Diving into the summer league

By Matt Phelps

The Mercerwood Shore Club dive team hosted the Mercer Island Beach Club divers Thursday during the final Midlakes regular season meet. The Shore Club won, 117-69, but the scores of these meets are inconsequential.

The regular season is just practice for the oldest of the divers for the Championship Midlakes dive meet that will take place this weekend. For the youngest of the divers, the regular-season meets give them a chance to learn new things and conquer their fears.

The meet on Thursday began with a sobering reminder of how dangerous the sport can be without supervision. During a pre-swim, before the meet's warm-ups, which is not supervised by coaches, one of the divers attempted a dive and hit his face on the diving board. Although the incident did not require a trip to the hospital, it delayed the start time of the meet and shook up some of the spectators.

``The kids didn't seem to notice (the incident),'' said Mercerwood Shore Club dive coach Mike Bersos. ``I think the fear factor is different for every kid.''

Midlakes has 26 teams for swimming but only six for diving. Of those six, three compete from the clubs on the Island -- the Shore Club, Beach Club and Country Club.

Each of the younger kids who participate have six or seven dives that they have to learn to compete in the summer league.

``The program has really blown up in the past three years,'' said Bersos. ``It has gone from 15 kids to 45 kids. I think they see their friends doing it and they want to try it too.''

The coaches are all former divers, such as Dani Zorn, who dove for Mercer Island High School and took fourth place at state during her senior year.

``All the stuff that my coaches always told me has started to make a lot of sense,'' said Zorn.

But diving is not easy. During the meet, one of the 10-year-old divers was ready to perform a back dive but froze on the board. With all eyes on the young diver, her coaches tried to get her to calm down. After nearly five minutes, Beach Club coach Ashley Locke came up with the right words to break the diver's tension.

``I told her, `mind shut up, body take over,''' said Locke.

The words worked and the diver hit the water. The spectators gave her a loud ovation when she emerged from the water.

``Kids just need reassurance sometimes,'' said Locke. ``They are a bit more responsive to coaching than the older kids.''

For the older kids, such as Beau Riebe, who scored the highest during the meet with 310.95 points, the meets are a chance to dive in and have some fun. There is very little hesitation for the older boys, whose age bracket is one of the largest in the program's history.

With the increased size of the program, Mercer Island High School will have a lot of experienced divers coming up in the next few years to contribute to a legacy that Zorn and the other coaches have helped to build.

``It is great to think about but our main focus is to just have fun,'' said Zorn.

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