COLUMBUS, Ohio – For one more terrific, intense weekend of competition, Ohio State’s three senior divers – Ryan Jefferson, from Madison, Wisc., Burkley Showe, from Columbus, and Wes Wieser, from Chesterfield, Mo. – will hear their first names called, their next dives announced and their scores read and posted electronically as they pursue athletics excellence and, hopefully, get to experience the thrill of victory…one final time.
Diving coach Vince Panzano has already hugged his seniors, and probably had his heart tugged a bit too, during senior night activities Feb. 5 at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. But this weekend and fittingly in their home pool – in the very place these three combined to score 101 points four weeks ago toward Ohio State’s memorable and unbelievable Big Ten Conference championship – Ryan, Burkley and Wes will compete one last time as divers at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. And then they’ll each call it a career.
Better call that an outstanding career, for each of them.
Ryan, who along with Burkley will compete on the 1- and 3-meter springboard events at the NCAA championships Thursday through Saturday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, is closing out a career that has seen him dive from both boards at each of the 2008 and 2009 NCAA championships as well as this year. He was a finalist on both at the most recent Big Ten championships, and he has finished as high as second at the conference meet, this coming in 2007 off the 1-meter. All this after a career at Edgewood H.S. that saw him win three Junior National championships.
Ryan recognizes the significance of this week’s meet. He’s just trying not to think about it.
“This meet may just be another meet, but it does come with some extra baggage,” Ryan, who used the term baggage to mean emotions, said. “I’m trying to put it out of my head. I’m trying not to think about this being my last meet.”
That’s because Ryan doesn’t know what life is like not being a diver.
“To a certain degree diving has been my identity for the last 15 years,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what is going to happen. I’ve never known not being a diver.”
Things are going to happen just fine for Ryan, an exercise science major who has one more year of study here at Ohio State before he’s off to medical school. Needless to say, Ryan has excelled in the classroom, being named an inaugural Big Ten Distinguished Scholar – for having a GPA above 3.70 – last year as well as being named an a Scholar All-American by the National Swimming Coaches Association of America.
Hugh B. Showe III – that’s how he is registered for competitions but the name Burkley truly epitomizes this blond haired, carefree young man – grew up in the shadow of the old Mike Peppe Aquatic Center but didn’t want to dive there, so he went to Tennessee for a year before coming back to Columbus and Ohio State. He is also looking at his last meet as just another competition. But he has always looked at meets that way.
“I have never really thought of NCAAs or Big Tens or any big national meet as any different kind of meet,” Burkley said. “It’s still just a meet.”
That approach has carried Burkley to…well to 3-meter springboard heights. He is a four-time NCAA All-American and is coming off his best-ever NCAA finish with a third-place effort on the 3-meter at the 2009 NCAA championships.
He is a Big Ten champion, too, having won his title as a freshman in 2007 on the 1-meter to earn co-Big Ten Diver of the Meet and co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
And he has simply been a huge points scorer for Ohio State at all of the biggest meets, including taking runner-up and fourth-place honors on the 3- and 1-meter boards, respectively, at the 2009 Big Tens and making the final round in both events this year.
This business major, who isn’t quite sure what’s next on his horizon, has competed at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, won silver at the U.S. Nationals and was a six-time Junior National champion while attending Thomas Worthington High School.
“I have achieved almost everything,” Burkley said, “and I am quite happy with my career at Ohio State and on the national level.”
Wes will be competing on all three boards this week. A two-time Big Ten champion, winning titles and earning all-conference honors in 2007 and 2008 on the 10-meter platform, Wes is also a two-time NCAA All-American who is making his third NCAA championships appearance.
In 2008, Wes earned All-America honors on the platform event with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA championships. He was an honorable mention All-American in 2007 after finishing ninth on the platform.
This graduate of Parkway Central H.S. has vast national experience that includes competing at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, and his recent national resume includes a sixth-place platform finish at the AT&T National Diving Championships last summer and a fifth-place finish in February at the USA Diving Winter Nationals and World Cup Team Trials.
Now, he is coming off another fine Big Ten championships meet, taking runner-up honors on both the 10-meter platform and the 3-meter springboard one month ago. He said winning the team title was a great experience.
“Winning a Big Ten individual title is a great personal experience,” Wes said, “but it was totally different winning a team title. It was such a group effort…such a quality effort by the team and it was a great experience to be a part of.”
Wes doesn’t think he will be feeling any pressure this week.
“Having a great Big Ten meet has taken some pressure off me,” the three-time OSU Scholar-Athlete and Academic all-Big Ten honoree said. “I competed at the level I wanted to compete at. I don’t know what I’ll be thinking this week, but I know I will compete exactly the way I’ve always competed.”
And then it will be off to graduate school for the computer sciences and engineering major; either at Ohio State or possibly even Georgia Tech.
There is some saying about all good things coming to an end. That may be true, but when good things come to a predetermined end based on one’s own decisions, they really don’t end. The good things and good times become fond memories and wonderful experiences that can be reminisced about, enjoyed and used as education for a lifetime of achievement…and for more good times.
Good luck today, Ryan, Burkley and Wes. And good luck and good fortune tomorrow, too.