March 28, 2012
HOUSTON - University of Houston divers Julia Lonnegren and Natasha Burgess have been named the Conference USA Diver and Freshman Diver of the Year as announced by the league office Wednesday afternoon.
"We're excited about the awards, that caps off a great year," said head diving coach Jane Figueiredo. "Those awards to go along with all the personal bests we set and wins, I'd say it was a pretty great year."
The junior Lonnegren became the 10th UH diver in 11 years to earn the distinction from C-USA. Lonnegren took top honors in all three diving events during the C-USA Champions en route to being named the Diver of the Meet. The Forolund, Sweden, native was the only diver from the conference to advance to the NCAA Championships. She placed in the top-26 in two events with a 24th place finish in the platform and finished 26th in the 1M.
"Julia had an unbelievable performance at the conference championships. Hopefully we can do better next year at the NCAAs but that doesn't take anything away from what she was able to do each and every week. She was outstanding this year."
Lonnegren became only the fourth diver in league history to sweep all three diving events at the conference championships. The other three student-athletes (Anastasia Pozdniakova 2009, Tania Cagnotto 2006 and Yulia Pakhalina 2002) were all fellow Cougars who claimed their own Diver of the Year trophies.
Burgess became the eighth Houston student-athlete to win the Freshman Diver of the Year honor, and the fifth UH diver in the last six seasons. Burgess finished as the runner up to Lonnegren in all three events during the C-USA Championships. The Adelaide, Australia, native narrowly missed out on qualification for the NCAA Championships as she placed ninth in the platform in her first shot at the NCAA Zone Diving competition.
"Natasha came in as a freshman and did everything I expected her to do. She stepped up big and pushed Julia all year long. She was outstanding and I'm very happy for her. Next year, we need to introduce her to a couple of new dives and then I expect her to qualify and score points at the NCAAs."
With both student-athletes returning next year, and a healthy Torri Olanski joining the duo, the Houston diving program appears ready for another run in 2012-13 and carry on the proud Houston tradition of being one of the nation's top diving programs.
"Those awards are great to have. It's a great accomplishment and speaks to our proud tradition of diving here at UH. We need to keep getting better especially at the national level. These awards will be even better if we can keep winning them year after year."
The duo took the top two places eight times during competition this year with Burgess edging Lonnegren once.
The 2011-12 swimming and diving season concluded with the NCAA Championships but head diving coach Jane Figueiredo is still hard at work as she prepares two former Houston divers (Lacey Truelove, Canada and Anastasia Pozdniakova, Russia) for the 2012 Olympics.