When Salina Central rookie Caroline Fields attended her first dive practice, she didn’t know what to expect.
She had no diving experience, but with her six years of gymnastics experience, she thought it might be a good match.
Those gymnastic skills have already paid off for Fields, who has shown steady improvement during her short dive spell.
“I thought the dive would suit me perfectly,” Fields said. “It helped me a lot to be able to do all the flips.”
Salina’s diving coach, Andrew Falcon, said that gymnastics experience helped Fields in every dive she performed in training and competition.
During her first two weeks, Fields practiced a new dive each day and mastered all eight of them. This included learning new dives on the fly with only a day before a competition.
“Two of the dives she just did for the first time (Tuesday) and she did them today and they went well,” Falcon said Wednesday. “It’s really up to her how far she goes this year. Anything she wants to try because everything is a bit scary. I just have to try and convince her and when she tries she’s good at it. ”
Fields has seen steady improvement since her first encounter, and in Wednesday’s Salina Invitational she completed 11 dives for the first time, finishing eighth with a score of 308.55.
Wednesday’s competition was good practice for the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division II-IV Championships in May, where she will also have to attempt 11 different dives, instead of the typical six in a smaller competition.
As Central’s only female diver, Fields is grateful to her Salina South dive teammates, Ally Exline and Rachel Sims.
“They’re always very nice and very helpful to me,” Fields said. “I love them as teammates.”
Falcon added that the divers train as much as he trains them together.
Fields’ score was good enough to qualify for state. However, she did not have the degree of difficulty in her dives to meet the requirement. His first goal is to qualify for statehood next year if that doesn’t happen this spring.
“She’s pretty good for all the dives I’ve seen so far,” Falcon said. “There aren’t many dives on this list that I don’t think she’ll be able to do. I think she’ll be able to do all the dives she needs.
“It’s just up to her when she wants to try them and whenever I can convince her to try them. That’s the hardest part. You have to tell them about it.”
Sims and Exline are already qualified for state diving
Exline qualified for state in her first meeting of the season in March. Her teammate, Sims, qualified in Wednesday’s meet with a score of 291.40, good for 10th place. Exline finished seventh in Wednesday’s meet, recording a score of 321.85.
All three divers will have three more meets in the regular season before the May 19-21 state meet at the Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center. On Tuesday they will travel to Topeka, then they will dive again at the South Natatorium on May 5 and continue with the mee AVCTL on May 13.
Dylan Sherwood has been a sportswriter for the Salina Journal since August 2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DSherwoodSJ