KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- Tennessee senior Ryan Helms and former Vol Michael Wright finished in the top 12 of the 3-meter competition Monday at the USA Diving Winter National Championships to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials.
2008 Olympian Chris Colwill (Brandon, Fla./Athens, Ga.) won the event.
Helms and Wright scored high enough in the morning semifinals to take the last two positions in the evening finals at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center.
Once there, Helms rebounded from an inconsistent morning for finish 10th with career-best three-round score of 1271.85. Wright ended 12th with 1223.85.
By getting into the final 12-man field in the 3-meter, Helms and Wright achieved their primary goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials, which will take place in June in Seattle.
“The goal coming into this meet was to walk out top 12 and get our tickets to trials and that was accomplished,” Wright said. “It was a tough road. I didn’t really hit all my dives, so there’s always room for improvement.”
Helms entered the semifinal round in seventh place, but slid down to 13th after low scores on his third and fourth dives. He was able to recover and rally to 12th, taking the last spot in the final.
“He put himself in a situation where he really had to hit his last two dives to make sure he was in,” Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington said. ”Both of those were not very characteristic mistakes.”
“On the positive side, he bounced back and got himself back in the mix and qualified for his first-ever Olympic Trials. He’s real excited about that, but I know he would have liked to have finished higher. But with so much ground to catch up, it was a challenge.”
In the evening finals, it was back to business as usual for the Vols' current diving leader. Helms put on a much steadier performance to wrap up the 3-meter event, completing his six dives 80 points higher than he had the round before to ultimately finish 10th.
“This evening, I’m really pleased with my performance," Helms said. "I wish I could have done a little better. I always look for ways to improve but overall, I can’t complain with a career-high score.”
Wright, who graduated in May, has been training with the local club Tennessee Diving in preparation for the 3-meter at the Winter Nationals. The practice and training paid off for the 2011 SEC 1-meter champion.
“For him, he’s put aside really getting into his working career to try to qualify for the trials,” Parrington said. “To see that come to fruition is just awesome.”
Now both divers can turn their attention to the next event: the 1-meter semifinals Tuesday at 4 p.m. Junior Brent Sterling will also be competing.
Wright won the 1-meter title at the Winter Nationals two years ago when the meet was held at Ohio State.