Few sports have a lower performance to training time ratio than does diving – an Olympic repertoire typically lasts no more than a minute or two, a high school six-dive lasts no more than 30 seconds.
That hasn’t deterred freshmen divers Reed Merritt and Mimi Lin from training 14 hours a week, hurtling themselves at water with speeds up to 35 miles per hour and practicing drills on dry land by way of trampolines, springboards and many, many mats. Now both ranked nationally, Merritt and Lin have outgrown their gymnastics roots due to injury, having used their natural abilities to augment their skills in their new diving careers.
Senior Cole Plambeck (‘13) says that much of the divers’ success can be attributed to their gymnastics background. Merritt (‘16) and Lin (‘16) are currently key competitors on the Palo Alto varsity diving squad. They also continue to compete and dive for the Stanford club diving team and had been diving for the club for many years before going to Paly.
Teammate Plambeck is on both Paly and the Stanford Diving club with the freshmen.
“They are both excellent divers and will make an impact all four years of their Paly career,” Plambeck (‘13) said.
Plambeck is committed to dive at Duke University and was selected to attend the Junior Elite Squad (JES), the first step in being selected to attend the U.S. Olympic team. He knows what it takes to compete and succeed at the highest level of the sport. Plambeck believes that the two divers should strive to become the best in the sport and set goals “to place in CCS and become All Americans, because they both have the potential.”
Both Merritt (‘16) and Lin (‘16) are on the right track to reach elite level, and both have had succes with Stanford at national competitions. In 2012, Merrit won the Las Vegas Invite and helped Stanford diving win the Las Vegas Invite and in 2011 Lin won the Summer Age Group National Championships in Knoxville, Tenn. (12-13 platform).
Too often given a lame reputation at Paly, diving is nothing less than an intense feat.
“Diving requires a lot more strength than lots of people think, physically and mentally,” Merrit said. “I don’t know many people who have the balls to jump off a 35 foot platform doing 2 1/2 flips before you hit the water on your head.”
Merritt is one of the few who does, though he notes that it doesn’t always come easily.
“Through diving I’ve learned to be very resilient when something doesn’t go my way, through all the days where I’ve had a terrible practice or when I screw up on my best dive on my meet,” he said.
Lin agreed and expanded on the struggles.
“[It’s the hardest part about diving,” Lin said. “You just have to suck it up and do the dive again regardless of how much it hurts both mentally and physically, and regardless of how scared you are.”
Their perseverance and dedication to the sport have seen them through rough practices, allowing them to move through Stanford club diving’s ranks faster than most other divers. Not only did they come pre-packaged with the toe-point, the flexibility and the physical and mental strength of gymnastics, they both possess invaluable focus and maturity, according to their coach Ryan Wallace.
“They’re both very talented and tenacious divers,” Wallace said. “Reed always wants to get back in and do another dive, and Mimi’s a real perfectionist. But, they’re still kids.”
Still only freshmen and competing in the 14-15 age group nationally, they have a bright future ahead. Lin hopes a career in college diving by way of a diving scholarship, while Merritt looks further to the Olympics. So every time they smack at practice, it’s not the time to wallow but to get back up and dive the dive again, albeit with at least a touch of enthusiasm and optimism.
With the strength and support of their Stanford teammates, they have risen to great heights, only to jump back down again. From the board to the water, Merritt and Lin transform into precise flying machines, culminating hours of training in the concentrated “pop” of the best rip entries.
After hours of training, that “pop” will last less that half of a second.