Clovis West senior Colby Evangelinos stands on the 1-meter springboard, his face a mask of concentration. The noise around him fades as his mind focuses.
He starts down the board, lunges at the tip and jumps into the air. Evangelinos throws his arms above his head, grabs his shins, squeezes into a tuck position and somersaults two-and-a-half times. He then straightens his body to enter the water head first with his legs pressed together in perfect form.
Evangelinos looks like an arrow hitting its target in a smooth, straight trajectory.
He is one of the anchors on a traditionally strong dive team at Clovis West High School, well known for its winning aquatics program.
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Clovis West dive coach Lacie Ruth said this year’s varsity team entered the 2016 season with solid dives and ready to compete.
“The whole team is very dedicated to the sport, and most have a lot of experience,” Ruth said.
Evangelinos started diving in sixth grade on a club team and is finishing up a four-year career for the Golden Eagles. “You’re always able to learn something new and you can feel yourself improving when you’re a diver,” he said.
Senior Randi Berg is another leader on the team, and diving brings her joy.
“I love flipping and twisting because of gymnastics, and I love to be up in the air. It’s fun,” she said.
Berg added that diving is a good outlet for her drive and ambition.
“I’m super competitive. If I see someone else do a dive that I know how to do, I want to do it better,” she said.
Junior Tori Funk likes the mental challenge of the sport.
“I’m strong at overcoming mental blocks,” she said.
As in any sport, divers must work to master physical technique, but they also face obstacles of the mind. Fear can be part of the sport, Funk said.
Assistant coach Chuck Tobias said the mental challenge of diving is unique in this respect.
“The only way to succeed is through failure,” he said. “Divers have to smack the water multiple times in order to get a dive right. No one ever gets the dive right on the first, or second or third time. It takes a lot of perseverance to do it right.”
In the 1970s, Tobias was a diver at Hoover High School in Fresno and at Fresno City College. He chuckled and said divers either need “a touch of insanity” or a great tolerance for pain.
Ruth said as a coach she has different ways of helping divers face the mental challenge.
“Each kid is different,” she said. “With some, I just have to say, ‘Go for it,’ and with others I have to break down the skills and tell them the physics behind a dive.”
Encouragement is a key part of her coaching, Ruth said. Honesty, too. She tells some divers to give themselves permission to smack the water at least once. (”Smack” is diver speak for hitting the water in less than ideal form.)
Ruth started diving at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia and then earned a partial diving scholarship to Fresno State, where she competed for four years.
“I like diving because I like a good challenge, and I love making goals and reaching them,” she said.
Ruth started coaching divers at Kastner Intermediate School in 2014, and she also took on head coaching duties at Clovis West this year.
“It excites me when I see kids reach their goals,” she said.
Ruth provided the following comments about the divers on this year’s team:
▪ Evangelinos (varsity) — “Colby can adapt very quickly in emergency situations. He can throw anything when it comes down to the wire. Colby has been diving for a long time and it has paid off. He executes all his entries well.” (”Throw” is diver speak for doing a dive well.)
▪ Berg (varsity) — “Randi has the best attitude. She always is finding ways to improve her dives and help others get theirs. She is a great role model for the team and is always cheering on others.”
▪ Funk (varsity) — “Tori is fun and easy-going. She has good form. Her best dives are back and reverse pike. She can really get in and out of them the correct way.”
▪ Justin White (senior, varsity) — “Justin has very nice form on all his dives and is very modest about his diving talent.”
▪ Xavier Flores (sophomore, varsity) — “He has so much power and potential. I am excited to see where the next years take him. He is very self motivated and will do anything I ask without hesitation.”
▪ Logan Tobias (sophomore, varsity) — “Logan is very respectful and polite. He comes prepared for practice and you can tell he is having a good time out there.”
▪ Zack Ball (sophomore, varsity) — “I am very impressed by how fast Zack has learned all his dives. This is his first year and he has recently been promoted to varsity. He does not seem to have a fear of trying something new.”
▪ Claire Nevosh (sophomore, varsity) — “Claire has very good lines and can make any dive look beautiful.”
▪ Alexi Archon (freshman, junior varsity/varsity) — “She is a good competitor. When we go to meets, she turns it up a notch.”
▪ Hailey Haron (freshman, junior varsity/varsity) — “Hailey has a lot of potential. She can really get the board moving. Once we figure out technique a little more, she will be unstoppable.”
▪ Anastasia Bowman (junior, junior varsity) — “This is Anastasia’s first year and she has done well. She works hard to get the dives she wants and step by step she is reaching her goals.”
▪ Ethan Rij (freshman, junior varsity/varsity) — “Ethan is a very determined diver who is doing everything to get the dives he needs. His motivation and drive are unbelievable.”
▪ Tyler Robertson (freshman, junior varsity) — “Tyler is so polite. After practice, he gives me a handshake and says, ‘Thank you, coach.’ He is a very caring person and hard working kid.”
▪ Austin Mann (freshman, junior varsity) — “Austin is improving as the season goes on. I can’t wait to see what the end of the season holds for him.”
Divers usually do six dives at meets where two schools are competing. One is diver’s choice, and the other five must be some version of a front, back, reverse, inward and twisting dive. Judges grade each dive on a 1 to 10 scale and that number is multiplied against the degree of difficulty for a score.