Mandarin student is state diving champion

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By Martie Thompson
editor@floridanewsline.com

Mandarin High School senior Keegan Fluharty is a former competitive gymnast who turned her proficiency in twisting and tumbling into a new vocation as a diver — and last November, she earned the title of FHSAA Class 4A diving champion for the state of Florida. She is the first Northeast Florida diver to win a state girls’ title since 2013.

“I was a little upset about five years ago when I became injured and had to stop gymnastics, because gymnastics was my whole life,” Fluharty said. “But I figured maybe a new start with diving would be good.”

So she took the advice of a coach at a gymnastics camp to look up local diving coach Melisa Hyams, and she never looked back. For her first meeting with Hyams, Fluharty said she got right in the pool and performed some basics like standing on the diving board and either falling or jumping in the water. Then she progressed to using a dry diving board, not over a pool, that has ropes to strap the diver in while practicing aerial somersaults and twists. Her first competitive meet was six weeks after she started.

“It was a small meet,” Fluharty said. “But it went well and I thought if I dedicated more time and effort that perhaps I could be good at diving.”

She began attending practices five days a week for two hours each as a member of the North Florida Diving team. Today, she has upped her schedule to include double practices on three of those days. She also participates in conditioning workouts at the gym or track with two other girls who are also members of Mandarin High School’s diving team and North Florida Diving.

The work paid off as Fluharty finished first at districts and second at regionals and qualified for her fourth trip to the state championships. She said she was hoping to do well, but was not overconfident as she had finished in sixth place as a freshman diving for Paxson, fifth place diving as a sophomore for Mandarin High School, and fifth place again her junior year as a diver for Jacksonville Country Day School.

“I just thought, ‘This is my year. I want to go out with a bang,’” Fluharty said. “There was a lot of competition, including some of the girls I compete with at USA meets. Coming out on top was a great feeling.”

Her entire family was in Stuart, Fla. to watch her win the state championship, including her older sister Hannah, who drove all night from college in Alabama just to see her sister dive.
Fluharty also competes nationally and finished 14th in the 1-meter springboard last summer.

She said the hardest thing about diving is changing her perspective from that of a gymnast.

“As a gymnast, you’re not supposed to land on your head, but divers do,” she said.

Her most difficult dives are a 105B front two-and-a-half somersault pike on the one-meter springboard and a 5235D back one-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists on the three-meter. Fluharty is interested in platform diving, but facilities aren’t available locally.

After graduation this spring, she plans to attend college to study psychology, perhaps at Louisville or Florida Atlantic University, and definitely continue diving. Maybe she’ll even add platform diving to her repertoire.

“And maybe college can take me to the next step of the Olympic trials,” Fluharty said.

Meanwhile, she will continue with her training and workouts and hanging out with her diving friends. Fluharty’s commitment to diving doesn’t leave room for much else besides school work.

The self-proclaimed competitor said, “I like the fear factor of diving. It’s cool to get up there on the springboard and throw something scary.”

 

Photos courtesy Keegan Fluharty

Keegan Fluharty in action.