite differing hops, or hurdles.
“My hop is really high, and hers is really low, so we had to time them so we would land at the same time,” Houston explained. “It was kind of hard. When we got to trials, whenever she would get nervous, hers would be lower and faster, and when I would get nervous, mine would be even higher.”
The tandem did get in rhythm and had a strong showing at the trials, making it all the way to the finals and finishing eighth overall.
Only the top duo, Kelci Bryant from Minnesota and Abby Johnston from Duke, moved on to the Olympics.
Competing against and meeting divers with Olympic pedigree, such as Christina Loukas, was a big boost for the incoming freshman and her hopes of continuing to progress toward the games.
“It was a lot of fun,” Houston said. “I really wasn’t expecting to do anything spectacular. It was really intense. There were a lot of people, and you could feel how they really wanted. It was encouraging, because I was there with them, and I didn’t feel like I was a complete outcast – I know these people, and I can be here in the next four years. I could be gunning for a spot.”
Another local diver with a lot of talent, Lake Travis’ Kristina Hoffman, will be Houston’s roommate at Texas as the pair continues their strong friendship from diving with Longhorn Aquatics.
Houston, an Austin native and longtime Lakeway resident, won the 2011 junior national championship in the 1-meter and was selected to the 2011 U.S.A. junior Pan Am team held last fall in Medellin, Columbia, where she won the bronze medal. Houston also is the three-time state diving champion for the Southwest Preparatory Conference and holds the state diving record in that conference, as well as being selected to the NISCA All-American team the last three years (this year’s results not available yet).
At Texas, Houston will train under renowned diving coach Matt Scoggin, and she will compete in the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform diving along with the 3-meter synchronized dive.
“It was a really positive experience,” Houston said of the trials. “I’m sure it’ll be a lot different in college. I’ll have a more consistent schedule and more consistent coaching, I’ll be doing weights and stuff, so I feel like I’ll be a little more prepared next time.”