On the Rise: The word is out … diving no longer just swimming’s forgotten sibling | MyWindsorNow.com

On the Rise: The word is out … diving no longer just swimming’s forgotten sibling

Bobby Fernandez

Some of the best dives around here these days have nothing to do with food and drinks.

For years, locally, diving has been, to many, the forgotten sibling to swimming during those high school swimming and "diving" meets.

Not anymore.

Led by stars like Windsor junior Makena Sanger and Eaton senior Mikeldi Lewis, diving is a sport clearly on the rise, with potential to continue rising for years to come.

Once as unique as they are talented, Lewis and Sanger are finding themselves with plenty of competition to compete against nowadays, as well as no shortage of company to practice alongside within their own teams.

Sanger's Wizards program leads the charge, just as it has led a recent surge in swimming talent locally the past handful of years.

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Just a few years ago, Windsor didn't have any divers. This winter, it has 12, the most the program has had.

"Our coach (Courtney) Hawker has done a lot with diving in Windsor, because she started a club team there in town, which has helped out a lot," Wizards coach Mandy Schneider said. "It has gotten the word out. Lots of people know about it. ."

As Sanger — an All-American, who placed fourth at her first Class 4A state meet this past season — ushered in a new wave of Windsor divers when she began high school two years ago.

She excelled in gymnastics up to that point, but a back injury forced her to give up balance beams in favor of diving boards.

This isn't as unique of a situation as it may sound.

A few of Sanger's Wizards teammates also have a gymnastics background, including senior Zoe Sharpee, who made the same transition after she grew tired of gymnastics. After 10 years as a gymnast, she wanted to try something new.

"I love (diving) more than I love gymnastics. And, I loved gymnastics," said Sharpee, who is in her second year diving for Windsor. "The two sports are very similar. … Definitely body control is a huge thing. If you've done one (sport) or the other, you have a benefit in both sports."

There are only 33 high schools in the state that still have gymnastics, none within Weld County.

There are nearly four times as many schools that offer girls swimming and diving — 122.

So, besides attracting converted gymnasts, why is diving in this area growing at such a steady, consistent rate?

At the risk of oversimplification, the word is out.

Or, according to Eaton's Lewis, the social media post is out.

Lewis has aggressively recruited athletes to her sport.

She regularly posts videos of her dives on Instagram and is eager to sing the sport's praises to curious classmates and friends who inquire about the sport.

"I feel like social media has a big part in it," said Lewis, who placed eighth at the 3A state meet this past February. "Also, when I was going into my sophomore year, the other divers from Eaton graduated. So, I was going to be the only one. So, I went around the school basically begging people to join diving and just try it out, and a lot of people ended up liking it."

Now, like a snowball rolling downhill, the sport is continuously gaining momentum.

Just before her freshman year, Lewis moved to Eaton from Lander, Wyo., where diving was big.

She began diving in Lander, in middle school as a seventh-grader. When she moved to Eaton, she was shocked to learn middle school swimming and diving didn't really even exist in this area.

But, in her four years with the Reds, she has seen the local diving scene build from a modest presence to more of what she was accustomed to in Wyoming.

"It's honestly really cool to see to how many people try it and like it and like watching it," she said. "It's just cool to see people just try it."

A year ago, Lewis was joined on Eaton's relatively small but rising program by a half dozen other divers. After a few of those divers graduated, she is one of four divers on the team this winter.

Despite the modest drop from a year ago, as a whole, the Reds have seen a nice spike in their number of divers the past few years, as have so many other programs.

"It seems like in my three years (coaching the Reds), I'm seeing more teams coming with more divers," Eaton coach Hattie Carlson said. "Other divers telling their friends to come out and do it is the best recruiting tool. I think it's working."

— Bobby Fernandez is The Tribune's sports feature writer. Reach him at (970) 392-4478, by email at bfernandez@greeleytribune.com or on Twitter @BobbyDFernandez. Listen to him at 11:35 a.m. each Tuesday and 6:35 p.m. each Wednesday on 1310 KFKA.

On the Rise

» On the Rise is a new monthly column by The Tribune’s sports feature writer Bobby Fernandez. The column runs every four weeks and will take a look at an athlete, team or trend that is rising in success and/or popularity. If you would like to pitch an idea, email Bobby at bfernandez@greeleytribune.com.