IU junior diver Michael Hixon and his synchro partner Sam Dorman had been training together just two months when they stepped on the board for their first dive Saturday morning at IUPUI Natatorium.
In their first meet together the stakes were higher than ever — a spot on the United States Olympic team.
The pair kept a lead through most of the preliminary and semifinal rounds and finished at the top of the pack, going into Wednesday’s finals.
Dorman said he doesn’t even look at the scoreboard throughout the day, instead focusing on each individual dive.
“I think we just tried to stay in the same groove we were in this morning,” he said after the semifinal round Saturday night. “We just did one dive at a time focusing on that dive, not the outcome.”
With a combined score of 871.53 — through two rounds of six dives each — Hixon and Dorman have a comfortable edge on the second-place team. That team, of Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen, were likely the favorites to make it to Rio this year.
They represented the U.S. with a bronze metal in London’s 2012 Olympics.
Hixon and Dorman don’t see themselves as the underdogs, though.
“We’ve been training hard and I think we proved that today,” Hixon said.
Hixon, who took an Olympic redshirt at IU this past season, has earned a slew of national and international accolades. He transferred from Texas to IU after his freshman year — in which he won both the 1-meter and 3-meter national titles — to train with IU Coach Drew Johansen.
Now, he has the chance for a possible Olympic berth in both synchronized and individual events.
And he’s not the only one from Bloomington competing at this week’s Olympic Diving Trials.
IU junior Jessica Parratto and former Hoosier standout Amy Cozad also topped the leaderboards after two rounds Saturday. As favorites to win the 10-meter synchro event and represent the U.S. in Rio, the pair will take 617.28 points into the final round.
Parratto and Cozad had the advantage of diving in their home pool, where they both trained for years before coming to IU.
Parratto said even with all the cameras and the pressure of diving on such a big stage, there was a familiarity.
“Honestly, when it comes to it, it’s the same people that you’ve been diving against for years,” she said. “You know all your friends and family are here, and that’s what makes it a more comfortable atmosphere to dive in.”
An Indianapolis native, Cozad said she was receiving messages and Facebook posts all day from people wishing her luck and saying they’d be there cheering her on. That included even her insurance agent, who’s a “huge fan,” she joked.
“It feels like everyone in the crowd is cheering for us.”
Cozad said even after two rounds and a first-place finish, she was still feeling nerves, but that they’ll feel more relaxed on the board during the finals Wednesday.
At that point, they’re treating it like it’s an Olympic final, Parratto said.
“We’re not just trying to be the best in the country, we’re trying to be up there and be the best in the world,” she said. “And I think that’s what our end goal is.”