The Gig Harbor High School girls swim team has yet to lose a meet this season. Part of that is due to their talented group of swimmers, but another reason is because of the incredible dive team placing high in their events.
The Tides’ dive team features freshman Jenna Burch, sophomore Kiera Hannan and last year’s Class 3A state meet fourth-place state diver Shaye DiMatteo.
DiMatteo, also a sophomore, has been consistently winning in her events at the meets. In her last match against Central Kitsap, she placed first with a score of 275.10.
“For a school like us, we really enjoy getting those points,” said Tides coach Mike Kelly. “Especially at a district or a state level championship. If you have two or three divers, that’s usually a pretty good sign you’re going to score some points in diving.”
Not every program has a diving program so athletes like DiMatteo are providing an added edge to their teams as a whole.
DiMatteo started her foray into diving at the beginning of her eighth grade year for the private club Pacific Northwest Diving. After a couple of years of club and school, she now has her focus solely on the Tides.
“It was pretty chill [going from club to school] because club can be pretty intense,” she said. “High school is focusing on basics and learning some new skills.”
While she was in club, DiMatteo would have a workout day during the week where she would practice flips by going off a trampoline or springboard and land on a mat.
This type of practice was familiar to her as she was a gymnast for several years before making the change to diving.
“Diving is a pretty easy transition, I thought it would be kind of cool to try it out,” she said. “During high school, you kind of do [dry land] but not as much trampoline work. I’m training in the pool five days a week.”
One of the tools that helps the diving team critique their form is a program that records their dives on coach Troy Olson’s iPad.
The program records the dive on a 19 second delay, which can then be viewed on the TV set up at Peninsula’s pool.
“It’s a very useful tool. When I grew up diving, we didn’t quite have [the iPad setup]. We had a VHS and you didn’t a chance to see it until later,” Olson said. “This is simple technology and thanks to modern tech, we can sit here and see it on a delay.”
The near-instant replay allows real time coaching from Olson, which in turn allows him to give tips and help his divers correct things that may have gone wrong during the dive.
And speaking of his team, Olson is the boys and girls diving coach for both Gig Harbor and Peninsula, and has been doing it for a couple of years.
“It’s a lot of fun [coaching two teams],” he said. “The girls tend to push each other, they’ve got some great skills… Shaye is a lot of fun, she brings attitude to the group. Kind of a light hearted outlook. She’s willing to be challenged.”
This year, DiMatteo is challenging herself to achieve similar success like she did last year, albeit a higher finish than fourth at state.
But more importantly, she is hoping to have fun with her teammates at the meets.
“To be a diver, you have to be fully committed and willing to do things that you’re scared of because that’s how you get far in this sport,” she said. “My favorite thing about diving are the bonds you create are very close. You get excited when you get new dives or when your friends get new dives.”
When it comes time to dive, DiMatteo mentally reminds herself to do what she’s done in practice, calms down, visualizes what she is about to do and then goes for it.
DiMatteo also really likes the fact that she is one of three divers for the Tides, along with Burch and Hannan. She feels that it has been really easy to get close friendships with them.
“It’d be awesome to get more divers,” she said. “But we have a pretty solid team right now so it’s pretty great.”
The entire Tides swim and dive team will compete again at home at 3:30 p.m. against Timberline on Thursday, Oct. 10.