Sister duo dazzles crowd with diving display

Jasper’s Olivia Biggs performed one of her dives during Thursday’s meet at Southridge High School against the Raiders and Forest Park. Olivia and her sister, Zoe, were recruited to the dive team because of their background in gymnastics. For more photos from the meet, click here.


HUNTINGBURG — You may not know this, but swim meets are like two events combined into one. The first is obvious: various races between competing swimmers in a myriad of events. But at a certain point during the meet, things change.

A few lanes get shuffled around, the starting flag line is moved up, and a diving board is brought out over the deep end. The water races give way to a acrobatic display of the human body as it flies through the air to meet the pool surface. And everything gets quiet. This allows Jasper sophomore diver Olivia Biggs one final moment to go over everything before she takes her plunge.

“When it’s an easy dive, I think of everything my coaches told me to fix,” she said. “But if it’s a hard dive, I just tell myself to commit to it, not overthink it, and just do it.”

Olivia and her sister, junior Zoe Biggs, were the two divers performing for Jasper in Thursday night’s swim meet at Southridge High School, which also featured Forest Park. They both completed their six-dive stints in front of a captivated audience, with final scores of 208.35 and 154.60 respectively. With no other divers competing Thursday, those points added a significant competitive advantage for the Wildcats during the meet.

“They score the same amount of points as any individual swimmer,” said Jasper swimming coach Kristen Gutgsell. “Tonight no one else had any divers on the board. So those were valuable because we were scoring points when other teams were not.”

“I’ve always been passionate about the importance of diving within a swim team, even though it is different,” said Jasper diving coach Kristy Vaughn. “It’s always been a real point-getter for the team. There’s a lot more to it than people think.”

Vaughn compared diving to the field events of the track and field meets, saying that there is no real comparison between the swimming and diving events. The divers practice completely separate from the rest of the swimmers on opposite ends of the pool. Vaughn said that sometimes the swimmers feel that they work harder physically than the divers, but she pointed out that there are other trade-offs that go along with stepping up to walk the plank, er, diving board.

“Diving is very mental, it’s all eyes on you,” said Vaughn “You have to be pretty courageous to get out there and try some of the more difficult dives. It’s not just ‘go up and bust out whatever you feel like’.”

Zoe Biggs

Vaughn recruited Zoe and Olivia to the diving team because of the girls’ gymnastics background. The body control and awareness of gymnastics’ spatial position translate very well into aquatic acrobatics.

“You have an awareness of where your body is at during the flip, so (the coaches) were like, ‘You know how to flip, so come on out’,” Olivia said. “When my coach tells me to do a flip, I know what she’s talking about so she doesn’t have to teach me how to do it.”

“All the technique helps you go forward,” added Zoe, who has been diving for Jasper for three years. “The twisters, backs, and fronts ... it builds your confidence of going up and doing any dive that you want. If you weren’t a gymnast and just started out diving, it could be scarier (at first).”

The sisters looked plenty confident as they took to the diving board Thursday and performed their respective sets. They said the goal for Thursday night was to work on some dives to add to their 11-dive sets later in the season. They also use meets to join in with the rest of the swimmers in cheering for teammates, since their respective worlds are so detached during normal practice hours.

“We get more close when we go to swim meets, because we can all cheer and yell for each other, ” Zoe said. “When meets come up, we come together as a family.”

Thursday, Jasper took first place overall with 283 points (girls scored 142, boys scored 141). For the girls, Kate Weaver placed first in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:30.02. Lindsey Mehringer won the 50-yard freestyle while posting a time of 27.09. Carmina Armstrong won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 1:00.52. Rhegann Weisheit also earned the top spot in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 6:12.46.

For the boys, Jason Fleck placed first in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, going 2:02.97 and 55.61 respectively. Max Henke (2:12.54) and Grant Hawkins (2:23.95) went one-and-two in the boys 200-yard individual medley. Max also finished first in the 100-yard breaststroke, going 1:10.84 in the water. Nolan Henke (23.50 & 52.83) and Raife Milligan (26.60 & 58.59) headlined the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle.

Southridge finished in second place with 121 points, with 99 coming from the girls and 22 from the boys. Kera Jochem placed first in the 100-yard backstroke (1:07.33) and third in the 200-yard freestyle (2:23.89).

“I’m seeing faster times. I was a little disappointed in our score, but we’re missing a few kids with sickness so that’s kind of how that goes,” said Southridge swim coach Amy Kaetzel. “But overall I was pretty happy with it.”

Forest Park finished third with 63 points; 52 for the girls and 12 for boys. Josie Berg finished first in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle with a time of 57.65 and 2:11.47 respectively.

“Overall we were very pleased with how things went,” said Brandon Berg, who was filling in as the coach while his wife, Rachel, recovers from an illness. “We are looking forward to our next competition.”

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