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Ava Santacroce debuted on the diving board for the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving squad last fall and is looking to have another solid season as a sophomore this year. (Photo courtesy of Ava Santacroce )
Only a sophomore, Ava Santacroce is making quite a name for herself on a diver with the Indians and already has her sights set on breaking the school record in the event. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Ava Santacroce first stepped on the diving board as a freshman at North Haven last year. After doing gymnastics throughout the previous decade, Ava decided that she wanted a new challenge upon entering high school.
“After I quit gymnastics, I watched my cousin dive, and I thought it was cool. After watching diving at the Olympics, I decided I wanted to try it, because I know how to do flips and tricks,” says Ava. “It was fun for me, because I love learning new things. It was a little different, but I think diving with my gymnastics background made it easier to learn things.”
Ava stepped away from gymnastics after injuring her back. Ava thought that diving would put less stress on her back and, thus far, she’s been correct.
“I hurt my back, and it didn’t get better...I thought I wanted to go to college for gymnastics, but I knew it wouldn’t happen, so I figured I’d try diving and see if it was easier on my back,” Ava says. “It’s a lot easier on my back, because I’m not doing as many events, and I’m not doing as much conditioning as I used to. I’m just jumping off a board and flipping—not falling a lot onto a hard surface. Jumping into water and not hitting a mat gives me less of a chance to hurt myself.”
The transition from gymnastics to diving has been a pretty seamless one for Ava, who’s now a sophomore at North Haven. Of course, there was a bit of a learning curve, but Ava felt that she had a head-start in her new sport as a result of her experience in gymnastics.
“I think they’re similar, because you have to train and work hard to learn how to do certain skills. Knowing how to do flips made it easier for me,” she says. “I think it’s easier going into the water and leading with your hands than landing on your feet like I used to do in gymnastics, because I can see more. When I’m diving, I can feel what flip I’m doing and know the timing and when to come out straight.”
North Haven Head Coach Martha Phelan has been impressed with Ava’s commitment to diving. Phelan says there has been some great competition among the Indians’ four divers to begin the 2017 season.
“Even though a lot of the elements of gymnastics and diving go hand in hand, you have to re-learn a lot of things that are different on the board. I think she’s really embraced it and adjusted well,” Phelan says. “Now, she’s focused only on diving, so to me, that shows she’s made a real commitment. She wants to do really well, and it’s really encouraging.”
Ava remembers being nervous when preparing for the first dive of her career, but she’s definitely overcome those early jitters. Since then, Ava has learned how to execute 15 different dives.
“My favorite dive is probably a front double, which is two front flips in a row,” Ava says. “When I did gymnastics, I used to love doing it off a trampoline into the pit. Now I can do it in competition going to water, so it feels good for me, because I’ve been working on it for so long.”
With her sophomore season just underway, Ava has established a goal of breaking the school record of 246 points during her career with the Indians.
“At our first meet, I scored a 210.3,” says Ava. “I’m only 36 points away, so that made me feel pretty happy, because I know if I work harder, I can make it to that number.”
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