WASHINGTON, Pa. — Keeping busy works for Jennifer Suder.
Washington & Jefferson College athletics are benefiting from it as well.
Suder, a Seneca Valley graduate and W&J sophomore, was recently named Presidents’ Athletic Conference Women’s Diver of the Year following her performance in the conference meet.
Suder won the 3-meter diving title by tallying 391.70 points, 42 points more than anyone else in the competition. She finished second in the 1-meter diving standings with a score of 358.45.
“I got a late start in preseason after the coach called and asked me to come out,” Suder said. “Then I missed the month of January completely, so, yeah, I was surprised by how well I did.”
A diver for three years on the Seneca Valley High School team, Suder gave up the sport when she decided to attend W&J and concentrate on golf as her sport of choice.
Last fall, she finished second in the PAC Women’s Golf Tournament, carding a 79-92-171 to finish nine strokes off the lead, but led her team to the fall championship.
“Doing two sports during my first year in college would have been a little much,” Suder said.
She’s certainly handling that situation now.
Besides her athletic successes, Suder is carrying a 3.5 grade point average as a history pre-law major.
When the golf and diving seasons overlap — diving practice begins in late September — she takes classes until 1 p.m., attends golf practice until 3:30 p.m., then diving practice until 6:30 p.m.
“I’m practicing at least one of these sports pretty much every day,” Suder said. “I spend some late nights doing homework, but that’s OK.
“Competing in two sports has helped my time management. I used to keep putting off homework. I don’t put anything off anymore.”
W&J diving coach Vic Galati marvels at Suder’s performance on the board.
“She was away from it for a year and a half,” he said. “When we got her to join the team this year, she had already planned to study abroad in England during January.”
The PAC Championships were held in mid-February.
“Jennifer had two weeks to prepare once she got back and seemed to pick up where she left off,” Galati said. “She barely missed qualifying for nationals.”
“I felt like I was fairly consistent most of the year,” Suder said. “If I had the month of January, I would have done a lot better. My goal next year is to win the 3-meter and the 1-meter and get to nationals in both.”
Suder was a gymnast with the Butler Gymnastics Club until she was 17. She joined the SV diving team her sophomore year.
Her older sister, Jessica, was a gymnast who went on to compete at Central Michigan University and win a conference title on the balance beam.
“The injuries — knee, ankle, elbow — were starting to get to me in gymnastics,” Jennifer said.
“Landing on water is a lot softer. I had to get used to landing on my head, but a lot of the moves are the same.”
Galati said Suder has “natural moves” when it comes to diving.
“During the time she was away from the sport, she didn’t let herself go,” he said. “She did a lot of running and kept herself in shape. She’s a dedicated athlete.”
This spring, W&J’s women’s golf team will have a 15-stroke lead going into the PAC spring tournament April 22-23 at Cedarbrook Golf Club.
If the Presidents maintain a lead through that event, they will compete in the Division III national tourney.
“We plan on doing that,” Suder said. “I can get a lot better in both sports. I’ve got plenty of room to grow.”
“She has incredible potential. Her future is very, very bright,” he said.