On Monday at USA Diving’s 2022 Winter National Championships, Kristen Hayden became the first Black woman to win a U.S. senior title in the sport of diving.
Competing in the mixed gender synchronized 3-meter springboard event, Hayden and partner Quinn Henninger finished first with a score of 286.86, just three points ahead of second-place finishers Anne Fowler and Carson Tyler.
It marked Hayden and Henninger’s first time competing synchro together. Both divers attend Indiana University, where Hayden is a graduate student and Henninger is a freshman. Thanks to their win on Monday, they earned the right to represent the U.S. at the 2022 World Aquatics Championships, which will take place in Fukuoka, Japan, from May 13-29, 2022.
“I don’t think words can even describe the feeling,” Hayden told USA Diving when asked about what it meant to be the first Black woman to win a U.S. national title. “You read about people like that, you watch Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, but when it’s yourself it’s insane. I think the whole diving community is headed in the right direction and I just want to be a good example for young Black Americans or any minority really for diving in the U.S.”
Prior to Hayden’s victory, Mike Wright – who won the 1-meter springboard title in 2012 – was the only Black diver of any gender to own a U.S. national title, according to USA Diving.
Hayden, who is a founding member of USA Diving’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, grew up in Hillsborough, New Jersey, where she competed in swimming and gymnastics before making the transition to diving.
Hayden is expected to enter three more events at 2021 Winter Nationals, which are being held in Bloomington, Indiana: 1-meter springboard, individual 3-meter springboard, and synchronized 3-meter springboard.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC