The X Factor

Oct. 5, 2005

IOWA CITY, IA – Ninth at the FINA World Championships. Second at the 2005 U.S. National Senior Diving Championships. First at the 2005 Speedo National Diving Championships. Academic All-American.

Not a bad start to a senior year.

Nancilea Underwood, a senior from Spring, Texas, plans to make this year one to remember. And from her summer performances, she appears to be well on her way to another all-America season.

“This being my last year diving at the collegiate level, I want to do the best I can,” she said. “I want to dive to the best of my ability.”

While her ability has gotten her this far, it’s her dedication and hard work that has made her into the champion she’s become.

“From a head coach’s perspective, obviously she adds world class talent to the program,” said Head Coach Marc Long. “She’s a very driven and mature developing athlete.”

“When she came in as a freshman, after a week of workouts, you could tell she was something special,” said Diving Coach Bob Rydze. “The seniors and juniors at the time knew she was going to be something special. She has everything you could want in a diver. She’s quick and strong. She has all the attributes.”

Underwood won the 2005 three-meter synchro title with Stanford’s Cassidy Krug at the Speedo National Diving Championships.

What she’s done with those attributes has been most impressive.

In her sophomore year, she was an honorable mention all-American, placing 11th in the three-meter diving at the NCAA Championships and set a school record in the three-meter competition at the Big Ten Championships. In 2003-2004, she took an Olympic redshirt. She placed fourth at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the three-meter. She also was the runner-up at the Speedo American Cup in the three-meter.

Last year, she was an all-American, placing second in the three-meter and third on the one-meter at the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA Zone C Qualifier, she won the three-meter.

But what she accomplished this past summer is perhaps most impressive. She says making the FINA World Championships team is her greatest accomplishment. However, being the national champion in the three-meter synchro at the Speedo National Diving Championships with diving partner Cassidy Krug is something she’ll never forget.

“It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun with my partner, Cassidy Krug. We had dived together before so we really got to enjoy it,” said Underwood.

While Underwood’s talent has impressed her coaches and teammates alike, it’s her sportsmanship that has set her apart.

“She adds leadership for the rest of the divers. The divers learn a lot from her,” said Rydze. “The rest of the team watches her dive to learn the right mechanics and how to act as a diver.”

Next year is still up in air for Underwood. She is planning on getting married in August and continuing her training at the National Training Center in Indianapolis. However, she continues to work toward improving upon her diving in all aspects as well as working toward her degree. While Rydze hopes she enjoys her senior year and experiences great success, he also knows it’ll be hard to say goodbye.

“You don’t replace her–period. Those type of divers only come to a coach once or twice in a lifetime,” said Rydze.

By Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information