Divers step up in spotlight

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FEDERAL WAY About a dozen girls huddled around the diving board with somber expressions on their faces, waiting for their turn to throw a practice dive.
Standing out from the group were the two divers in Tomahawk swimming suits, who talked animatedly with smiles visible on their faces.
Its our last meet of the season and weve had a great year. Our team has always been really close and we wanted to have fun, said sophomore diver Sarah Clark of her practice period on Nov. 9, the first day of the two-day state swim meet.
When were kind of serious, we dont perform as well. And when we get on the board were serious, but theres no reason (not to enjoy it). We wanted to have a good time, we wanted to have a good experience, and we did.
Clark and junior diver Liz Kuljis stepped up to the level of competition in the King County Aquatic Center, finishing fifth and 13th in the 4A diving competition.
For Kuljis, it was a career day. At district competition a week earlier, the M-P junior fell short of the score or top-three finish required to earn a spot at state. Nonetheless, her season was extended another week as she qualified for a wildcard slot.
At state, Kuljis put up good enough numbers in the eight-dive preliminary contest the first day to return for finals the next day, cementing her 13th-place finish.
Kuljis had no diving experience before joining the team her sophomore year at the urging of the schools physical education teachers.
Liz is known as one of the toughest females at our school. Anyone who has had her for P.E. knows, said P.E. teacher and swim coach Jaci Legore Hodgins. Liz really got herself together mentally.
Clarks road to fifth place was a little more challenging. Although it was the sophomores second year at state, the expectations were even higher this year after a season in which Clark had yet to place second.
I felt like there was a lot more pressure this year. The first day didnt go as well as I would have hoped, but the second day was definitely better, she said. The dive that I usually hit pretty automatically didnt go as well and that was frustrating.
Clark rebounded from a rough fourth dive to nail her fifth and restore her confidence. She called the fifth dive one of her best all year long.
Although diving has long been a stronghold of the M-P swimming program, the Tomahawks plan to boost their advantage by enrolling Kuljis, Clark and freshman Marysa Eastman in a club diving program based out of Federal Way.
In addition to improving the girls diving ability in the one meter, Clark hopes a club program might give her the skills to compete in diving at the next level. The club team practices at the state aquatic center, where Clark could add three-meter diving to her resume.
The preparation that the girls are all planning to do is going to make a tremendous impact on what well do next year, said Legore Hodgins

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