On March 12, the NCAA announced all winter and spring sport championships were canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus. This decision led to the cancellation of the NCAA Diving Zones, which featured two student-athletes from BGSU.
The decision to cancel was announced and enforced during the finals session of the meet, which was disappointing for BGSU Diving Coach, Tricia Grant.
“As a coach, I absolutely think they should have finished. We were in Zone C, the only Zone that did not finish. The last 15 minutes wouldn’t have changed anything, so it would have been nice to at least see which women were NCAA Championship qualifiers. However, once the decision was made, it came down to coverage. We could not have continued and risked the safety of the divers,” she said.
One of the student-athletes competing for BGSU was Senior Diver Talisa Lemke, winner of five conference titles. Lemke previously qualified for the NCAA Championships in 2018, and she was confident in her ability to qualify again this season.
“My first two dives were shaky, but the four I had ahead of me are my best dives. I think I had a pretty good chance of making it. Diving is unpredictable, but my confidence was pretty high,” she said.
At the time of cancellation, Lemke was in eighth place in the 1-meter competition. The top seven divers would automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships, and Lemke trailed the seventh-place diver by less than one point. Although there were cancellation rumors throughout the session, Lemke remained focused. Grant believes this would have given her an advantage if the competition continued.
“I absolutely loved Talisa’s attitude. Other girls were ready to be done. Some girls were joking about doing cannonballs for their last dive. Talisa was determined to go out looking her best if this was her last time on the boards. I truly believe she would have qualified for NCAAs because her focus is unparalleled,” she said.
Shortly before the cancellation announcement, Lemke heard rumors from student-athletes from other conferences. Nothing had been made official, so Lemke did not anticipate the meet would be cut short.
“Girls from the Big Ten and ACC were saying they already heard stuff, but it didn’t really make sense. It didn’t seem like a real possibility until the Kentucky coach told us to pause. That’s when we realized it was all real. I was disappointed, and there were some tears once I realized that was my last dive,” she said.
Lemke was not the only student-athlete representing BGSU. Junior Swimmer, Lauren Sullivan, was one of eight student-athletes competing at the National Invitational Championship at Cleveland State University. She was one of two BGSU swimmers to qualify for the evening session. It was the first NIC Finals appearance of her career, so she was disappointed when the team decided to withdraw because of the concerns regarding COVID-19.
“I really wanted to compete, but it was starting to become a big health risk. I understand why we withdrew. It was probably worth it not to swim. I’m very glad I still have one more year to swim,” she said.
While preparing for her final year as a swimmer, Sullivan will not be able to stick to her typical routine of practicing at the facilities in Bowling Green. The NCAA has indefinitely suspended all practices and training sessions, so she has started training on her own instead of training with the team.
“I’ve done a lot of running and biking and I just ordered a few weights. I’ve had to get creative, so I’ve been lifting soup cans and laundry detergent. I’m also doing yoga. Since I can’t get in the pool, I’m doing as much as I can to keep my endurance up,” she said.
Lemke, a native of Germany, finishes her diving career with several accolades. She currently holds BGSU records in two events and was selected the Most Outstanding Senior by the Mid-American Conference. Following two wins at the MAC Championships, she was named MAC Diver of the Year. She was also recognized as an All-American by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.
Although her career ended prematurely, Lemke still cherishes the memories from her four years as a Falcon diver.
“In Germany, everything is individual. Nothing is done as a team. Swimming and diving share water and that’s about the only similarity. Here at BG, I loved being part of the team and competing together every meet. I will never forget winning my first MAC title in 2018, because all of my teammates were sitting on the bulkhead cheering for me,” she said.