When Wellesley’s Kate Mullin ascends the ladder onto the diving board at a meet, she’s composed and focused.
The junior diver has earned notice in the state already, and for good reason. As a sophomore, she never finished outside of first, and her 521.20 score at the Division 2 state meet blasted the previous record by 16.70 points.
But it can be a lonely place atop a diving board, especially in a big meet. Every single movement, big or small, is being judged with meticulous detail, yet Mullin does all of her thinking before she steps on the diving board.
“Usually right before I get up on the ladder is when I do my checklist and make sure I think about they key points of the dive,” Mullin said. “When I get on the board, I try not to think about the actual dive, but relaxing and calming myself down and acknowledging that I know how to do it.”
She explained: “When I think about the dive on the board, I tend to panic more and get inside my head. So now I usually don’t even think about it once I step on the board.”
Between Framingham’s Halia Bower and Mullin, the suburbs west of Boston boast the Division 1 and 2 reigning state diving champions.
Bower, a senior, was the runner-up her sophomore season. As a junior, she set her sights on eclipsing 500 points and winning the state title. She did just that, turning in a 500.70 score in the state meet and cruising past the runner-up by 47.45 points.
A diver’s performance contributes points to a swim team’s overall score, and for both Bower and Mullin, being able to contribute to a cause beyond themselves is a good way to see a broader picture of the sport.
And for coaches like Framingham’s Mike Foley, it provides peace of mind that their diver can be counted on regularly to be an importance source of much-needed points.
“It’s absolutely essential,” said Foley of having a reliable diver. “It’s one of the 12 events from the meet, but it’s a little bit more unique and different from the other events. And to be able to fill that with a few good divers is great, but to have one that’s going to go out and pick up some solid points for us on a pretty regular basis is [really] valuable to the program.”
After becoming state champ last season, Bower wants to raise the bar even further to etch her name in Framingham’s, and the Commonwealth’s, record books.
“I’m obviously shooting for a state championship again, but it’s a bit more than that for me,” she said. “Last year I got my highest score of 500 points and that was my goal, but now I want to get it even higher than that and to get the high school varsity record for Framingham.”
A big portion of the diving experience is what happens outside of the school season. Swimming and diving at a club level is an integral part of getting exposure to continue the sport beyond high school.
Yet the high school experience provides a nice foil to the individually focused club circuit. There is a level of satisfaction that comes with not only competing well for yourself, but being able to also contribute to a victory for the team.
“It’s very team-oriented because I know that my performance will help the team as a whole,” Bower said. “In club I have great teammates, but it’s more individual when we go off to meets.”
Added Mullin, “High school you’re with the swim team and you’re with your diving team a lot more as a unit, so it’s much more social and cohesive as a group.”
Being among the state’s top divers certainly imposes some pressure. But unlike many other sports, success boils down to one’s individual performance.
“I just try to not focus on what anyone else is doing” said Mullin. “It’s all mental, so I try not to watch anyone else’s dives, I just try to focus on each one of mine.”
“I’ve learned over the years that you kind of have to just focus on yourself,” she said. “If you just focus on what you know how to do, everything flows naturally and it doesn’t make you nervous, or as nervous. Everything around you disappears.”Logan Mullen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByLoganMullen.