The Snohomish County area is home to some of the state’s top high school divers.
And though many of them compete for different schools, they all figure to be rooting for one another Friday and Saturday as they pursue state titles and podium spots at King County Aquatic Center.
The 11 local divers heading to Federal Way for this weekend’s state swim and dive championships are part of a tight-knit bond that transcends school allegiances.
“They’re all teammates,” Marysville Pilchuck dive coach Shauna Kopischka said. “Wesco (diving) is just one big, happy family.”
The Snohomish County area has produced 14 top-three state medalists in boys diving over the past nine years, including eight state champions. However, only once since at least 2002 have five local boys divers earned state medals at the same meet.
There’s a possibility that could happen this weekend, with five area divers seeded among the top eight in their respective classifications.
“We’ve got a really strong district,” Lake Stevens dive coach Rachel McCoy said. “For the past couple years, it’s been really strong.”
Yet talent isn’t the only aspect that stands out about the local prep diving scene.
Coaches and athletes described a camaraderie that exists among Wesco divers, with competitors from different schools frequently exchanging high-fives and fist-bumps after well-executed dives, or offering words of encouragement after tough ones.
“Everybody supports each other and cheers everyone on,” Marysville Pilchuck diver Andrew Kallio said. “… After a dive, whether it’s good or bad, we’ll be there to support them.”
One example of the genuine joy they take in one another’s success came during a district dive qualifier last month.
Marysville Pilchuck senior Daniel Kirkwood, whose season was cut short last year by a broken ankle, wasn’t sure whether his final dive had earned him enough points to qualify for the 3A state meet. When he found out he’d made it, teammates and competitors alike took part in the celebration.
“All the other divers rushed over, and they were all clapping and cheering,” Kopischka said, “and their parents were cheering (too). … That was pretty cool.”
Many of the divers have forged bonds while training together at Snohomish Aquatic Center under local diving gurus Marc Hughes and JoLynne Abbe, who teach lessons at the facility and coach some of the Wesco divers in high school. The divers also tend to spend time together at high school meets, where they often hang out and joke with one another when not competing.
“It could be such a cutthroat, toxic environment,” Lake Stevens swim and dive coach Brady Dykgraaf said, pointing to the subjective nature of a judgment-based sport like diving. “… (You) hear horror stories from other sports about stuff, (but) then you watch these guys show up every day with a smile on their face, and they all just kick butt.”
The area’s diving talent is highlighted by a pair of state runners-up from last year.
Shorewood junior Isaac Poole, who placed second in 3A last season, enters as the No. 2 seed in his classification after posting a 498.35-point performance in last week’s district competition. He came within 0.9 points of the district meet record, which has stood since 1991.
“I haven’t seen talent like Isaac Poole in a long time,” said Kopischka, who coached three-time state champion Eddie Young at Shorewood earlier this decade. “That is a kid I could see going to the Olympic trials. He’s a pretty amazing diver.”
Cascade senior Joseph Hofman, who came within 10 points of winning the 4A state title during last year’s runner-up finish, is the No. 3 seed in the talent-laden 4A field with a top score of 470.6 points.
Not far behind is Lake Stevens freshman Jaden Cardona, a club diver who is seeded fifth at 457.05 points. Other local 4A qualifiers are: Monroe junior Benson Boone (No. 8 seed) and Lake Stevens juniors Tyler Cochran (No. 14) and Christian Pawlak (No. 16).
Kallio, a sophomore second-year diver and one of several local state qualifiers who frequent trampoline parks, is seeded No. 6 in 3A. Rounding out the local 3A qualifiers are: Snohomish junior Shane Morrill (No. 17), Kirkwood (No. 18) and Marysville Pilchuck senior Leif Anderson (No. 23). Archbishop Murphy junior Rowan Krueger is the No. 19 seed in 2A.
“Obviously they all want to win and they all want to beat each other, but they want (everyone) to do well,” Dykgraaf said. “And that fun, competitive atmosphere always leads to success. You’re having fun, you’re working hard (and) everyone else is working hard. You know you have to bring it, because if you don’t, you’re going to get beat.”
Dykgraaf also credited the stability, wisdom and helpful nature of several longtime coaches in the area.
“There’s just great, great consistency in coaching, and they all work together too,” he said. “I can’t tell you (how many) times I’ve watched them give each others’ athletes feedback, which is almost unheard of in sports like this.”
“I’ve played (lots of) different sports,” Kallio said, “and out of all of them, (Kopischka) is the best coach I’ve ever had. … Some of the teams don’t have (dive) coaches, and she’ll help them just try to get better at diving. She helps everyone.”
Diving might be an individual sport, but when Wesco divers step onto the board this weekend at state, they figure to have a whole league of supporters behind them.
“We all try to give each other support,” Cochran said. “Everybody respects each other, and we all just want to inspire each other to be better since we’re all close with each other.”