Gretchen Geist, a diver from Beverly Hills, Mich., shares her story from black flops to perfected splashes to becoming a record-breaking collegiate diver.
When did you start diving?
When I was younger I would always be jumping off our diving board at home, doing flips and dives, coming dangerously close to the board and sides of the pool. My parents said, ‘Hey Gretchen, do you want to dive maybe?’ as more of a safety precaution to prevent me from killing myself.
Where did you start your career?
I started going to the this club, BBD (Birmingham Blue Dolphins), in about fourth grade and I was there for about a year and only did a few competitions. After that, I moved to the Precision Diving Association, PDA we called it, and I was there for about three years. I kind of got burned out on the sport and decided to quit.
What turned you back to diving?
I was in middle school and my parents were talking to me about diving again; they said I should dive in high school. There was going to be a new pool when I was a freshman and there would be a lot more opportunities for me to compete. I realized that I was really missing the sport and I was starstruck when I was allowed to practice with the high-schoolers as only an eighth grader.
Were you ever a swimmer?
No, I’ve never been a swimmer competitively, but I did have a pool at home so I’ve been around water.
What is the most epic fail you have had off a diving board?
Well, I’ve hit the board several times but never a solid, complete hit. But, one summer I was at the swim club trying to teach myself a back one and a half tuck. I released out of the tuck too early and ended up perfectly parallel to the water. I hit the surface hard on my back and immediately the blood vessels on my back swelled and the pain was unbearable. For sure the worst smack of my career. After that, I feared that dive for a long time. Moral of the story: Don’t try to teach yourself dives, it never works out well.
Why wasn’t swimming for you?
I took swim lessons when I was young but I was always scared to swim all the way across the pool. There was a day I can remember where my swim instructor asked us to swim across the pool and I was terrified — that was probably the day I chose my fate to be diver.
Now that you’ve recovered from that flop, what do you plan to accomplish at Hillsdale?
When I first got to Hillsdale and saw the record board, I told myself my name will be on that. I’ve only broken one record so far and that was last year. So I plan on breaking the three-meter and re-breaking my record on the one-meter this year. After that, I want to re-break both records every year to show my improvement.
Who have been some important people at Hillsdale who have helped you in your career?
In college, people expect you to know how to prepare yourself, how to warm yourself up, and how to be an athlete. I get a coach only twice a week and he drives all the way from Hastings, Mich. It’s hard not having a coach full time, especially when I know my competition gets to practice six times a week for two hours every day. I don’t like diving by myself because I’m afraid I’ll create bad habits. But the teammates in my sophomore class have been really supportive. It’s nice to have people like Rachael Kurtz, Cayley Cruickshank, and Ali Bauer cheering me on and encouraging me; they’ve been great. I’m excited to keep diving and hopefully break some records at the GLIAC Championship this week.