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Prep diving: Dive and thrive

Diving is one of the lesser known prep sports in the SCV

Posted: April 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Members of the Foothill League diving team (left to right): Connor Ferris (Canyon), Derek Rider (Valencia), Logan Ferris (Canyon), Drake Nelson (Golden Valley), Carlos De Rada (Golden Valley), Carter Hardin (Valencia), Anna Bidolli (Hart), Julianna Burdette (Canyon), Emma Simmonds (West Ranch), Samantha White (Saugus), Peighton Hall (West Ranch)...

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For all its accomplishments in the water, it remains one of the most unrecognized sports in the Foothill League.

It’s members don’t boast about it’s accomplishments.

They just go out there, step up to the boards, and dive.

Yes, Foothill League schools have a diving team — and it might just be the league’s best kept secret.

“I always call it Hart’s unknown and underappreciated sport,” says Hart High swimmer Nadia Tseng.

Last season, Tseng qualified for the CIF-Southern Section Division I Swimming & Diving Championship, an accomplishment that was matched by many of her Foothill League teammates.

This season, each of the six league schools has divers and are technically members of their school’s swim teams.

But what traditionally takes place as an event at a high school swim meet, isn’t included in the Foothill League. Instead, divers have their own meets.

And while they’re scored individually, and winners are announced, the 15 swimmers from different schools see themselves as one unit.

“We’re all kind of one team. We’re not different teams from different schools,” says Saugus swimmer Katie Waschack. “We might compete against each other, but we stay close. We’re on a team and we don’t care who wins and loses.”

And while the school’s all have swimmers, none have diving coaches.

That’s where Kerry Frick comes in — she is the district coach.

Six schools. One coach.

Frick was a diver in high school and was a member of the University of Arizona dive team.

A few years ago, she tried to start a club dive team in Santa Clarita, but the high costs proved too much, and she instead turned her attention to the high schools, where she has coached for the last three years.

Practice time is hard to come by.

With the swim teams from all six local schools practicing at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center, there is little room for the divers.

“If we’re not out of the pool at the right time, the swimmers will kick us out,” Waschak says. “We pretty much run off the swimmers’ schedule.”

And in a sport that can be as dangerous as diving, that presents a significant problem.

“It’s extremely specialized,” Frick says. “If your timing is off, it can be dangerous ... You have to do it over and over again because if your timing is off then your whole dive is off. And not only is your score affected, but you’re risking some sort of injury.”

That problem becomes even more significant when it comes to the postseason.

Since the divers see themselves more as teammates than adversaries, there is really only one goal each season — to earn a CIF-Southern Section finals berth.

But that’s where things get even more complicated.

At the CIF level, swimmers compete in an event that encompasses dives from both the one-meter and three-meter diving boards.

But Foothill League divers don’t get the chance to dive on a three-meter board — that would require the divers to take too many practice lanes away from the swimmers.

And that is the predicament Foothill League swim coaches are in when it comes to diving — there’s the utilitarian argument: giving practice lanes to a handful of divers would require removing lanes from a much larger group of swimmers.

And then there’s the participation argument: that high school athletes should be given the necessary resources to compete in a sport they love.

Unfortunately, in this valley, there seems to be no realistic option for finding a perfect balance.

“Everybody wants to use the facility at the same time,” says Hart head coach Steve Neale, who Frick says has always been supportive of the diving team. “Unless there’s some more facilities, right now, this is the best of all possible solutions.”
So Frick, and her team show up whenever they can find time to practice.

The divers have arrived to the pool as early as 5 a.m. in hopes of practicing off the three-meter boards, but the cold weather makes it nearly impossible.

“We have three meter on Wednesday mornings at 5 a.m., and that’s the only day that we have it,” says Saugus diver Katie Waschak. “But you really can’t dive. Diving is supposed to be a warm sport, so when the water is cold, you see more injuries.”
So in order to practice, the divers who can afford to pay out of pocket, travel with Frick down to the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center.
But that’s a far cry from the consistent practice time needed to be successful at the CIF-SS Division I level, a fact that makes the Foothill League’s accomplishments even more remarkable.

There’s Golden Valley diver Drake Nelson and Canyon junior Connor Farris, who finished sixth and eighth, respectively, at the CIF-SS Division I finals last season. Connor’s freshman brother, Logan Farris, has already qualified for this season’s CIF-SS championship, along with Carter Hardin from Valencia.

The Grizzlies Alex Orozco finished 16th and Valencia’s Derek Rider, finished 22nd last season.

Nelson, Hardin and Rider have qualified for CIF this season, as well..

On the girls side, Tseng made the finals, finishing in 28th place, and West Ranch sophomore Emma Simmonds came in 30th last season.

Both are back this year, along with Waschak.

But even with their successes, Foothill League divers continue to swim in the shadows.

“The only way I can see (diving being more included) is if there were more people diving,” Tseng says. “Because things happen when there are masses of people. That comes with more awareness.”

And slowly, that’s exactly what’s starting to happen.

“A couple years ago it was more obvious that they didn’t have support,” Frick says. “But because they did so well at CIF, and because they’re doing so well, they’re getting support from school or teammates and swim coaches. So they feel better and perform better when they feel recognized and it makes all the difference in the world to them.”

And if that support continues to grow, Frick hopes one day the divers will be back where they belong, right beside their swimming teammates.



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