The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

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Reviving the rare Olympic sport of diving at Ocean Lakes

The team smiles after a dive meet on Jan. 12, 2024. Clockwise, from top left: sophomore Dylan Bennington, sophomore Patrick Kinser, sophomore MaKenna McGrath, and junior Maggie Sokalzuk. Photo used with permission from David Bostic.

Rule No.1: be as powerful as a swimmer and as strong as a wrestler. 

Rule No.2: be free and open to experimentation. 

Rule No.3: be unafraid to jump and flip in midair, even when you must do it with your back to the unknown. 

Rule No.4: do all this and more with the grace and awareness of a gymnast, barely making a splash as you hit the water.

This is the sport of diving.

Acrobatic diving originated in the early 19th century in Europe and was added to the Olympics in 1904. Though people of all ages in Virginia Beach practice water sports like surfing and swimming, diving very recently got added as an official sport for high schoolers.

The Ocean Lakes dive team consists of four students: junior Maggie Sokalzuk and sophomores Dylan Bennington, Patrick Kinser and MaKenna McGrath. The swim and dive team are mentioned together in name and often practice at the same venue, but it is extremely rare for someone to be involved in both, according to science teacher and boys swim coach Andrew Bedinger.

“You very, very rarely will have a diver that swims, or a swimmer that dives,” said Bedinger. “But we are one team.”

Additionally, the differences between the dives in swimming and the actual sport of diving are numerous, as science teacher and girls swim coach Laura Eldredge explains.

“It’s a whole different sport,” she said. “You’ve got swimming, where the diving is [minimal]. [The sport of diving] is compared to gymnastics. You do inwards, you do back flips, you do pikes… it’s like gymnastics in the water.”

Both coaches said that anyone can become a diver, though it helps massively to have a background in gymnastics or dance.

Maggie, the newest addition to the dive team, chose it as a sport closely related to her first love, gymnastics.

“My introduction to diving started at the end of August 2023, and how fantastic it has gone,” she said. “I knew OL had a swim and dive team, and I was very excited to be part of the group.”

The Virginia Beach dive program has allocated one coach to teach all the schools, so students from all over the district practice together, forming a tight-knit community. In addition to Bedinger and Eldredge, Katelyn Prorok is the specialized diving instructor. When asked what skills are necessary to be a good diver, Prorok had one main point.

“Diving is a very mental sport,” she said. “As coaches, we are asking divers to do things that, growing up, you are told over and over not to do, [such as] jumping backwards. Mental toughness is extremely important along with a fearless and positive attitude.”

To score well on a dive, there are many things a diver must do. Their form must be immaculate and they must enter the water with as small a splash as possible. The higher the difficulty level of the dive, the harder acrobatics are involved. If performed correctly, however, these dives also garner the most points.

The dive team currently consists of four students, but as many as eight can be registered and compete per school. To get involved, the coaches recommend attending the interest meetings in December to understand more about the sport. There are no prerequisites or specific requirements to become a diver; all you have to do is have a strong mind, Prorok emphasizes.

“Come in with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn,” said Prorok. “You can’t be afraid to fail. Oftentimes, the first, second, third, and many attempts after won’t go as planned, so you need to have the grit to keep trying and never give up.”

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About the Contributor
Mihika Sakharpe
Mihika Sakharpe, Design Editor
Mihika Sakharpe, a freshman in the Math and Science Academy, is a design editor and first-year journalist for The Current. She loves STEM, cricket and learning languages (seven so far). She enjoys Model UN and debate and would eat sushi every day if she could. Outside of school, she is a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. Her dream is to pursue rocketry and make humans an interplanetary species. Her goal is to write a diverse array of award-winning articles.

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