MARYSVILLE — A broken back isn’t an injury many can walk away from. Some can’t at all.
Marysville Getchell sophomore Lexi Kilbourn lucked out when she nearly broke her L5 “all the way through” upon sticking a landing in gymnastics two years ago.
Her doctor said she could have been paralyzed.
Lexi would still be able to walk, but she was devastated to learn that her days with gymnastics were done.
“I was pretty much really sad and depressed for a long time,” she said. “My mood just like changed.”
She found happiness again when her friend, Chloe Bishop, a junior diver on MG’s swim team, told her to try out diving. Chloe has been diving for MG since she was a freshman and placed eighth in state last season. They know each other from gymnastics.
“Gymnastics has a lot in common” with diving, Chloe said.
“It’s easier to learn new dives,” Lexi added. “You already know how to flip and twist.”
Lexi tried out diving at a school camp back in spring 2016. She made the dive team there in three days.
“I used to think when I broke my back that I couldn’t do anything,” Lexi said. “Coming to dive has made me happier all around. My parents know that I’m happier.”
In her first year of diving, she has already got in 11 dives — the number needed to qualify for state. Lexi hit her career best and state-qualifying dive score of 363 points Oct. 22. It mirrored Bishop’s score from three weeks before.
“It’s hard for first-year divers to get eleven dives,” coach Dick Caldwell said. “She transitioned really fast.”
For Lexi to catch on so fast with her muscle memory rooted in gymnastics is no surprise to Caldwell. Actually many high school divers are former gymnasts.
“All gymnasts come into diving all busted up from gymnastics,” Caldwell said. “Usually when you get down to state, it’s like a gymnast reunion.”
Former MG diver and 2014 state champion Brooke Wherley also came to the team with gymnastics experience but no diving.
Wherley holds MG’s school record of 488.30 points. It’s a goal Chloe and Lexi are working toward.
“100 points is a long way to go,” Chloe said, adding she hopes to break it before graduating.
Lexi had the twisting and flipping down, but there is a slight difference between sticking a landing and finishing a dive.
“Gymnasts throw everything backward instead of up,” Caldwell said.
But even with that, Lexi ironed it out quickly. “She made it easy,” Caldwell said.
“She’s fearless,” swim coach Jaci Legore Hodgins added. “She’s the most coachable, smiley and friendly teammate. She’s totally the type of person you want on your team.”
Chloe and Lexi have helped each other become better divers. The backward somersault with a one-half twist is Lexi’s best dive, as she is better at twisting. Chloe, who specializes in the forward double, is much more rigid “with great lines” in the air, Caldwell said.
Chloe, with two years of diving on her side, is expected to score more than 400 points at state, but if Lexi can qualify for the finals, that would be “awesome,” Caldwell said.