The secret to a perfect dive isn’t to fight gravity but to accept it – to acquiesce to its inexorable tug and, for a brief moment, gracefully partner with it and dance in air. The same might be said of the weightlessness of summer. Certainly the inevitable pull of autumn, back-to-school and all things inelegant were felt last Saturday at the Faculty Staff Recreation Center pool by participants present for the 21st annual Summer Diving Championships, coordinated by meet director Becky Binney Woodruff.
Not surprisingly, numbers were slightly down at the late summer event, which found itself in competition with end-of-summer beach trips.
“You can’t really blame them, you know?” said Duke Summer Diving instructor Kelsey Goodman, who brought 15 of her divers to the meet.
Then again, those found plunging into the pool and enjoying a sumptuous potluck lunch had few complaints coming either.
“Life’s not that hard for the kids here either,” Goodman added, laughing.
“Heritage Hills didn’t get their program going this year, but Duke is here, and they brought about 15 kids, and we have about 15 from our program,” Woodruff said,
With the help of head day / youth camp diving instructor Candacie Schrader – and assistant coaches Molly Harkavy, Issy Chung and Claire Pederson – the Farm summer diving program is one of only a few grassroots programs in the area that finds and develops young diving talent that emphasizes safety and valuable life skills.
“We also teach body control like pointing toes, keeping legs straight and together, making their bodies do different things at a very young age – as young as five,” Woodruff said in an email.
“We have had many kids start at a young age to dive at the farm and then go on to dive in high school and even college,” she added.
Ceci Clarke, 8, who came to diving from gymnastics, had a hard time narrowing down what she liked most about diving.
“I like everything,” she said. “Diving’s springier than gymnastics. There are diving things that would break my neck in gymnastics.”
Sophie Goodman, 8, said she was taking the sport “sitting down.”
“My favorite dive is the ‘sit dive,’” she said. “Next, I’m (learning) a fancy dive off the high (three-meter) diving board, but I’m not doing it today in the meet. But this is fun. Mostly I mostly like learning any new things.”
Ana Felix, mother of diver Catie Harrigan, 10, said the program builds character in participants.
“The program just builds confidence. It’s about believing you can do things,” Felix said.
“I learned to dive off the high dive,” added Harrigan, who learned a front pike dive.
Grant Little, 15, stole the show with the meet’s high score: 150.75 points. Top points for the girls came from the 12-and-over division, where Rachel Rozansky (139.75) scored a narrow victory over Riley Rhodes (133.75).
Woodruff said she was especially grateful for the participation of Duke coach Kelsey Goodman and the competitors from Duke Diving – plus the Farm’s Candacie Schrader and Harkavy, who helped with the championship meet – and her own staff of summer league program assistants, including Chung, Pedersen and Daniel Sorscher
“You are all the cream of the crop when it comes to working with children and teaching diving and in all ways,” Woodruff said by email after the meet.
Woodruff hoped to see many of her summer divers participating in the year-round, age-group North Carolina Diving program offered at UNC’s Koury Natatorium and coached by 2000 Olympian and Head UNC Diving Coach Abel Sanchez.
Woodruff said she would likely would set up next year’s summer diving competition schedule slightly differently.
“We ended the season later in the year this year,” she said. “We had meets almost every single weekend, plus we did clinics at UNC and at Duke.”
“Next year, we’ll start earlier in the year and have meets every other week.”
The earlier start would allow the divers to take part in the championship meet in the first week in August. “Then we’ll have a pot luck later in the month – maybe the week before school starts,” Woodruff suggested.
In the meantime, as this summer gives up her fight, young divers will cede to the pull of pens, pencils and paper – that inevitable gravity of grammar and grades – and wait once again for the long days and weightlessness of summer to return.
6-and-under: Oliver Beede (44.95 points); Becca Clarke (52.00).
Boys 7-8: Silas Rasmussen (75.70); Conall Barnhouse (71.90).
Girls 7: Lena Bloom (81.00); Hannah Breen (78.50) .
Girls 8: Ceci Clarke (101.65); Sophie Goodman (84.00); Caroline Johnson (82.70); Tasha Bishop (79.50).
Boys 9-10: Ian Rasmussen (85.75)
Girls 9-10: Elisha Puckett (95.20); Cecilia Harrison (84.85); Adah Ardyson (72.05); Catie Harrigan (70.85).
Boys 11-up: Grant Little (150.75); Leif Rasmussen (136.60); Ian Brown (132.20); Julius George (119.50).
Girls 11: Nadia Bishop (117.30); Kate Johnson (105.85); Emily Parker (103.40).
Girls 12-up: Rachel Rozansky (139.75); Riley Rhodes (133.75); Helena Harrison (113.35).