By Corey Donetz
She may not look imposing standing at a modest 4’11”, but Rider graduate Amanda Burke, part of the class of 2010, certainly made a big splash by qualifying for the Olympic Trials in two diving events this past August. Burke will be heading to the Olympic Trials located at Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Washington after placing second in the three-meter synchronized dive and sixth in the three-meter dive.
“I wasn’t thinking about it at all until the end of the meet,” Burke said. “I didn’t only want to qualify, I wanted to get into the top five or top three. If I thought about it then I probably wouldn’t have tried so hard to do well in the final because I already knew I qualified.”
The Olympic Trials are set to take place in both three-meter events as Burke continues her journey in attempts to reaching the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
“It hit me after,” she added. “It was amazing because I didn’t get to qualify at [the] winter nationals in Iowa. The hard work is paying off and that feels amazing.”
Dennis Ceppa, former Rider dive coach who is now at George Mason, played a major role in Burke’s success.
“It was always a pleasure coaching Amanda,” Ceppa said. “She was an extremely dedicated athlete and a very hard worker. She is as driven to reach her goals as any elite level athlete I’ve known.”
While Burke’s qualifying may have come as a surprise for some, Ceppa believed in her from the very beginning.
“I may have been the only person who expected Amanda would qualify for trials early on,” he said. “I was saying it long before this time because I saw her dedication and potential. I believed it before Amanda believed it herself.”
Qualifying for any Olympic event is far from easy, and Burke put a lot of work in to perform at such a high level. She trained for 40 hours a week, working on diving, dry land (trampoline, spotting belts and mats for flips), ballet, lifting and pilates. However, all of the time spent practicing would benefit her physically, but not necessarily psychologically, so Burke found another way to get ready.
“I had to prepare mentally,” said Burke. “We had the team psychologist from the Beijing Olympics there to give us exercises like visualization, journaling and relaxation. I never did that before and that made a difference while performing in this meet.”
During her time at Rider, Burke was a two-time winner of the Rider Athlete of the Year award and was the first Bronc to qualify for NCAA nationals, which she did three times. Burke also holds all five Rider team diving records and all four Rider Pool diving records, along with both MAAC diving records.
“At Rider I have two moments that stick in my head,” Burke said. “It was when we won our conference championships in 2009 and when I qualified for NCAAs in 2008. They were both huge goals of mine and the team, so it meant a lot that I could share something with the team.”
Burke is still in touch with her former coaches, including Ceppa, who still works to help her improve every day.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I appreciate my family for helping me and supporting me throughout the entire process.”
Ceppa is ecstatic for Burke’s future.
“Amanda truly does have an amazing opportunity in front of her,” said Ceppa. “I wish her nothing but the best. I hope she reaches her goals and dreams, I can’t think of a more deserving athlete and person.”
Just shy of a year from now, Burke will compete in June for the chance to become Rider’s first Olympian.
“Now that I’m competing well and placing higher at meets, I know that my hard work is paying off and I can do this,” Burke said.