Friday, July 25, 2008


Olympic Dreams

EWU professor Jeni McNeal, who teaches exercise science, is on the Performance Enhancement Team for the U.S. Olympic Diving Team. Six of her 'divers' will compete in Beijing. Here's a story from the Spokesman Review.

Divers' best friend
Jeni McNeal responsible for physical development of members of U. S. Olympic divers

Carley Dryden
Staff writer

Jeni McNeal was never a diver.

"I was a gymnast and we have this fear of going head-first into anything," she says, laughing.

McNeal moved to Spokane from Sequim, Wash., as a teenager to train full time as a gymnast. But for the past six years, she's been on the U.S. Olympic diving team's speed dial.

As director of physical preparation for the team, she works closely with six of the divers headed to Beijing.

When she joined the team staff in 2002, the program was in need of revamping.

"The rest of the world was growing by leaps and bounds physically," she said. "Diving still seemed to be in a paradigm of 'If we dive a lot we'll be fit enough.' They realized that weakness and looked around for someone already working in an acrobatic sport. And that person was me. They kinda stole me from gymnastics."

McNeal, an associate professor of exercise science at Eastern Washington University for eight years, has been at the National Training Center in Indianapolis four to six times a year, tailoring programs for each of the divers.

"Anything related to the physical development of the athletes is my area," she said.

For diving, that means four things: strength, power, flexibility and body composition, she said.

The athletes train 30 to 38 hours a week through Pilates, ballet classes twice a week and strength, dry land and dive training.

John Wingfield, the 2008 U.S. Olympic diving team head coach, said McNeal's addition marked a successful shift in the divers' training.

"She's just phenomenal," he said. "Her ability to assess the kids and their needs and prescribe proper activity for them over periodization has been a tremendous help to us."

Diver David Boudia said McNeal built a foundation of strength for him and created workouts that focus on the legs and core, both crucial to strong takeoffs and tucking into a pike dive.

"Basically she's done everything she could to make us the best divers that we are," he said.

Changes were made after the team came home without medals in 2004 following years of dominating the sport. The most important was ensuring the athletes met together as often as possible to remember they were a team, not adversaries, McNeal said. Their meetings in Indianapolis included leadership classes, socializing and group and coaches training. McNeal also focused the athletes on maintaining their strength while they travel, a problem that occurred recently.

Boudia and Thomas Finchum, two of the team's top divers expected to be top medal contenders, told their coaches they felt weak going into the Olympic trials.

"Which is, you know, an important meet," McNeal said.

They spent so much time readying for the competition, they forgot to strength train, she said. So McNeal has made sure they will be sent to Beijing with weighted vests to preserve strength as they train.

Wingfield said McNeal's development of a successful conditioning plan while the athletes are on the road, often for weeks at a time, is one of her strongest contributions to the team. Her other success is visible in the divers' daily practices.

"We see a greater strength through a fuller range of motion – that's critical," he said. "Range of motion has increased."

Now, three weeks before the Olympic Games, McNeal's job is basically done. Most of her time now is spent in her Cheney office.

She landed the job after eight years at the University of Utah, where she studied closely with William Sands, one of the world's leading sports scientists, and earned her master's degree in exercise and sports science and doctorate in sports science.

"It is a difficult struggle," she said of juggling two jobs. "I manage but there is so much more I could give diving that I can't because of my responsibilities here."

Her Olympic gig is one heck of a volunteer job.

"We get paid in cool warm-up jackets," she says, laughing.

She still remains the lifeline for any of the divers' physical fitness worries, even when she's at school. They frequently contact her by phone or e-mail.

"Right now the name of the game is maintaining fitness," she said.

Due to other commitments, McNeal will not fly to Beijing to watch her six top-tier divers: Boudia, Finchum, Haley Ishimatsu, Mary Beth Dunnichay, Kelci Bryant and Ariel Rittenhouse.

For now, there is one thing on her mind.

"I'm really excited for London in 2012," she said. "It's now my focus already."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Police Training

EWU's own police force joined other departments around the region for training at the old Raceway Park, now owned by Spokane County.
Here's the story.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Askman's Art

EWU Art Professor Tom Askman is known for his works of art that appear in various communities - see Ballard Bridge Sculptures. Now, his latest work will grace the streets of Auburn.

Auburn Reporter


Looking Ahead

It's only July, but the Associated Press did this story on how state universities are approaching the 2009 Legislative session in Olympia. Given the tight budget and economy, there is great uncertainty.
To clarify in the article, EWU's biennial (two-year) budget is a 'request'that will be taken to lawmakers - not an actual budget that has already been approved and guaranteed. Eastern's Board of Trustees approved the funding request package in June.

Seattle PI

Monday, July 07, 2008


Budget Time

With summer break in full swing, things are somewhat slow. However, EWU's Board of Trustees recently approved the budget for FY09. Here's the play-by-play from our friends at the Cheney Free Press (Yes, the editor actually sat through the Board meeting and took good notes!)


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