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AN EXPERT'S VIEW // MATT SCOGGIN

Matt Scoggin, captain of the 1992 U.S. Olympic diving team and a platform finalist in Barcelona, is head diving coach at the University of Texas and will coach two divers at this month's trials. Scoggin, 32, shares his predictions with Times staff writer Sharon Ginn.

Since 1980, the earliest Olympic Trials I can remember, this is the most wide-open trials I've seen. But it's really more fun that way. At the Olympic Trials, when it's wide open, the advantage goes to the dark horses. It doesn't matter what you've done before. It depends on if you're hot.

I think the women's 3-meter springboard is the most open event. A majority, if not all, of the entrants have a legitimate shot at making the team, which usually isn't the case.

Your front-runners would have to be Jenny Keim and Melisa Moses, who finished one-two at the indoor nationals. Keim, just 17, has really surprised people by her improvement on the springboard. She's the one to beat as of late. Moses, probably more than anyone else in the field, has been consistently in the top two at big meets.

But I could give good reasons why any of the 14 entrants could have a shot _ from the oldest competitors, 33-year-old Mary Ellen Clark and 34-year-old Veronica Ribot-Canales, to the youngest, 16-year-old Michelle Davison.

The women's 10-meter platform is a little more clear cut. I think the top two candidates are Mary Ellen Clark and Eileen Richetelli. Both have competed very well on a world-class level and would make a good Olympic team.

Mary Ellen's experience and degree of difficulty make her a front-runner, though I realize some would argue with me because of the problems she has had with vertigo. But when I say experience, I'm really talking about the ability to deal with pressure, and she has more than demonstrated that.

I think four others could pull off an upset _ national indoor champion Becky Ruehl, Keim, Orlando's Lara Jacobson and Patty Armstrong.

The men's 3-meter figures to be by far the most difficult contest. Everyone in it is really good. But I have to go with Mark Lenzi and Kent Ferguson.

Lenzi and Ferguson were the Olympic team in 1992 _ Lenzi won the gold and Ferguson was fifth. They have demonstrated that they're still at the top, and that was evident at indoor nationals, when they finished one-two. On the world level they haven't demonstrated of late that they're up there, but that's because Lenzi is just making a comeback after a 20-month layoff. Ferguson is not far off.

But the first person that could beat one or both of those two is Scott Donie. He's consistently been among the top three at nationals and big meets. Also, Mark Bradshaw, Patrick Jeffrey, P.J. Bogart, Bryan Gillooly, Dean Panaro and David Pichler all have demonstrated they can compete at the top level.

In the 10-meter I would have to go with indoor national champion Pichler and 17-year-old Mark Ruiz of Orlando, based on recent performances. Pichler is very comfortable with his dives, rarely misses and has high degree of difficulty. If he's on, he really could get a medal for us _ of any color _ at the Olympics.

Ruiz doesn't have a lot of experience, but he's done some phenomenal things. He's looking great.

Jeffrey, Chris Mantilla, Russ Bertram, Bogart, Gillooly and Brian Earley all could make it. This is why I'm not a betting person. I don't think anyone can bet on these events. They're too close to call.

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