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All-American divers spring to next level
All-American divers spring to next level
By TONY LANGE
Two Solon High School divers have been named All-Americans for 2011 by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association.
Michael Kreft, a 2011 graduate, was one of a 100 males on the nationwide list, while Savin Mills, who will be a junior, was one of 100 females on the list.
"It's definitely cool, because it's definitely a limited number of kids in the country that get it, and it's also a national thing, which you don't really get that in high school too often -- to be compared to other high school athletes nationally," said Kreft, who received the recognition his junior and sophomore years as well. "It's just an honor to know that you're a part of that upper elite group of high school divers."
Mills, who was named All-American for the second consecutive year, said this year was more selective, because fewer athletes, 100 instead of 130, were named.
"So it's really good to get it two years in a row," she said. "Since very few people get it, it means a lot. It means you're one of the top divers."
To qualify for the recognition, divers must attain a certain score during the high school season and send in a video of their dives for review before being considered.
Kreft, who was Division I state champion his junior and senior years, will be diving at the University of Notre Dame this coming season. At the college level, divers use both the 3-meter and 1-meter springboards during meets, whereas high school competitions only incorporate the 1-meter board.
During the club USA diving season, both Kreft and Mills dive for the American Flyers team, which is based out of Solon and Beachwood and is coached by Marc Cahalane, who is also Solon's varsity coach during the high school season. Unlike high school meets, USA competitions include the 3-meter springboard as well.
After tearing his rotator cuff, which put him out of commission for nearly six months prior to his senior year at Solon, Kreft neglected diving from the 3-meter board, he said.
"With my shoulder, it's way more dangerous to dive from a high height," Kreft said. "So right now I'm focusing on getting all my previous 3-meter dives back, competition ready and then learning a lot of new ones to get my degree of difficulty up to par, since it's been so long since I've been with it every day."
One new dive Kreft is adding to his resume this summer is a reverse one-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists from the 3-meter board, he said.
"A lot of things are just going to be changing positions from a tuck to a pike," Kreft said about switching from the 1-meter to the 3-meter board. "Before, I did a front three-and-a-half tuck. Now, I'm learning a front three-and-a-half pike, which the pike position carries a higher degree of difficulty than the tuck position."
While Mills is concentrating on USA junior meets and already advanced from regionals to zones on both boards this summer, Kreft is concentrating on one meet in particular -- a senior-level meet. Mills also is training for the senior-level meet.
Junior-level meets are competitive and often have five state champions and five state runners-up at regionals and zones, coach Cahalane said.
The reason Kreft is only concentrating on the senior-level meet is because the format is similar to collegiate competitions, whereas there are six dives with an unlimited degree of difficulty. At the junior-level age-group meets, while the competition is very good, the format consists of 10 dives with five mandatory voluntary dives, which are the easier basic dives that have a limited degree of difficulty. It allows divers to display control and style.
Upon competing at the collegiate level, the junior competitions no longer make sense for Kreft, Cahalane said. The senior-level meets will also be a good experience to get Mills to the next level, he said.
"It's definitely more of a strenuous mental period, which she needs," Cahalane said. "One of the main things is your emotional and mental state. Just to get her into a senior-level meet will get her an ego boost and make her realize that she's got it, she's good, and she can compete at that high level. Hopefully, that will give her the confidence that she needs to step up."
Cahalane is a good coach who always tries to push his divers in both the club and the high school seasons, said Mills, who has been a little disappointed in her state performances during her freshman and sophomore years at Solon.
"Well, I've wanted to do a better than I've done at states," she said. "I've had two good district meets, but I haven't had two good state meets yet, so I kind of want to place in the top five this year at states."
As a sophomore, Mills placed 19th at the state competition with 269.85 points after scoring 462.20 points and placing third at districts the previous week.
"At this point, she's had two disappointing state meets," Cahalane said. "She had a good season going into it last year, and, unfortunately, with diving, it's that one dive can blow everything. She hit her hands on the board on a pretty difficult dive that she injured herself while doing in the past. So it's definitely a mind game on that dive."
At the senior-level meets, college athletes and even Olympians compete, Cahalane said.
"So it's amazing," he said. "Just to get in the meet will be cool. It's hopefully a confidence booster and a morale builder, and that could definitely give Kreft and Mills the emotional jump that I think is so important. Part of what I try to do is I try to coach 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, because that's what diving is."
Kreft has trained under Cahalane's techniques since the summer before his freshman year and is uncertain as to what to expect when he leaves for South Bend, Ind., in August, he said. He has only had one coaching transition in his diving career, and both coaches shared similar styles.
"My coach from Notre Dame is actually a Chinese coach and came here from China 17 years ago," Kreft said. "The Chinese do something differently than traditional American training, but I definitely know that anything he is going to do is going to be the right thing for me. It's just going to be learning with a different style and a different training regiment and things like that."
Kreft said he just has to be open to anything and everything to succeed at the next level.
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