“From the very beginning of Bangor swimming (nearly 50 years ago) diving has been an important component of program,” Bangor High swimming coach Phil Emery reflected.
Emery has been associated with Bangor swimming for 44 years — three years as a swimmer and 41 years as a coach.
In fact, the first state champion diver for BHS came in 1965. The first female champion was awarded gold in the late ’70s, approximately four years after the first state meet for girls.
Since then, both male and female divers for Bangor have won gold not only in the decades of the ’60s and ’70s but in the ’80s and ’90s as well. The girls have gold medals, too, in the first decade of the 21st century.
“We have always respected the event of diving. It is one of the 12 events. We have always made it work,” Emery noted.
When the Bangor teams compete in this year’s state championship meets (boys Monday and girls Tuesday), the divers are expected to exert a powerful presence in the state championships.
In fact, Ashley Higgins will defend her 2009 gold. Teammates Meg Rowe, entering the meet as the second-ranked diver for 11 dives in Class A, Chelsea Hardy and Julie Clifford also project to be among the finalists.
For the boys, last year’s runner-up, Tim Smith — who has scored more than 400 points for 11 dives — and his diving mates Ross Cormier and Kyle Mitchell MacDonald have the opportunity to be significant contributors to the Rams’ title chase.
“They are a great group. There is a strong sense of pride. They are terrific kids. They really care about each other. I want them to score higher than last year’s state meet providing support for them of their improvement,” explained diving coach Jaret Lizzotte, who formerly coached at the University of Maine.
“Each one of us brings something special to the team,” added Smith, who has executed a back one-half with 2½ twists off the one-meter board, an uncommon dive for high school divers in Maine.
Meg Rowe, who has competed in other sports, remarked, “This is the closest-knit team I have been on. Everyone is so supportive which makes us all better divers.”
Mallory MacDonald suggested, “We are very responsive to one another. We want to motivate one another.”
And, Hardy, too, identified the bond among the team. “We bring out the best in each other.”
Higgins, the most experienced Bangor diver, offered the following observation, “I have been on a lot of teams. On this team, there is no drama and no cliques. We all respect one another.”
The state meets are 11-dive competitions as is the Penobscot Valley Conference Championship. Dual meets are six-dive events.
“I prefer 11-dive meets. It is more stressful and tiring, but it allows us to show our consistency,” commented Higgins, winner of last week’s PVC.
“I like 11-dive competitions. There is more of a chance to perform a variety of dives,” Rowe agreed.
“I am wicked pumped for the meet. It is weird to get so pumped and then perform a graceful dive,” Mallory MacDonald replied.
In addition to a strong kinesthetic awareness, divers must also have the ability to visualize proper technique and then execute with precision and grace.
“Coach helps us understand the physics of the dive. He wants us to understand the why,” Rowe pointed out.
“Our scores have steadily improved during the season,” Cormier stated.
And Smith identified the positive attitude that exists at a BHS practice.
“We all like to come to practice. When you like to practice you love the sport.”
And while the achievements of Bangor diving, including this group of divers, are certainly significant and noteworthy, another measure of success can be found in the influence Bangor diving has had on the individual team members.
Allie Rowe, Meg’s sister, acknowledged, “Diving has taught me to be more confident in myself.”
Clifford offered a similar testimony. “He (Lizzotte) has not only improved my diving, but he has helped me to become more confident and assertive.”
Certainly, confidence and assertiveness will help springboard the students to greater accomplishments after their final dive has been scored.