Jan. 5, 2011
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Friday, Aug. 13, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2010-11 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It took some convincing — both from her parents and diving coach Bob Rydze — to get Deidre Freeman to attend the University of Iowa as a member of the swimming and diving program. But now that’s she’s here, she couldn’t envision it any other way.
“Coach Rydze told me I should consider Iowa or some Division I school when I was a junior in high school,” said Freeman. “I didn’t really believe anything he said at the time. My dad then forced me to come here on a visit, because I still didn’t want to come during the fall of my senior year. I ended up really liking it and Bob was really persuasive.”
Rydze was familiar with Freeman during her prep career at Grinnell (Iowa) High School, as she was a rival of his daughter, Veronica, throughout their careers. Rydze knew of Freeman’s upside in the diving world, as she had only dived three to four months out of the year.
“I knew her background was more focused on all sports and that she was a strong, gifted athlete,” explained Rydze. “She seemed to have all of the qualities — the strength, she could spin, she could twist and she knew where the water was, she had that kinesthetic awareness. To be honest, I don’t think she knew how good she could be. I knew she would become a really good Big Ten and NCAA diver if she came to Iowa. I told her, you’ll never know how good you could be unless you come and give it a chance.”
Freeman knew the challenges she faced moving up to collegiate competition and focusing solely on diving, but it was something she was ready to go at full steam ahead.
“I knew I had to be ready to compete,” said Freeman. “Coach Rydze considered redshirting me my freshman year because he knew I had so much to learn. I hadn’t even touched a three-meter board before I came here and now it’s my best event.”
After not starting on the three-meter board until January of her freshman year, Freeman quickly became one of the team’s top divers. She paced the Hawkeyes in both the one-meter and three-meter events as a true freshman and recorded a total of eight top-5 finishes.
“It was tough my first year,” explained Freeman. “I had a lot of things to fix. I had a lot of bad habits because I didn’t really have a coach in high school. Bob had to fix everything I had learned wrong, so I was relearning everything.”
“In a way, it was good to get her freshman year out of the way, so she could find out what Big Ten diving and collegiate diving was all about,” said Rydze. “She was really a rookie in that regard and really hadn’t been around a lot of really good diving.”
Freeman improved a great deal from her freshman to her sophomore years, adding more than 30 points to her one-meter best and nearly 20 points to her top three-meter total. The biggest growth for Freeman came during her junior season when she posted two of the top scores in school history in the one meter (300.90) and three meter (330.98), while nearly qualifying for the NCAA.
“She would have qualified for nationals, — she was good enough — but she had never been in a situation in going through a second list,” said Rydze. “She was within the top-5 and I knew at least five of the people were going. She started thinking about making it to nationals instead of thinking about doing one dive at a time. So that was a learning experience for her.”
“My junior year, I should have qualified, but I kind of messed up,” said Freeman. “That year, they took the top seven on the three meter, and I was fifth going into the final. I had a bad list the second time around and ended up 11th.”
After the heartbreak of narrowly missing out on the NCAAs, Freeman was back at it, working harder than ever with a club team in Michigan. That summer, she qualified for the AT&T National Diving Championships in her first attempt.
“Deidre ended up qualifying for the finals at the USA Diving Championships, which is a lot harder than making it to the NCAA Championships because you have the top high school, collegiate and post-graduate divers,” said Rydze. “That gave her a lot of confidence, so we decided to redshirt her to work on some harder dives and to become more consistent.”
After redshirting the 2009-10 season, Freeman has some big aspirations for herself in her redshirt senior season.
“I want to final at both events at the Big Ten championships and qualify for the national meet,” said Freeman.
Rydze is also expecting big things out of Freeman in 2010-11. “I think she’ll make it to the NCAAs, she’s got the ability. I think she can final at the NCAA because she has been in the finals at the USA Nationals. She also won at our pool in the Invitational against Ohio State’s Bianca Alvarez, who is one of our elite divers in the United States, so I think that’s going to give her a lot of confidence.”
Regardless of what happens during her final season as a Hawkeye, one thing is for certain: diving is in Freeman’s blood, and she wants to continue with it.
“I am going to continue diving,” said Freeman. “I might help out coaching, and I really want to continue training because I feel like there’s more I want to get done.”
Freeman will not only close out her career as one of the top divers in Iowa history, but she’ll also leave the University with degrees in religious studies and Spanish.
This is something that might not have happened had Freeman not taken the leap of faith and followed the advice of her parents and Rydze to join the Iowa swimming and diving program.