Iowa women’s divers headed to Wisconsin for NCAA Zone Championships

Sam Tamborski, Sarah Ballard, Claire Hartley, and Makayla Hughbanks will represent the Hawkeyes in the Badger State.


Jenna Galligan

An Iowa diver competes during a meet against the University of Northern Iowa at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. The Panthers defeated the Hawkeyes 159-133.

Chase Szewc, Sports Reporter

The Iowa women’s swim and dive team will send four athletes to the NCAA Zone D Diving Championships on Saturday. The event will run from March 5-9 at the Soderholm Family Aquatic Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sam Tamborski, Sarah Ballard, Claire Hartley, and Makayla Hughbanks will represent the Hawkeyes in the Badger State.

For Tamborski, this year’s NCAA Zone Diving Championships will be her last. The senior could compete for the University of Iowa again next season. The senior from Castle Rock, Colorado, however, does not intend to use the extra year of eligibility the NCAA gave all its 2020-21 athletes because of COVID-19. Tamborski told The Daily Iowan that the 2021-22 season would be her last at Iowa in October.

Tamborski has competed in the NCAA Zone D Championships since 2018-19. She could’ve said the same about the Big Ten Championships had it not been for an illness.

Tamborski missed the 2022 Big Ten Championships with an undisclosed malady Feb. 16-19. Her team finished last in the event’s 12-team field.

“I was really sick,” Tamborski said. “It’s been stressful trying to catch up with health and diving since I haven’t practiced.”

The NCAA zone diving championships determine which athletes qualify for the NCAA Women’s Diving Championships. The 2022 NCAA Championships will be held March 16-19 in Athens, Georgia.

Tamborski has made the NCAA Championships in each of her last three seasons. Should she perform well this weekend in Madison, Tamborski could qualify for the NCAA Championships for a fourth consecutive season.

RELATED: Iowa women’s swim and dive finishes 12th at 2022 Big Ten Championships

This week’s NCAA Zone D Diving Championships will be Ballard’s second as a Hawkeye. The sophomore led Iowa off the 1-meter board with a score of 294.15 last season.

Ballard and the Hawkeyes have been competing with a team of just 13 athletes all season long. Iowa went 0-7 in regular season meets, often competing against larger rosters of 30 athletes or more.

“It’s been hard staying motivated and keeping a positive, upbeat attitude,” Ballard said of Iowa’s undersized roster. “I relax, have fun, and stay confident.”

Nathan Mundt is the head coach of the Iowa swim and dive program. But Todd Waikel is Iowa’s designated diving-specific coach.

Waikel has been at Iowa for the last nine years, and he’s made a big impact on the likes of Tamborski and Ballard.

“He’s taught me so much in and out of the pool,” Tamborski said. “I can always count on him with something going on.”

Ballard said Waikel is a great motivator, noting how good he is getting his team ready before big duals and championships.

Before this weekend’s NCAA Zone D Diving Championships, Ballard said Waikel’s message was simple. Waikel told his athletes to go out, perform, and execute. Ballard said Waikel added that individual performances will be critical for the Hawkeyes this weekend.

Ballard and Tamborski will both be competing in the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard championships. Live results for the 2022 NCAA Zone D Diving Championships will be available on

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