Freshman Riley Kimmel adjusted her feet as she stood backwards on the diving board, staring straight ahead with a calm face. Her back to the water, she swung her arms and jumped. Kimmel folded into a pike mid-air then cleanly dove into the water, completing her inward dive.
She heard the usual round of applause, then glanced to the left to see the judges’ scoring before heading back to the break room. Kimmel grabbed her cap and goggles and hurried back to the pool to warm up for her main event: 100-meter backstroke.
At the Lancer Invitational swim meet on April 23, Kimmel swam a 1:06 in the 100-meter backstroke, qualifying her for state.
“It’s rewarding when everything pays off and you reach your goal,” Kimmel said. “When I got the state cut girls were all cheering behind the lane and I was so happy. I’ll never forget that.”
Each school can take four swimmers for every event to state if their times qualify. Kimmel’s backstroke time secures her the fourth spot for now. However, if another swimmer has a faster time, they will take her place in the event at the final state meet.
If she were to try and make state this year in dive, Kimmel would have to learn several new dives. She would need to attend more dive practices, taking away from swim. So she can maintain her spot at state in swim, Kimmel and her coaches have decided that she focus on her 100-meter backstroke instead of diving.
“Even though we don’t have the time this year, it is for sure possible for Riley to do both swim and dive at state next year,” Cole said.
Before the swim and dive seasons began, Kimmel decided she wanted to compete in backstroke, her specialty event, and the 100-meter Individual Medley (IM). However, she soon learned that her second event, the 100-meter IM, was only swum in her summer league and not in high school meets. Rob Cole, the girls’ head swim coach, had another idea for her second event.
“Her diving is a better option than any second event in swimming, so we opted to have her do one swim and one dive event,” Cole said.
Kimmel agreed that going out for both swim and dive was a good plan. After the first day of swim tryouts, she left feeling discouraged and dissatisfied with her times. As the week continued, tryouts improved, and Kimmel dropped time in every race during time trials. But, she still didn’t expect to make varsity swim since only five freshman were supposed to make it.
For dive tryouts, Kimmel needed to perform at least 11 dives. Struggling to reach the minimum, Kimmel had to “throw” dives that she had never practiced before. The results were posted at the end of the week, and to her surprise, Kimmel saw her name under both the varsity swim and dive lists. After the wave of excitement ended, she realized how demanding the practice schedule would be.
Coach Cole and Dive Coach Shelly King organized a specific practice schedule for Kimmel since the practices overlap. Mondays and Wednesdays, Kimmel has swim practice before school at 6 a.m. and dive in the afternoon. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, she only attends swim practice.
“Rob and Shelly are really flexible with my schedule,” Kimmel said. “If I miss a lot of yardage while I’m at dive, Rob will have me swim for a little then I’ll go back to dive so I don’t get behind.”
Although they compete as one, the swim and dive teams are separate. There are only seven divers on the dive team, but the swim team is composed of nearly 50 swimmers on both varsity and JV. Kimmel gets to experience both the exciting race atmosphere at swim, while participating in the graceful art of dive.
“The swimming environment is a lot more energetic than diving… but it’s nice a balance because I get to be a part of both,” Kimmel said.
With state less than a month away, the swim and dive teams are preparing to take back the title. After winning Sunflower League May 7, the team hopes to defeat their rivals and reigning state champions, Lawrence Free State. Next year Kimmel hopes to contribute to the team with both swim and dive at state.