Mission Viejo Diving : J.D. McGregor Rises to Occasion in Home Pool

Times Staff Writer

When most of the divers who had long trained at Mission Viejo left a year and a half ago to follow Ron O'Brien, former Mission Viejo Nadadore coach, to a new club in Boca Raton, Fla., J.D. McGregor stayed behind.

McGregor (the initials are for John Douglas) had roots in Mission Viejo--a girlfriend and a house. The divers who left--among them 1984 Olympic medalists Greg Louganis, Michele Mitchell and Wendy Wyland--had roots, too, but they went to Florida, where they now dive for the Mission Bay Makos.

That was hardly the first time McGregor has approached his diving differently.

This is a man who first learned to dive from a book, who for a time considered the sport little more than performing trampoline tricks into a pool, who chose it over wrestling late in high school because it was less sweaty, and who once read most of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" poolside between dives during a competition.

He is a man exceedingly concerned with health, who has put many of the 135,000 miles on his car working as a driver for an office products company, and who entertains himself with books on topics as obscure as amino acids, vitamins, acupuncture and the effects of free radicals--smog, smoke and such--on the body.

He is also 27--the same age as Louganis--and he has never finished higher than 11th in a U.S. championship. His competition record in the U.S. Diving guide is only three lines long.

Most of the best divers in the United States are also 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.

So why is McGregor hanging around?

With Louganis a near-certain bet to take the first of the two 1988 Olympic team spots on both the 3-meter springboard and the 10-meter platform, anyone's chances of making the team are slim.

And McGregor's are more so.

McGregor, who began diving at 18, knows he can never catch up.

This is not to suggest that any amount of training could have made him--or anyone--Louganis' equal, but when Louganis won a silver medal on the platform in the 1976 Olympics, McGregor was still two years away from taking up the sport.

McGregor 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 very possible one.

"My goal is to make the national team," said McGregor, who points out that besides prestige, making the national team would give him an opportunity to travel to international competitions.

To make the national team, McGregor, who has trained in Mission Viejo since 1981, would have to finish in the top eight--three spots higher than ever before--in either the U.S. Indoor next month in Baton Rouge, La., or the U.S. Outdoors in July. Or, of course, wait another year.

Saturday he 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 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 1984 Olympic silver medalist Bruce Kimball also advanced to the platform final.

Only a few of the national team contenders are missing from this competition, so making it to the final seems to bode well for McGregor. Divers advance 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.

"I did my best today," McGregor said.

Glenn McCormick, the father of Olympic diver Kelly McCormick and the coach who introduced McGregor to O'Brien, agreed, saying McGregor looked very sharp and was a good bet to make the national team this year.

Louganis also scored the highest total of the day on the springboard (644.70). Doug Shaffer, Bruce Kimball and Mark Bradshaw, who last month 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 1984 Olympic silver medalist Kelly McCormick, Wendy Lucero and Tristan Baker-Schultz.

Michele Mitchell, the 1984 Olympic platform 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.

The men's and women's springboard finals begin at 1 p.m.; the platform finals at 2:30 p.m.

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