If necessary, Tuscarora High School boys swimming and diving coach Matt Ginalick can throw just about any one of his swimmers into a given event to fill out a lineup, he said.
But he certainly can’t send just anyone up to the one-meter springboard and ask them to do a forward one-and-a-half somersault off the diving board.
Diving is a specialty and therefore while is one of just 12 events during championship season and 11 during dual meet season, it has proven to be more impactful on its own than any other single event.
Fortunately for Tuscarora, the Titans boast the county’s best diver, defending county and region champion Shane Miller, which could help propel them into the top three at this year’s county meet.
“[Diving] is more impactful in the sense that it is a unique sport and the fact that not everyone can do it. If you have a diver, you definitely have a leg up on someone,” Ginalick said.
Teams are allowed three entries per event during the dual meet season. The winner of each event is awarded six points with the top five scoring points in decreasing amounts. While divers technically don’t earn any more points for their teams than other individual winners, the discrepancy in diving numbers across the county does give some teams a major advantage if they can capitalize on it.
Ginalick, who only has two divers able to compete, said of the Titans’ (5-2) seven meets, at least three opponents didn’t have any divers at all. That is an automatic 10-point advantage to start the competition. Divers are not allowed to compete in meets unless their coaches deem it safe.
“Diving is that one event you can really out-depth another team and pick up those quality points. That can make or break you,” second-year Oakdale High coach Jared Minetola said.
It was the Bears’ one-two finish in diving that brought Oakdale’s girls within striking distance of current five-time defending county champion Urbana at last year’s championship meet. The Hawks overcame an early deficit to win.
“I think about last year and that was crucial. We didn’t win the meet, but that was a lot of points,” Minetola said.
Not all teams can fill out diving lineups and there is nothing that can be done to counter a team’s strength in diving, Minetola said.
The event can become even bigger at championship meets more reliant on depth. Teams are allowed four entries per event at the county competition. Teams without divers must rely on strong swimming lineups to make up those points.
A big way to make up points is in the three relays, which are worth double the points of an individual event — Urbana won all three relays at last year’s county meet.
Often times the diving portion of championship meets is held on its own, at a different time and place from the swimming competition. But that doesn’t mean it is any less important. Diving has presented itself as a major differentiating factor in close meets.
“I can get almost anyone to swim the butterfly. They might not be the champion, but I can get almost anyone to swim anything. Not everyone can dive,” Ginalick said.