Mikaela Thompson knew that it was just a matter of time before a young diver, one with promise and determination, would break her diving records at Weston High.
But to have that individual be under her wing, in what quite likely will be her lone season as the diving coach working with head coach Claude Valle and the Red Tide, has been quite rewarding.
In a home meet in late January against Medfield, sophomore Charlotte Martinkus registered a 1-meter, six-dive score of 361.25 — breaking marks for the pool (340.80) and program (359.50) set by Thompson in 2015, ironically nearly five years to the day.
“I was really excited for her,” said Thompson.
“It was a great deal to be there when she did it and be able to be the coach to help her get there, which was awesome. I’m so proud of her.”
Martinkus, a qualifier for Saturday’s MIAA North sectional championship at MIT, is learning from an individual who certainly left her mark off the board, both at Weston, and later at Harvard University, where she was a senior captain last winter, a two-time Ivy 1-meter champion (2016-17), and three-time all-league selection.
In many ways, Thompson sees plenty of similarities between her student and her younger self, especially in both of their journeys, and making the transition from gymnast to diver.
The 16-year-old Martinkus started as a gymnast, but slowly immersed herself in diving, as a middle school student, through lessons with a club coach, Joe Chirico. By high school, she had stepped away from gymnastics, feeling it was taking an unhealthy toll on her body.
The transition, however, was not smooth. Once she rooted out habits from gymnastics, Martinkus’s performances in the pool improved noticeably.
Her mental approach also changed. She was a self-proclaimed nervous wreck on the mat.
Her immersion into diving helped her improve her composure and confidence, resulting in better consistency.
“As a former gymnast, Charlotte already had the ability to flip and twist coming into diving,” Thompson said.
“But there are technical differences between gymnastics and diving, especially in board work, take-offs, and entries into the water, that a former gymnast transitioning to diving has to work on to become more consistent, so these technical areas of diving are what we have been focusing on most.”
Martinkus is able to participate in two equally rewarding programs at Weston High, and another with her club, Boston Area Diving.
With the varsity, she savors her relationships with her teammates and relishes the chances to meet other divers. At the club level, she values the opportunities, from travel to new-life experiences
And in two coaches, Chirico and Thompson, she receives different perspectives.
“I learned different corrections and techniques from both of them, which I feel is really good.,” she said. “I like to practice in both environments because it’s easier for me to improve.”
Thompson, now 23, followed a similar path, from gymnastics to the pool in middle school, before joining Valle’s program at Weston. She starred in a program that has produced a number of state champions and All-Americans before a stellar college career competing for the Crimson.
Since her graduation last May — and working as a clinical research coordinator and studying for medical school — Thompson answered Valle’s call to return her alma mater in a part-time role as a diving coach.
Valle believed the return of Thompson during her gap year would generate excitment and bring credibility to the diving team.
“I think any time you have success, it breeds more excitement,” Valle said of the impact of Thompson’s return. “More kids start to think ‘Oh, maybe I could do that.’ It gives them a vision or a path they can look at and understand.”
The Red Tide compiled a 10-1 record in dual meets this season, and Martinkus matched that 10-1 mark as a diver.
“My long-term goals are to clean up my diving and make it more pleasing to watch,” Martinkus said.
“I want to make my diving prettier and more effortless because that is the essence of the sport. Improvement satisfies me, so when I notice it in my diving, I feel I reached a short-term goal, and then I keep making bigger goals.”
Martinkus views Thompson as a successful example to follow in college and in life.
“Charlotte knows the path that Michaela just finished and would like to do that,” Valle said. “She’s seen Michaela as someone who’s studying hard and preparing for med school but also giving back to her sport.
“The relationship between the two is truly special.”
Andrew Lin can be reached at email@example.com.