Today was the second day of regionals. For men, it was the 1-meter competition. I arrived at the meet rested and relaxed and ready to compete. I wasn't nervous. I was super relaxed and honestly, just ready to enjoy the day. I'd accomplished my goal, and that was to make it to state. Granted, it would be great to make it to state on both boards. And I wouldn't realize until later, that there were a number of things still on the line...
First of all, I was undefeated in conference. While I was competing against all the other divers in southern California, I was still competing against the other divers in conference. A loss to any of them and I'd lose my "undefeated" title.
Also, there were Conference Championship medals on the line too. I'd taken first place all year, and it'd be a shame to not medal on both boards just by losing this one meet on the 1-meter. These results also affect "Athlete of the Year" and even "Coach of the Year".
In retrospect, it was good I didn't realize there were still so many things at stake. And with that, the meet began.
At yesterday's meet, I was the second diver. It was nice going second. Today I was the 13th diver to go. I waited my turn. I watched out of the corner of my eye Aaron Garcia take his turn on the board. He was 11th. I talked with Jose as Aaron took his turn. He did great. I'd beat him yesterday, but I do think he's a better diver than I am. I listened to Jose give me the last reminders before approaching the board for my first dive.
"Keep your head up. Ride the board and take it up," Jose said.
Esteban Martinez was next. As he entered the water, I walked up to the board.
"Alex Mackey, 203C. Back one and one-half tuck," Corey called out into the microphone.
I walked to the end of the board. I wasn't nervous until I got to the edge of the board. This dive was still a little sketchy. I took a deep breath in and exhaled as my arms went up, circled around and I jumped the dive up into the air. I hurled my legs towards my face into a tuck and spun as quickly as I could, Still unable to spot where to come out, I 'felt' about where it should be, kicked out as strong as I could and entered the water. The dive was okay, not great, not terrible. I got a 4 on the low end and a 5.5 on the high side. I was good with that. It would've been nice to get 6's, but that would've been lucky.
My next dive is my sketchiest. I failed this one on 3-meter the week prior. And I'd had problems getting it consistent over the past week. But by the end of the week, I was able to hit it about 70% of the time. It wasn't always pretty, but I could at least put it in.
"Alex Mackey, 303C," Corey called out. "Reverse one and one-half tuck. Degree of difficulty, 2.1," he continued.
I set the fulcrum between the seven and the eight. I positioned my feet about 12 inches from the back of the board. I took my four steps to arrive at just the right spot on the board. I threw the dive up and before I even left the board, I hucked myself back as hard as I could. I grabbed my legs, spun around and entered the water like a scorpion. It was a crappy dive. I threw it back, I didn't take it up and my entry was horrible. My scores ranged between 3 and 4. Lame.
But the good news...I had made it though my most difficult dives and didn't fail them. I'd at least gotten SOME points for each of them. Now it was time to have some fun.
I watched some of the other divers nail dive after dive after dive. I knew I would not have the same results as yesterday. Top three was very unlikely.
My next dive was the inward 1-1/2. Jose reminded me to stay over the board. Keep my head neutral. I'm not sure I really did either of those things. The dive was short, my hands didn't go in above my head and in reality, it wasn't a great dive. It wasn't terrible, but I got scores that ranged from 4.0 to 5.0.
The meet was half over. I wasn't doing so great, but I had also put my hardest dives first. So things were bound to look up for the back half of the meet.
"Alex Mackey, 103B, forward one and one-half pike," Corey announced.
Earlier in the week, Jose and I decided that we should make a change to my front dive. I was doing a double somersault and my entry was hit or miss. Plus entering on your feet sucks. Aside from all the water going up my nose, it's just not "diving". It feels more like water gymnastics. I'd tried to get a 2-1/2 and I was able to land it on my head, but not open up. I just can't get it around fast enough. So we dialed it back to a 1-1/2. The degree of difficulty drops substantially, but I figured my scores should go up substantially to justify the lower DD.
I threw the 1-1/2, rode the board nicely, took it way up, spun in a nice, tight pike, opened up just at the right moment and dove straight in. I'm still the fattest diver of all the guys in the competition, so I don't really "rip" my dives. Even the good ones have a splash. But this one was pretty good. It was one of the cleanest dives I've done, but still with the fat guy splash.
The crowd cheered as I broke through the surface. It was a great feeling. My scores were 6.5, 7.0 and even a 7.5.
I saved my best two dives for the end. The reverse dive half twist off the 1-meter doesn't have a huge degree of difficulty, but I can nail it pretty consistently. I scored almost all 7's on that with a couple 6.5s.
One last dive to go. While I wasn't nervous throughout the meet, I was still relieved to almost be done. I watched as the other divers finished their dives and then even start to change into regular clothes. I watched and waited until it was at last my turn to dive one more time.
Four years of diving had led up to this moment. Don't blow it, and I should make it to state on both boards.
One last time, I set the fulcrum between the seven and the eight. I exhaled just as Greg Louganis had taught me. As I took my first step I began to breath in. One, two, three, four steps and into the hurdle. I'd filled my lungs with air and as I made my first jump, I exhaled to have max power. I took a quick breath in as I floated above the board. I pressed the board down with both feet and once again exhaled sharply and I made my final jump, I went up in the air and threw myself backwards. Once horizontal to the board, I flipped over using my hips and shoulders. As I faced the board and the water, I threw my arms towards my legs to begin rotating 1-1/2 times towards the board. I spun around in a tight tuck, kicked out just at the right moment, put my arms above my head and entered the water head first.
I'd done it! I swam back to the surface and could hear clapping and cheering. The dive was good. I got one 5.5 and all the rest 6.0. It wasn't the best 5331D I'd ever done, but it was good. And I was done!
The results came quickly and the names were once again read starting with 15th place. If I placed top 10 I could compete both boards at state because I had already qualified in top 8 yesterday.
I anxiously waited for 11th place to be called in hopes that it wouldn't be me.
"In 11th placee, Timothy Fisher, Grossmont College," Corey called out.
I did it! I'd made it to state on both boards. Now the question was, what place did I get on 1-meter. I knew it wasn't as good as yesterday.
9th place, Erich Schmitt, Grossmont College. Awesome! That was two of the Grossmont kids that I'd beaten.
8th place, Esteban Martinez, Mt. San Antonio College.
7th place...I waited, hoping to not hear my name just yet... Arthur Lawrence, Cypress College.
6th place, Daniel Miller, Chaffey College.
I'd made it to the top 5! Yea!!!
I had a feeling that I was next, but was secretly hoping my name wouldn't be the next one called.
Corey called out through the microphone, "In fifth place from El Camino College, Alex, Big Fat Diver, Mackey."
And there it was. Fifth place. I was happy. I was a little disappointed. I missed fourth place by 2 points. But I wasn't even close to 3rd.
And thus concluded the regional meet. I ended up with some awesome "titles" and accolades under my belt. I was undefeated in conference and at the same time, I was fifth place on a regional level. And if I compared myself to all the divers in America, I'd probably be somewhere in the middle. I'm sure there are hundreds or even thousands of better divers. But at the same time, I'd accomplished a goal I'd set out to achieve over four years ago. And that was to make it to state at the college level. Not bad for a 44 year old.
I'm proud of my awesome, imperfect results.
Nest stop, STATE. May 5th and 6th, 2016 at 1pm. East LA College. Come on by if you're in the area.