Diving at Mission Viejo : J.D. McGregor, 27, Is Surprise Finalist

Times Staff Writer

What, one has to wonder, could J.D. McGregor be pushing for?

Most of the best divers in the United States are in their mid-20s, and most are going after one more shot at the Olympics in 1988. After that, they likely will retire en masse.

McGregor is 27--the same age as Greg Louganis--but he never has finished higher than 11th in a U.S. diving championship.

McGregor, who began diving at 18, knows he can never catch up. When Louganis won a silver medal on the platform in the 1976 Olympics, McGregor was still two years away from taking up diving, a sport he regarded at first as merely trampoline tricks performed into a pool.

With Louganis a near-certain bet to take the first of two Olympic team spots on both the 3-meter springboard and the 10-meter platform, everyone's chances of making the team are slim. McGregor's, though, are even slimmer.

But McGregor, who learned to dive from reading a book in high school, is still trying.

He wouldn't turn down a chance at the Olympics--and he wants very much to go to the Olympic trials--but his main goal is a possible one.

"My goal is to make the national team," McGregor said.

To do that, he would have to finish in the top eight in either the U.S. Indoor next month at Baton Rouge, La., or the U.S. Outdoors in July. Or, of course, wait another year.

Saturday, McGregor, who trains in Mission Viejo, produced reason to think he may be able to make the national team.

He made the four-man finals in the 10-meter platform competition of the McDonald's Cup III at the Marguerite Recreation Center in Mission Viejo by scoring 532.20 points--his best ever, McGregor said.

Louganis led all scorers with 638.85, receiving 9s on 5 of 10 dives and garnering two 9s, two 9.5s and a 10 on his next to last dive, a back 3 1/2-somersault tuck. After the high and low scores were thrown out, and adjusted for degree of difficulty (3.3 of a possible 3.5), he scored 92.40 on the dive.

Matt Scoggin and Bruce Kimball also advanced to today's platform final.

Only a few of the national team contenders are missing from this competition, so making it to the finals seems to bode well for McGregor's chances. Divers are advancing by match play in this meet, however, and McGregor's score was only the sixth best of the day, although he made the final because of the bracketing.

Louganis also scored the highest total of the day on the springboard (644.70). Doug Shaffer, Kimball and Mark Bradshaw, who gave Louganis his first three-meter springboard defeat in six years, also advanced to today's final.

Megan Neyer (480.30) had the highest score in the women's springboard, and will dive against Kelly McCormick, Wendy Lucero and Tristan Baker-Schultz.

Michele Mitchell, the 1984 Olympic silver medalist, scored 439.10 on the platform and will compete against Leisa Johnsen, Karen LaFace and 1984 Olympic bronze medalist Wendy Wyland in the final.

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