In the hydro-therapeutic portion of the meet, a diver stood on the end of the board, her back to the water as her teammates shouted encouragement. “You got it, come on,” said Coach Patrick McQuaid. “Dig deep. You’ve got this. Believe in yourself.” The diver stood there in half-concentration and half-fear for 45 long seconds, then sprung off the board and did the requisite flip and tuck, nailing the dive. Her teammates shouted approval and McQuaid said, “Wooo! There you go!” as the judges held up their scores: 4, 5½, 5½, 5, 5.
The best divers make the flips, tucks, somersaults and twist – all negotiated in about two seconds – look easy. But watching those who are still struggling – and the occasional belly flop from even the better divers – shows just how difficult it is to get good at one of the more graceful high school sporting events.
Freedom’s Kirsten Hulsey won the meet and scored high enough to qualify for the NCS meet on May 20, along with three other Falcons: Alexia Paredes, Kate Clark and Mikaila Lucido. While the Falcons are not one of the dominant diving teams in the Bay Valley Athletic League, they have come a long way, considering that they fielded only two divers on the team last season.
McQuaid, a military vet who won the BVAL championship while diving for Deer Valley High in 2000, was asked how his neophyte team has been able to improve so quickly. “A lot of them have a lot of natural talent,” he said. “Plus they work very, very hard when they are doing their dives. And they have been able to get their dives fairly quickly with a lot of determination and trust on both ends of the team.
“They have gone above and beyond my expectations as a team. I consider this a rebuilding season. But it’s almost like I’m taking the team to a championship. It makes me feel good to know that I’m doing my job as a coach and my girls are learning from my experiences and taking what I have to teach them to the next level and going above and beyond what I expected. I’m proud of every single one of them. They are all very special and extremely talented. They have made it a very fun and interesting season.”