Women’s Swimming: Olympic-sized dream

Bette Marston

Since the start of her freshman year, fifth year senior Leanne Dumais has been a huge factor of Northwestern’s diving team. Now as her career as a Wildcat diver comes to a close, she looks toward a strong showing at the Big Ten Championships and possibly qualifying for the Olympic Trials.

Dumais started diving when she was just seven years old. The closest facility to her home in Ventura, Calif., was 70 miles away, so her family had to travel for her to dive. All the travel paid off when she placed fourth at the Junior World meet in 1998.

Academics have always been important to Dumais, so when it came time to look at colleges, she was immediately drawn to Havard’s academics. But NU’s strong balance between academics and diving attracted Dumais.

“Come later in life, (academics are) what will actually stay with me rather than diving,” Dumais said. “But when I came on my recruiting trip, I just fell in love with the diving team and (the coach) … I figured, ‘OK, this is the school for me.'”

NU diving coach Alik Sarkisian took over the program in 2006, and Dumais was excited because Sarkinsian was her coach before high school and when she finished fourth in the world.

Dumais has the mindset of a true diver: She said diving is her life and has been her identity for as long as she can remember. She even admits to putting diving before her academics at times.

“I love being on the board, and that’s … where I want to be perfect,” Dumais said.

Sarkinsian sees in Dumais the potential to be an elite, world-class diver.

“She has everything to do it, from the attitude to … how you can balance your lifestyle,” Sarkinsian said.

“Anybody (can look at her) and see what diving is supposed to be.”

Throughout her NU career, Dumais has experienced many successes as well as her share of setbacks.

During her freshman season, she was considered the Cats’ top diver, and she finished in the top 10 at the Big Ten Championships on all of the diving events – 1-meter, 3-meter and platform. Her sophomore season started out just as well, but Dumais tore her rotator cuff, which put a damper on the end of her season.

“The end of my sophomore year and my junior year were probably the most difficult times of my life,” Dumais said. “That was very rough being a true student again; not that I don’t love academics, but it’s hard not being at the pool with my team.”

Her junior season took a similar path, with Dumais falling sick near the end of the season. But she still finished seventh on the 1-meter at the Big Ten Championships. She did compete last season due to injury.

But this season is looking optimistic for Dumais, and Sarkinsian said she has been very successful thus far. Dumais has finished in the top three in all but one meet and has finished first five times.

Heading into Big Tens, Dumais said she just hopes to be at her absolute best for the competition and make a run at a Big Ten title.

“It’s not about winning to me,” Dumais said. “People say it’s about competing against other people, but in diving, it’s about competing against yourself. I want to be at my best and hopefully I am, and if not, that’s OK. It happens.

“I just want to emerge from this and be proud of what I did, proud of coming back after the difficulties I’ve faced. Whatever happens, happens.”

After this season, Dumais plans to continue diving with Sarkinsian at NU and try to qualify for the Olympic Trials. The qualifying meet begins on April 16, so she plans to remain focused.

“If everything goes right, it will bring her to the Olympic Trials,” Sarkinson said. “If she makes it … that will be her biggest achievement.”

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