Three Former WOGA Teammates Head to US Diving Championships

Four former WOGA team gymnasts, Mark Murdock, Devin Burnett, Tayte Thorne, and Matthew Phillip, have sprung to National competitive success as divers.   They each credit the discipline, conditioning, and agility developed as gymnasts with helping them succeed in diving.  Devin, Tayte, and Matthew, are competing at US Jr. National Diving Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee this week (July 30-August 8).   As a tribute to their resilience and success, we’d like to share their inspirational stories.

Mark Murdock was the first WOGA team gymnast to earn a college scholarship in diving.  Mark graduated in 2007 as a WOGA Team gymnast, and earned a diving scholarship to University of Wyoming.  Last season as a college junior, Mark won the NCAA Mountain West Conference Platform diving Championship.   Check out Mark’s college bio at this link

Devin Burnett was on the US Jr. Men’s Level 9 National Team in 2006 and 2007, one of Coach Sergei Pakanich’s rising stars.  He was forced to find a new sport after injuring his foot at a competition in Japan in 2008.   He turned to diving in 2009 and qualified for US Summer Nationals on 1 meter and 3 meter spring board in his first full year in the sport.  To qualify for Nationals you have to be in the top 6 at a Zone meet and there are 5 zone meets which means you have to be in the top 30 or so in the country.

In High School diving, Devin won the the 5A District and the 5A Regional Championship for Plano East Senior High and at State he took 2nd place in 5A.

Devin recently signed with SMU for a full ride scholarship (athletic and academic) for diving and will start there on August 17th.       Click here to read more about Devin’s scholarship with SMU.

To see Devin’s diving stats, click this link

Tayte Thorne was the Region III Level 9 (Jr3) All Around Champion in 2009.  Injuries forced her to miss Western Regionals and ultimately to retire from gymnastics in 2010.  Tayte quickly discovered her talent in diving with the Mustangs in The Sun Diving Team coached by Andy Serie.   Andy is a two time High School All American Diver, collegiate diver, was the head diving coach for Plano High and Plano Senior High 1998 – 2007.   He has been named High School District and Regional Diving Coach of the year for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.  Andy works great with each diver and is great at helping each one reach their (desired) potential which is very similar to how WOGA’s team coaches work with each athlete.

Tayte and her mom Stacy were kind enough to share the story of Tayte’s first year in the sport.

For those of us who don’t know anything about diving, how is the competition organized? Dive meets are mulit day events. 1 Meter springboard takes place on one day, 3 Meter the next day. Platform diving and synchronized diving will be other days or mixed between depending on the # of entries. The kids are together for 2 -3 days, so they’re there practicing and diving with the same divers. They make it fun. Last time, a bunch of divers staying at the same hotel stayed up at night playing cards in the lobby. They were all from different teams & they were having a great time. The next day, there they all were together doing their dive list. It was real friendly. Real fun.

Are the levels like in gymnastics? Competitions are run by ages not levels. No matter what your skills are, you dive in your age group.

When is the season? There is a winter season (November – April) and a summer season (June – August).

Do diver specialize or do all around? Divers can compete in one event like 1 meter springboard only, or everything! Divers have a set of dives for 1 meter, a set of dives for 3 meter and a set of dives for platform (tower) Entry fees are $30/event.  The divers enter themselves in the meets and enter their own dive lists by number. Each dive is known by its number value instead of saying the name of the dive. So for the dive 5233D, each # and letter indicates a different direction, position, # of tucks, # of spins, etc. The judges call the dive (from the divers entry sheet) then the diver nods to the judges and then they can dive. If they do the wrong dive, or don’t complete all the rotations or spins, it’s a failed dive (0 points) Believe me, a WOGA kid would never do a failed dive! : )

How did Tayte choose diving as her next sport? She needed a sport that required a strong core. The only way to have a great dive is by keeping your core solid for the entry. The first hour or so of practice is ‘dryland’ where they do conditioning out of the water. That has helped keep her core really strong.

How long has she been competing? Tayte started practicing in September ’10 and dove in her 1st meet in December’10.

How does training for diving compare to gymnastics? During school diving is 5:30 – 8 m – f + Sat 9 – 11.  In the summer there are 2-a-days by invitation only. They are coached by Jim Stillson, the SMU head coach. SMU has one of the strongest diving teams in the country. He has produced World Champions, Olympians, and also coached by Michelle Pappas – international champion, National Team Member.  Tayte was diving all summer from 10:30 – 1 & from 3:30 – 6 at SMU.  It’s an outdoor pool and they were pretty wiped out from the sun, but she had a great time.  She’s traded chalk for sunscreen!!

What advantages does Tayte think she got from gymnastics that help her in diving? Gymnastics gave Tayte skills for flipping & twisting. But WOGA gave Tayte the discipline! and that form that athletes need from the very basic of skills! (once Tayte said ‘Mom, I think everyone should go the the “school of WOGA” for a couple years : )!) WOGA also taught her not to fear. When she’s learning a new dive or doing a difficult dive, she just goes for it. She doesn’t hesitate on the board & doesn’t ‘balk’ (when a diver starts a dive but doesn’t do the dive- just jumps off).. In gymnastics you may be able to make up for a missed skill. or to ‘fix’ your landing if you’re short or over-rotated. In diving, there is one second when the judges see whether your entry is perfectly straight, One shot. Tayte also had to learn to land on her head! :)

What has surprised her most about diving? Learning to use the springboard…on floor and vault you need to push with all your strength to do your skill. Diving judges can really tell ex-gymnasts who try to muscle their way off the springboard :) They don’t score as high when the diver isn’t in rhythm with the springboard and using it to propel them up and away from the board. Also, the scoring! In Tayte’s age group, an amazing score is 6.5 – 8. Imagine that for a floor routine!! : ) The coaches have to be trained in judging. They are the judges at the events. They are ‘graded’ on how their scores compare to the other judges so you can see if there is any partiality for or against a diver. Also, they flash their scores in a second after each dive, then move on. There’s no notepads, writing down, or reviewing scores. Everything happens in a flash. In diving, when you ‘splat’ you land flat in the water. It can bruise your body black & blue from head to toe. And yes, everyone splats. I think WOGA taught her the perspective she has…’Well, now I know what the worst will feel like, so I know what is the worst I will ever have to deal with.’ Then she gets back up and tries again!

What has been her best memory of diving so far? Making her way on the podium for a medal : ) getting down some difficult dives (similar to learning elite skills) & the outdoor meet that was put on hold for lightning. In the middle of her meet, the divers went back to the hotel and played cards. When the weather cleared, they returned to the pool and finished their dive lists.

Does she have specific goals about competing in diving? To beat her personal best scores at Nationals this week ! Also to have a dive list ready to compete at Seniors (diving equivalent to Elite) next year! : )

Where does she train? In the summer, at SMU. There’s a shortage of pools with 3 meters, so you have to go where the boards are…in the fall practices are at SMU Tuesday/Thursday, Carrollton Monday/ Wednesday and Lewisville Fri/Saturday. It’s real flexible. Divers pick how much time they want to commit (& pay accordinlgly). If you commit to 3-4x/week, you are able to go to the 3- 4 practices that work for your schedule for that week. Of course, the more you dive, the better you get.

Matthew Phillip competed on Pavel’s team from 2006 through 2008, and he left gymnastics just after his level 7 season.   Matthew just started diving this summer and has already qualified for Jr. Nationals.   He trains and competes on the Mustangs in the Sun Diving Team along with Tayte and Devin.  Matthew has placed in the top 8 at both regionals and zones which qualified him for nationals – It’s been a fun and fast ride. Matthew’s dad, Doug, says that his gymnastics background definitely set him up for this sport.