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Windward’s Zarka Thriving In Diving At Ohio College

Maria Zarka’s fascination with diving boards began at an early age.

“I think I was 10 when my dad (Christopher) put me into swim lessons,” said the former Kalaheo and current Kenyon College standout. “I kept looking at the diving board, and my dad saw this and said we’d switch me (to diving). I only swam for a couple of months before he switched me.

“I liked the idea of not being out of breath all the time,” she added with a laugh. “In diving, half of the time you spend visiting and talking with your friends before jumping off of a board.”

Zarka recently completed a freshman season to remember at Kenyon, which is in Central Ohio, when she exceeded even her own expectations by posting a school record of 514.25 points en route to winning the 2013 NCAA Division III Title in 3-meter diving. Her output shattered the old Kenyon record (452.05) set by Ann Kelley in the 1991-92 season and was a little less than three points shy of the NCAA record (517.10). The win also made Zarka the first Kenyon diver to claim an NCAA title since Becky White won on the 1-meter board at the 2000 Championships.

“Going into the national meet, my goal was to try to place 10th and, points-wise, I wanted to score 475,” said Zarka, who won the 2012 Hawaii state diving title as a senior at Kalaheo. “Scoring over 500 points and winning was unbelievable. Those were goals I hadn’t planned on reaching this year. It’s been real exciting.”

Zarka’s payoff didn’t come without logging in the time. In addition to countless hours practiced diving in Kailua, she also attended college diving camps as a youth and a high school student, traveling to Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Texas and Notre Dame. “At the camps, we had a rigorous schedule, and it gave me a little taste of what Division I would be like,” she recalled. “It was fun, and I thought I’d like to try it (college level competing).”

Up until her midway point at Kalaheo, however, diving was not the priority in her life that it was to become. “I certainly wasn’t serious about it until then, but my parents had it in their heads that they wanted me to be involved in a sport or social circle in college. It’s been a fun transition. When I first got here, I wanted to take all of these classes, but I decided to see how diving plays out (in time management). It’s actually added to my productivity. Diving in college has helped me to become more organized.”

Zarka also has embraced the family atmosphere that exists among her swimming teammates. “What diving has done for me the most is help me to meet great people. My teammates are basically family now. I’ll definitely miss diving when I’m finished with college.”

With the diving season just ended, Zarka will have more free time in the coming months. She made sure she brought a guitar with her to Ohio. “I’d been playing the ukulele for awhile – and now I’m trying to get back to playing the guitar.”