Jumping in together

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published September 12, 2017

ROCHESTER HILLS — On an early September afternoon, divers from each of the three area high schools leap off the pair of diving boards in the Rochester Hills Stoney Creek pool.

Cougars, Highlanders and Falcons each take their turn, meticulously contorting in the air to achieve various maneuvers. However, this is not a meet or a tournament; rather, it is a joint practice.

Fierce rivals on the field, diamond and court, Stoney Creek, Rochester High and Rochester Adams are united in the water. Dive coach Natalie Seaton oversees the operation, offering advice and instruction after each dip.

“It wasn’t my intention to take on more than one school,” Seaton said. “I originally picked up Adams in the fall of 2011 after I graduated. Periodically, coaches would come and go from the other two schools, so I’d pick up the girls and boys seasons. I offered to help out and enjoy being able to coach all three.”

Each school has three divers, building a total squad of nine. However, unlike the united hockey team that combines Rochester and Adams under one banner, each competitor represents their respective school’s swim and dive team.

This creates a dynamic where the crosstown foes practice together throughout the week before diving in separate meets. Additionally, the divers will face off against one another in Oakland Activities Association contests.

“The rivalry comes out more among the girls on the same school competing to earn points for their own team rather than between the different schools,” Seaton said. “It’s cool because we don’t see the rivalry in the meets. Instead, they’re super supportive of each other, cheering the other girls on even if it’s against them.”

This is the first year that the Falcons have joined the grouping to complete the community trio.

“Diving is different because it doesn’t have the competitiveness like other sports; we all want to help each other,” Rochester sophomore Meghan Jones said. “We’re all friends. It’s not like playing football; it’s not that kind of rivalry. We don’t hate each other. We want each other to do well, even in the meets when we play against each other.”

Rochester’s three divers are the most the school has had in years, a welcome addition to the squad. Along with Jones, Elise Vecasey and Abby Delaere represent the Falcons.

“Rochester didn’t have a diving team last year, and before that there was only (one) diver for several years,” Seaton explained. “The swimmers love it, because while diving is only one event, it can make or break a meet. When you don’t submit divers at a meet, you’re giving away essentially 14 points. The fact that I’m able to enter three in each meet, the team definitely benefits.”

Delaere and her teammates were welcomed with open arms to both Seaton’s setup and the Falcons’ lineup.

“All the swimmers were really excited to have us,” Delaere said. “They’ve been very supportive and told us we make a big difference.”

Jones and Delaere are both new to the sport, picking up diving in recent months. This is a common theme for Seaton, as five of the nine overall are brand new to diving.

“It can be a challenge, but it’s good because it allows us to focus on a lot of basics and mechanics,” Seaton said. “Some of the more advanced girls I can use for demonstrations with the newer girls. The returning divers can focus on those mechanics, which leads to staying consistent and getting good scores.”

Seaton pointed to Jessica Woodman as the most experienced member of the team. In her fourth year on varsity, the Adams diver is the only senior under Seaton’s care. She’s joined by Indy Iyer and Cat Stephens for the Highlanders.

“I have placed a lot of the leadership duties on her,” Seaton said of Woodman. “When I have to step away, she can coach for me. She’s a natural leader. I place a lot of pressure on her, and she’s taken it in stride. The girls respect her as they respect me.”

Woodman relishes the role, enjoying the chance to mentor her fellow Highlanders and her division rivals.

“Knowing people from the other schools is nice, and we all get along great,” Woodman said. “There’s no drama, because they’re my teammates. We practice together and create a helping environment.”

Stoney Creek hosts the practices due to the advantage of boasting two boards.

“I like that we get to meet the other teams; we really learn off of each other,” Stoney Creek sophomore Alexis Pfarrer said. “It helps having them with us. It makes it a lot more fun.”

Pfarrer’s Stoney Creek teammates include Isabella Barthelemy and Elysabeth Derringer.

A 2011 product of the Oakland University powerhouse program, Seaton said it can be stressful to arrange everything. She utilizes a spreadsheet, ensuring that she is present for at least seven meets for each school.

“It is a challenge, and if I could put all three schools together and make one powerhouse team, that would be great for me,” Seaton said. “But these girls each have their own respective swim team that loves, respects and appreciates them, so I wouldn’t want to take that away from them.”