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Diving into success

Freshman makes waves on dive team

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Diving into success

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The diving board seemed to tower over the lake as freshman Sydney Rice, then 6, peeked over the edge. Fear consumed her as she tried to muster the courage to jump into the water below. Rice stood on the edge of the board as she imagined everything that could go wrong — she could hit the board, the water could hurt if she accidentally did a belly flop, the distance between the board and the water could make for a terrifying fall.

Rice pushed away the thoughts and made her decision — she was going to jump. She took a shaky breath and hurdled off the board. As she leaped through the air, the scary thoughts disappeared and she hit the lake with a splash. Joy bubbled up inside of Rice as she came up for air. She scrambled up onto the board again, jumping into the water over and over again, gaining more confidence each time.

Rice was soon diving into the lake with grace, the childlike excitement she experienced after each jump solidifying the realization that she had fallen in love with diving.

Rice began diving classes soon after. After a year and a half of lessons, she took the next step — meets. With each year she got better and began competing in harder meets. After nine years of club competition, she became a star athlete on the school diving team as a freshman.

“Diving is difficult because it’s not just physical, it’s mental and a lot of people think that you can just get up there and do the dive,” Rice said. “But they don’t see the behind-the-scenes preparation you have to put in.”

She’s really good. Even her hardest dives are amazing.”

— Maddie Moran

Rice puts in long hours of rigorous training including strength training as well as practicing her dives to be a top athlete. Becoming a successful diver also requires mental discipline in addition to the demanding physical training.

The process of learning dives primarily takes place on dry land, where Rice completes rigorous conditioning exercises, focusing on her core, arms and legs. She also practices flips and twists on a trampoline. According to Rice, 70 percent of diving is workouts. Once she begins diving, Rice practices lead ups. When she and her coach decide that she is ready to fully try the new dive, they use bubbles so if she makes an error she won’t get hurt. Rice said learning new dives is her favorite part of the sport.

“It’s really scary, but once I have it, I’m really happy because I just get to try my hardest on it,” Rice said.

To be a successful diver, Rice altered her schedule to fit frequent practices. Her day starts at 4:45 a.m., when she wakes up for a two hour practice for the school’s dive team before attending classes.

“Since I dive so much outside of school, I don’t really have time for homework, so I do as much homework as I can at school,” Rice said.

After school, she has National Team training for two hours, where she practices her harder dives.Rice qualified for a national meet to be on the National Team. She successfully did so by learning new, more difficult dives, such as her reverse two and a half dive, and scoring and placing well at meets.

“It’s amazing. Most of her dives are spot on. There’s not much error,” sophomore diver Maddie Moran said.

Diving is difficult because it’s not just physical, it’s mental and a lot of people think that you can just get up there and do the dive. But they don’t see the behind-the-scenes preparation you have to put in.”

— Sydney Rice

Rice is a standout athlete on the diving team, according to Coach Sherry McGuire. She and Rice’s teammates have recognized Rice’s determination to be the best diver she can possibly be and her high caliber of skill.

“She’s really good. Even her hardest dives are amazing,” Moran said.

According to McGuire, Rice is always on task and is the first diver out of the locker room and to do whatever was asked.

“She is a very coachable diver. She is well-liked and gets along with everybody,” McGuire said. “She’s very humble, but she’s determined.”

McGuire believes that Rice’s hard work has paid off. She recently placed first at the Aggieland Invite and second in the three meter event at the TISCA Invitational.

“She turns it on at a meet. She comes and and does her best. She is very focused,” McGuire said. “It’s thrilling for her.”

McGuire’s main goal for Rice is to help her qualify as an All American. McGuire has helped produce eight diving All Americans in her time coaching the dive team, and believes Rice is on the path to gaining the title.

“All American divers are the top hundred in the nation, and my goal is for her to be one of those hundred,” McGuire said.

Rice has similar goals for herself, including advancing through the season and competing at meets only the best divers can qualify for.

“My goals for this season are to make it to regions in high school because we are in a really hard district,” Rice said.

McGuire also believes that having Rice on the team helps other divers work hard to improve as well, which benefits the dive team as a whole.

“She’s willing to work really hard and put in the time and not take shortcuts. She will do the work. She won’t cheat on a workout. She does it all,” McGuire said. “It’s just great to have her around.”
• • •

The idea of smacking the water out of her dive was all Rice could think about as she watched the other divers, waiting for her turn to compete in the 2017 Red, White and Blue Nationals, her first year in a more difficult age group. She began climbing the stairs to the board and all she could think about was how many times she had executed the dive poorly in practice, nerves creating a sick feeling in her stomach with each step she took.

“At meets I’m a nervous wreck. Lots of people have to calm me down because I get really nervous and scared that I won’t do my dives well,” Rice said.

However, as soon as she got on the board with the familiar sight of the water below her and the rough feeling of the board beneath her feet, her mind went blank. She didn’t think of anything — not about smacking out of her dive, or hitting the board wrong and injuring herself. It was just her and the board, and all she had to do was jump.

The judges signaled for her to begin, and she took a deep breath before bouncing on the board and leaping into her hurdle. She hit the board and flew into the air, gracefully flipping before slipping into the water, barely making a splash. The calm water signaled that she had performed a successful dive.

As she came up from the water, the same childlike joy she experienced years before bubbled up within her when she realized how well she executed her dive.
She eyed the scoreboard as she swam to the edge of the pool, anxiously waiting for her score. The board flashed the judges’ decision of a 7.5 out of 10— the best she had ever done. Her score secured her sixth place at the meet.

“I wasn’t really thinking about anything, I was just really excited,” Rice said.
• • •
After nine years of competitions and practices Rice’s love for diving has remained strong. Along with how to flip and twist into a pool, she said the sport has taught her valuable life lessons.

“I feel like it makes me a better person because I’m not just competing against myself, but other people too,” Rice said. “So I get to work along others and try to pump them up and it makes me feel better to do that too.”

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