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Butler Excels at Zones, Double-Qualifies for NCAAs

Mar 7, 2022
Hannah Butler (photo: Don Liebig)

DAY TWO RECAP

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – UCLA junior Hannah Butler secured double-qualification to the 2022 NCAA Championships in dramatic fashion on Tuesday to highlight the Bruins' trip to the Zone E Diving Championships at Northern Arizona University.

Sitting in 12th place after 3-meter prelims but needing a top-five finish to qualify for NCAAs, Butler gradually moved up the standings during the finals session and eventually moved into fifth on her very last dive of the day.

She ended with a final combined score of 627.35, beating out a group of five other divers – who all had between 610 and 628 points – for the fifth spot.

The No. 5 finish gave Butler an automatic bid into NCAAs in 3M, and retroactively granted her qualification in 1-meter after she placed 11th in that event on Monday (any diver that receives an auto bid in one event and finishes top-12 in another automatically qualifies for that event as well).

Butler's performance in Tuesday's final was – given her overall score and the stakes of the moment – the finest of her career.

She posted a score of 332.60 during finals, scoring over 50 points on all but one of her six dives. That included a 64.50 on her fifth dive (her highest single-dive score of the day) that rocketed her from ninth place to sixth place. She followed that up with a 56.70 on her final dive to leapfrog into fifth place.

The Rochester, N.Y. native made a similar late push during prelims. Sitting in 24th and in danger of missing one of 18 finalist spots, Butler scored 63.00 points on her penultimate dive (the second-highest of any diver in that round) to jump all the way to 16th. She then moved up another four spots with the last dive in her list. She ended prelims at 294.75.

Within a three-round span – the last two dives of prelims and the first of finals – Butler ascended all the way from 24th to ninth place.

Butler was one of two entries for UCLA on Tuesday, as freshman Zoe Jespersgaard ended up in 35th place at 238.65. Jespersgaard was sitting in a top-10 spot halfway through her prelims list.

This is the third consecutive year that Butler has qualified for NCAAs, and second consecutive season that she qualified in both springboard events. In addition, Tuesday's result marked the second-career top-five finish for Butler at Zones. She previously placed fourth in 1M in 2021.

The Bruins are slated to scratch their one entry in Wednesday's event (platform), so will next compete at the 2022 NCAA Championships in Atlanta, Ga. Butler will join three Bruin swimmers in making the trip to the national meet: senior Claire Grover, junior Gabby Dang, and freshman Paige MacEachern.

DAY ONE RECAP

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Junior Hannah Butler was UCLA's highest-finisher on day one of the 2022 NCAA Zone E Diving Championships, placing 11th in the 1-meter championship with a combined score of 545.25.

With the top-12 finish, Butler can earn NCAA qualification in 1M if she finishes top-five in Tuesday's 3-meter championship.

UCLA had three entries in Monday's competition, the squad's most for any of the three events at Zones. Freshman Zoe Jespersgaard was 24th in prelims with a score of 251.10, and freshman Maya Salvitti took 40th at 229.40. Both were making their Zones debut.

Salvitti started off hot on Monday, scoring at least 40 points on each of her first three dives and leading all Bruins (at 129.80) halfway through prelims.

Butler meanwhile shook off a slow start to the meet – she scored under 40 points on her first and third dives in prelims – and slowly but surely started creeping up the leaderboard.

Sitting in 32nd place halfway through prelims, she jumped all the way to 15th by the end of the opening session with a total score of 263.35. She one-upped herself in finals, posting a score of 281.90 to jump three more spots.

The Zone E Diving Championships continue on Tuesday with 3-meter. The Bruins have two entries in 3M: Butler and Jespersgaard. Prelims are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. PT with finals to follow at approximately 1:45 p.m. PT.