SNOHOMISH — Fortunately for Glacier Peak senior Connor May and Snohomish senior Zachary Thomas, they won’t be competing in the same classification this weekend.
That means there’s a chance they each could bring home a state title to the Snohomish area.
The pair of divers and close friends are each the top seed in his respective classification — May in 4A and Thomas in 3A — heading into the boys swim and dive state championships Friday and Saturday at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
Glacier Peak/Snohomish diving coach Marc Hughes doesn’t want to look too far ahead, explaining that in diving “anything can happen on any given day.” But he appreciates the rarity of the situation.
“It’s very unusual to realize that you have two kids who could potentially win the state meet,” Hughes said. “It’s a unique year.”
The Glacier Peak and Snohomish swim and dive teams compete separately, but share the same coaches and train together at the Snohomish Aquatic Center. So while May and Thomas wear different uniforms, the two are almost like teammates.
And over the course of their time spent training together — which extends well beyond the high school season — the duo has developed a strong friendship.
“They go around telling people that they’re twins, and some people buy into it. I don’t understand that,” Hughes said with a laugh. “But they push each other and they encourage each other. They’re like brothers.”
“There’s definitely friendly competition,” May added. “I catch up to his scores, and (then) he catches up to my scores.”
May is the defending 3A state champion and Thomas placed fifth in 4A last year, but due to the recent statewide reclassification that sent Glacier Peak up to 4A and Snohomish down to 3A, both divers will be facing new competition this time around.
“The scores are closer this year, so I’m going to have more competition going into the finals,” May said. “But I’m excited for it. It’s something new. There’s more people to compete with.”
May, a former gymnast, began diving as a freshman in Colorado before moving to Snohomish prior to his junior season at Glacier Peak. His gymnastics background has proved beneficial, especially in his ability to perform twisting dives.
“He has a natural tendency for twisting, which makes him a more competitive diver,” Hughes said. “I’ve always thought that if you have options in the twisting category of the five different categories, that makes you a little bit more strong, because you have a wider range of dives to choose from.”
May also excels at making a clean entry into the pool.
“Connor can always seem to find the bottom of the dive, no matter how the top starts,” Hughes said. “And so he leaves a great last impression on the judges.”
Thomas, meanwhile, was a wrestler his freshman year who switched to diving after suffering a concussion on the mat. He placed 10th in the 4A state competition as a sophomore before taking fifth place last year.
Thomas’ greatest strength is his ability to gain considerable air off the board, which stems from natural athleticism and textbook fundamentals.
“I haven’t seen many kids that can ride the board like Zach can,” Hughes said. “I mean, he just skies. When you watch his approach, he’s what I would call a very mechanically sound diver. He gets the arm swing the right way, he stretches through the top and then he has that ability to sit on that board and just wait, ride and sky.
“That gets him big points,” Hughes added. “Any way you cut it, when you’re scoring a dive, if all things are equal but it’s a higher, bigger drop, it should score better.”
May and Thomas each have been training year-round since last season, diving together on a club team in Federal Way and traveling with that team to Colorado for a camp over the summer. Thomas also attended camps in Texas and Indiana.
“Both of them have a great, strong work ethic, and that shows,” Hughes said. “Connor never got lazy after winning state last year. He knew it wasn’t a guarantee — it wasn’t a lock walking into the next season to be able to do that. And you can see that he focuses on that.
“And same with Zach. Most kids would be thrilled to be sitting at fifth (place). But he was like, ‘No, I should’ve done better, could’ve done better.’ And he basically put his mind to work and really worked hard in the offseason in order to get himself to that level.”
Yet while Hughes deflected credit to his swimmers, saying that “I just help the natural talent come along,” May and Thomas each praised their coach for his role in their success. Hughes, who dove in college and has been coaching for approximately three decades, has shared a wealth of invaluable diving knowledge.
“He helped me get my technique where it should be,” May said, later adding, “He’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had. He just knows what he’s doing — he has a lot of experience in the field. He motivates me every day to do as best as I can, and I couldn’t thank him more.”
“He just knows how to relate to us and tell us the right things at the right time,” Thomas added.
Both swimmers downplayed the meaning of being top seeds, pointing out that it won’t have any bearing on their performance this weekend.
“I think of all meets like it’s just another practice,” Thomas said. “I know how to do the dives, so it’s just the environment that I need to get used to. It’s just the environment that’s going to change, but the dives are all the same. So I don’t really care where I’m seeded.”
But Thomas knows what’s at stake, and what a state title would mean.
“That’s what I’ve been working for all season and all summer, so it’d be really great to win,” Thomas said. “It’s what I’ve been working for.”
And if they each could bring home a state title? Both had the same response.
“That would be awesome,” they said.