Here is an article I wrote about a diver from my college. She is currently at NCAA Nationals with two of her other teammates.
Good luck Sarah!
Her wet, blonde hair in a braid running down her back, Sarah Ficarro squeegees her body dry leg by leg with her Shammy before throwing it down off the board. The concentration shows on her face as she prepares, mentally and physically, for her next dive.
With a few quick steps and a jump off the sandpapery board, she hurls herself through the air, flips, and enters ever so gracefully into the water.
The judge’s scores appear almost instantly on the board, marking Ficarro one step closer to clenching her last SUNYAC win as a diver for SUNY Fredonia.
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The road of becoming a four-time NCAA national competitor and six-time All American has not been an easy one. After watching her dive, one would not guess the 22-year-old senior speech pathology major had never been on a board until tenth grade of high school. Originally a gymnast, diving didn’t appear in her life until the 5’4’’ athlete began to outgrow gymnastics.
Aware of Ficarro’s abilities, her high school swim coach recruited her for their diving team.
“I didn’t really want to do diving because I thought the swim team was weird,” she said.
After encouragement from her parents, Ficarro began her bruised, black-and-blue journey toward the state meet during her very first year of high school competition.
Though the school had no actual diving coach, Ficarro combined her background in gymnastics with an undying will to persevere and coached herself during her first year.
“Jerri [her mother] was gonna pull her out because she was getting so black and blue the first week. She was gonna tear her right out, but Sarah wouldn’t let her because she wanted to master it,” said Ficarro’s father, Jay.
The solution to stop Sarah from bruising from smacking the water so frequently while learning the dives came from her swim coach.
“My coach wanted me to continue trying the dives, but I didn’t want to get bruises on top of my bruises so he would make me put sweatpants and a sweatshirt on,” she said. “Since they would get wet, they’d get so heavy, he’d make me put duct tape around them. One time I even put on a life vest!”
To picture a future All-American jumping off the board in a duct taped sweat-suit is crazy in itself. But after an entire season of being handed a list of dives to master by herself, Ficarro qualified for the state meet after just one year of competition.
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Exiting the water after her dive, Ficarro is calm and collected. She begins to run through her next dive in her head and motions the movement with her arms in the corner, not concerning herself with her competitors’ performances or scores.
Though serious and concentrated, she fulfills her role as team caption and congratulates her teammates on their dives.
“Sarah’s supportive and helpful,” said teammate Ryan Fuller. “She’s always willing to watch you and help make a correction.”
Her proud parents watch with more anxiety than Ficarro herself.
“She don’t like losing,” her father says. “I’m a nervous wreck watching her.”
Mrs. Ficarro agrees, “I can’t imagine being in her shoes.”
* * *
Constantly being No. 1 comes with an immense pressure that sometimes causes even the best athletes to crack. Though it took time for Ficarro to adjust once at Fredonia, she quickly found success. Once on the boards, it wasn’t long until Ficarro was on her way to nationals as a college freshman.
“She tried so hard all the time, and I think that’s a part of her personality that has pushed her to the level that she is at now,” Fuller said. “I think she realized how good she could be, and she pushed herself to be the best she could be.”
Though Ficarro was recruited by multiple Division I schools, she chose Fredonia largely in relation to academics. While qualifying for nationals and holding two school records is important, becoming a three-time Scholar All American is just as important to Ficarro.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do at school,” she said. “I try really hard.”
“I only saw her dive once in all of her diving career of high school,” said her coach, John Crawford. “Diving is a sport where you can tell by the points score if they’re going to be able to help a program out. I could tell by her points total in her championship meet that she’d be able to help us out.”
It was more than her successes on the board and in the classroom that led to her teammates electing her to be captain for the 2012-2013 season. Her high-pitched giggle and effervescent personality match her big smile.
“Her work ethic is a model for other divers to emulate,” Crawford said of Ficarro. “She’s never shied away from going after things that we thought she could do. She’s got a great work ethic, and has from day one.”
* * *
Just as recognizable as her smile, Boomboozle, Ficarro’s stuffed lemur, accompanies her to every meet.
“She’s had it for as long as I can remember,” Fuller said. Practicing together since high school on a club team, he recalls there never being a meet where it wasn’t present.
Somewhat of a good-luck charm, Boomboozle has followed her all the way to the end.
“When we went to Empire State Games, she brought it and Coach Crawford was actually there. He threatened to throw it in the pool,” Fuller remembers.
Ficarro is set to end her collegiate diving career March 17-20 during NCAA nationals in Texas on both the 1- and 3-meter diving boards. Defeating the 2012 1-meter national champion during NCAA qualifying, Ficarro secured her spot at the meet while setting a new team and conference record.