High school divers are scored on six performances in competition: fronts, backs, reverses, inwards, twisters, and arm stands.
Each dive comes with its own challenge and each diver performs with a unique approach and style. But the most important skill to execute is balance.
“Divers are judged from the moment they stand on the board until the dive is completed and under the water, so the whole time they’re are on the board they need to be in control,” said St. John’s Prep diving coach Kevin Carroll. “It’s really important that they be balanced and in control at each stage of that approach because that is the foundation for all the dives that they do.”
For Prep’s sophomore standout Ben Blizard, that’s precisely what life has become during the winter diving season: a balancing act.
Blizard entered this season coming off a Globe All-Scholastic freshman year in which he set school and Catholic Conference records during an undefeated regular season while capturing the Division 1 state title.
Now as a sophomore, the Ipswich native doesn’t go by the weekly schedule of a typical athlete. In addition to meets, Blizard has not one, but two diving practices on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. One is with St. John’s Prep at 6 a.m. at Salem State’s O’Keefe Center and another is with his Charles River Diving club team at 6 p.m. in Cambridge at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.
“Time management is key,” Blizard said. “Usually, I’ll stay after school and get as much work done as I can and then after club I’ll get as much done as I can. Sometimes that’s still not enough to finish everything so if I have a free period during the day, I’ll do it then.
“There’s definitely been points when I haven’t gotten enough sleep because of my diving schedule. That, along with eating well, are two huge goals for this season.”
This crunch for time is not unusual among talented divers. Some choose to compete only for their club team because it provides steeper competition.
Blizard, on the other hand, thrives while competing for both teams. He prefers the competitive aspect that club swimming offers and the opportunity to travel outside the state, but says it’s the team culture Prep has cultivated that has made his hectic schedule worthwhile.
“My favorite part of diving is definitely the social aspect,” Blizard said. “Diving is more of an individual sport than a group sport, but it’s always nice to have a team there to back you up.”
Anthony Padvaiskas is in his 19th season as head coach at the Prep. “I’ve coached Olympic trial qualifiers all the way down to the little guys, but high school athletics has its own special niche,” he said. “Having that team camaraderie, you’ll never forget it. The kids really embrace it when they come back from college and 20 years later they’ll look back on it and realize how special it was.”
“We win as a team, and I think that’s the one ingredient that has helped us out every year,” Carroll said.
The Eagles have captured 10 of the last 11 Division 1 state team championships. But the swimming and diving program stresses true success is not only developing the athlete, but also the whole person.
“I think a lot of Ben’s qualities are overlooked because he’s such a great diver,” Carroll said. “He’s actually an outstanding young man with a lot to offer. He’s humble as well as generous.
“Typically, when the teams gets off the bus, the freshmen will carry the water. But now, even as a sophomore, he carries it anyway.”
Prep senior captain Connor Delaney, who also competes for Charles River Diving, is glad to have his younger teammate around.
“[Blizard] comes in at 6 a.m. eager to dive, and always makes things a little more fun,” he said. “He’s definitely a dedicated diver and has always been a great teammate.”
Blizard aims to take home his second state title in February, but said his drive to dive lies in his deep love for the sport.
“What really motivates me is getting out of bed in the morning knowing that diving is there and that I can dive every day.”
P.J.Wright canb reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.