A new facility and a new coach have combined to springboard the sport of diving into the status of "fastest growing activity" within the athletics department at Carson High School.
The number of divers on the Senators' swimming and diving team has increased 300 percent since 1999. The team has 15 divers on the squad this season, up from just five last season. Those 15 divers are scheduled to participate in the Northern Nevada Invitational that Carson High is hosting today at 9 a.m. at the Carson Aquatic Club Facility.
Head Carson swimming and diving coach Dave Huffmire said the Carson Aquatic Club's newly renovated indoor pool and the addition of diving coach Sam Hardt to the coaching staff are the primary reasons diving has become so popular in the eyes of Carson students this spring.
"We now have a great coach in Sam and we have a facility that can be used every day after school and to host meets," Huffmire said. "We can now even have a diving competition going on at the same time as the swim meet. In my eight years of coaching, that's the first time we've been able to that."
Before this season, the Carson divers had to train at either the Carson Valley Swim Center in Minden or to Reno, because the Carson Aquatic Club's indoor facility did not have the proper depth or the necessary 1-meter boards. Also hampering the divers was the fact that the program could only afford to pay for pool time in Minden twice per week.
"It was a real mess," summed up Huffmire. "We were thankful just to be able to get the time in to practice twice a week."
But the "nuisance" of diving is just a memory now. The divers now have two 1-meter boards to practice on every day in the deep end of the 50-meter pool, just a few meters away from the swimming lanes. With their close proximity, both the swimmers and divers can feel they're actually part of the same team and Huffmire can keep an eye on both groups of athletes.
"I'm down at that end of pool constantly just watching and hanging out because there's so much fun going on," Huffmire said.
Sophomore Georgia Wright said she didn't even know about the diving team last year. Along with friends Keely Sulprizio and Katelyn Harris, she joined the team this season because it seemed like a fun sport.
"It was a good thing that we got a new facility, because it helps us want to be here more (to train)," Wright said. "I didn't know the coach last year, but Sam has been an awesome coach. I'm rapidly improving."
Sulprizio, a sophomore, said she came out for the team primarily for enjoyment, but that she is now hooked on the sport.
"It's been more for fun because all of my friends are also on the team, but I'm interested in doing it all of my years in high school," Sulprizio said. "I'm going to continue."
Huffmire said Hardt, a member of the Senators' team during Huffmire's first season in 1994 and the older brother of current Carson swimmers Julie and Katie Hardt, has done a good job of instructing the divers while making the practices fun. (Hardt did not attend practice on Friday.)
"Sam connects with that group," Huffmire said. "He's a mature man and he gets along well with everyone, but these kids have really bonded with him. "Even when then flop into the water, Sam's got them right back on the board. And he dives with them on occasion. It's good for the kids to see someone doing their dives."
While the majority of the divers are in their first year of the sport, Huffmire does anticipate the diving team making a contribution to the Senators' run at both a zone and state championship this spring. Some of the divers expected to contend for top spot at zone include: Patrick Binder, Peter Elverum, Dan Jones, Justin Sondereggar, Molly Smith, Danielle Costella and Lindsey Lebalch.
"If a diver can make into state, it would give us a big boost," Huffmire said.
Other divers on the team include: Cody Cavin, Craig Jensen, Staci Cronin, Trisha Elloyan and Mandy Holden.
According to Huffmire, the diving competition will be one of the first events contested today during the invitational. Most of the top Northern 4A teams are expected to compete in today's meet, which will feature some rarely contested events, including the 100-yard individual medley.
Several of Carson's top swimmers are competing in at the Far West Regionals for the Carson Tigersharks and Reno Aquatics teams today, and they will miss the invitational.