Hailey Wyatt undaunted by pressures of state
February 9, 2013
In an uncharacteristically undisturbed pool, a lane line was pulled aside to make room for a diver to practice her moves.
The white board displaying water temperature, pH and chlorine readings also read, “State 2013, Baby! Divers Rock!”
The diver is Hailey Wyatt, a senior who is heading to the state swim and dive meet in Thornton today to test her skills against the best in Colorado. This, after arriving at Summit High School for her senior year from Frederick High School outside of Denver, and stepping onto the pool deck never having dived before.
Sure, it helps that she has 13 years of gymnastics talent that dive coach Joe Baldwin says made his job “easier,” but he also “wouldn’t say it was easy.”
The challenge wasn’t teaching the girl how to move – she already had that down, pat – it was teaching her how to translate what she already knew into the timing appropriate for moving from springboard to water.
Wyatt is the first competitor Baldwin has accompanied to the elite meet in his tenure with the team – and she only just got here.
Her standout athleticism began on the rugby team, where she stepped right onto the field, ready to put herself out there, taking hits and scoring tries for her team. When Wyatt joined the dive team, it wasn’t immediately clear that she’d be a stand-out diver, but as the season progressed, Wyatt’s talent and ability to earn a state-qualifying score become more apparent.
Then, a week ago, she tallied a 300.30 at the Western Slope Conference Championships meet, earning her the state ticket.
The rest of the swim and dive team has gone home. They’re preparing for the spring season, or just taking a break from their winter in the pool. But, as the day turns to night, Wyatt and Baldwin spend an hour or so perfecting Wyatt’s portfolio of dives in preparation for the big day.
On Thursday night, the duo also had the company of fellow divers Abby Akers and Tessa Gunnin, who were perched on the side of the pool, scorecards in hand.
Wyatt breathed out, breathed in and began her movement. All of a sudden, the board pressed down and she exploded into a back somersault, one-and-a-half twist.
Landing too far forward, Baldwin called out from the deck, “Maintain the same height, but slow the somersault down.”
Wyatt nodded, clambered out of the pool and pulled herself back onto the board to try again.
“From the beginning of the season, this is where my head was at – making state,” Wyatt said. “This is going to be fun for me; I have nothing to lose.”
Indeed she doesn’t. She qualified after she zeroed on her back two-somersault dive and royally messed up her front double in pike position, which is normally “a cherry on top – it’s gorgeous,” Wyatt said. She’d started with the wrong foot forward and the dive that coaches had admired during practice and was sure to earn her a score of 7 or 8 (extremely high by high school standards) turned into a splash of water and a smattering of bruises on her legs.
“Well, we can only go up from here,” Baldwin had said to his diver, to which she responded, “You’re the worst pep talker ever.”
But she did go up. Wyatt nailed her inward one-and-a-half, the best performance of it she’d had all season. Her last dive needed a combined total of 16 points from the judges, and as she was reading the scoreboard, Baldwin was already dancing around the tiled floor of the pool arena in excitement. She qualified on nine and a half of her 11 dives.
Wyatt is suprisingly calm about her feat. Several months ago, she wasn’t a diver. Now, she’s headed to the state meet. Several months ago, she was comfortable with somersaults, flips and twists. Now, she’s added gainers to her repertoire – with the diving board as an added intimidation factor and obstacle to overcome.
Practice is fun and relaxed, with music playing and Baldwin helpfully critiquing Wyatt’s technical aspects. And when it comes to today’s event in Thornton, Wyatt’s plan is to “go have fun, keep my chin up and do the dive I know how to do – and rock it,” she said.
“If she does as well at the state meet as she does in practice, we’ve got nothing to worry about,” Baldwin added.
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