Kunkel Narrowly Misses National Title; Finishes Sixth

INDIANAPOLIS -- Competing in a close event which came down to the final dive, BYU senior Rachelle Smith Kunkel finished sixth on the 1M board in the first day of the women's swimming and diving NCAA Championships Thursday.

Up against some of the finest divers in the world, Kunkel started strong, winning the preliminaries with a score of 444.85, over 20 points ahead of her closest competitor. Kunkel was last to compete in the finals, and entering her final dive, was behind by just a point. With the national championship on the line, Kunkel missed the dive, a difficult two-and-a-half reverse, to slip to sixth place overall.

"She just came up a little bit short," said BYU diving coach Keith Russell. "She missed the dive, and so instead of winning, ended up sixth. She did a great job, a fantastic job, and should have, could have won. We're very excited about her finish and for her making the finals, scoring points for our team and making All-American. We know she's a champion."

Kunkel was named a first-team All-American for her performance to follow up last year's

second-team honors. She improved from 15th in the event last year to this year's sixth-place finish.

Louisiana State sophomore Jamie Watkins captured the 1M title with her score of 439.70. Jenny Keim of Miami was second, while Watkins' teammate Ashley Culpepper was third.

Kunkel will compete again tomorrow on the 3M board. Though considered her weaker event, Kunkel has made drastic strides this season and won the event at the NCAA Zone E Qualifying Meet last weekend. Teammate Jennifer Tasker, a junior, will represent the Cougar swimmers, competing

tomorrow as well in the 100 breast.