Flips on land or flips into water.
Chiles junior Chase Lane appreciates both.
He’s a converted gymnast, but a state champion diver.
However, it took a bit of prodding from former Leon County Schools diving coach Derek Jones to get his then-Deerlake Middle School sixth grade science student to give diving a try.
Two years later, Lane relented. Two years after that, he was top of the state for FHSAA Class 3A and the 2014 All-Big Bend Diver of the Year.
“He knew I was a gymnast and he kept begging me to come out and I always refused because I just loved gymnastics at the time,” Lane said. “It was easy until we got into bigger dives and then it was more scary.”
Jones, a former FSU diver, left for a job in Jupiter and was replaced by Chuck Wade, who came over from southeast Texas to join up with Tomahawk Diving Club.
Wade began diving at 5 years old, won four national championships and was on the U.S. National Team for 11 years. At one time he was ranked second in the world.
“Most of the divers I have were already on my club team and I wanted them to be able to have a great high school career,” said Wade, who moved to Tallahassee two years ago.
Between Lane and former Chiles diver Allison Greene, who’s now on scholarship at Georgia, Tallahassee produced two state champions last year.
Not bad for an area that’s far from the sprawling metropolis many other schools draw from.
“Don’t mess with us country people is all I can say,” Wade said with a laugh. “It’s awesome. To come from a town like this and produce athletes like that, some teams have more to pick from and longer history. It’s really amazing.”
Dives are graded on a 10-point scale. Things get especially tough at 2-1/2 twists. There’s forward, backward, reverse, inward variations. All high school dives take place on a 1-meter springboard, but the group of divers practice all the way up to the highest 10-meter platform at FSU’s Morcom Aquatic Center.
That’s 33 feet above the water.
Lane and most other divers practice first on dry land with elastic bands around the waist, while Wade coaches through the bungee-like system on how to do the next big dive.
“It helps build our confidence,” Lane said. “It all just comes with time. Air-sense like I had in gymnastics was an easy transition. Over time you build confidence, through belts, you just feel more comfortable in the air.”
For Lincoln junior Torry Wagner, his experience with diving came after initially swimming, wanting just to try something else.
“It was really weird and I wasn’t very coordinated and couldn’t catch the board that well,” Wagner said. “I’m starting to get better. We do a lot to build leg and core strength.”
The switch from Jones to Wade went smooth and the group of area divers— basically its own exclusive club, separate from swimmers— is growing, especially among younger children.
And just last year Maclay middle schooler Kendall Minter made the All-Big Bend first team as a seventh grader.
“We’re a team, but we have a lot of competition between us,” Wagner said. “I think that helps us in the long run, but most of us are pretty close.”
Lane is eye-balling a college scholarship with a dream to enter the Air Force Academy. He used to think gymnastics would take him the farthest.
And it’s impossible for him to tell you which one he likes more.
“I don’t think there’s better one,” Lane said. “They each have their separate things you just fall in love with.”
TOP SCORES, BOYS 1-METER DIVING:
1. Chase Lane (Chiles), 301.20
2. Taj Cole (Leon), 165.60
3. Torry Wagner (Lincoln), 158.20
TOP SCORES, GIRLS 1-METER DIVING:
1. Rainey Vause (Chiles), 231.95
2. Kendall Minter (Maclay), 186.15
3. Sapphire Arthmann (Rickards), 158.60
4. Joelle Carbonell-Bierbaum (Leon), 149.25
5. Ulyana Shomnyk (Rickards), 142.20