by Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Editor
photo by Eleanor Bacon
The swim and dive team has doven in headfirst, bringing together both new and seasoned athletes in a collaborative and familial community.
Junior diver Nadia Mustafa said she learned to dive in high school after swimming on the Newton Bluefish swim team when she was younger.
“Mr. Kennedy taught me all the basics within the first week,” she said. “It was a completely different sport than swimming, and it worked my body out in a totally different way.”
Freshman diver Jazmine Green said the team is always supportive and encouraging.
“I could ask anybody if I don’t know how to do something. Sometimes you belly flop and it can be embarrassing, but everyone just laughs it out,” she said. “Nadia is really helpful. She gives me one-on-one sessions and helps me learn.”
Green, like most divers on the team, did not know how to dive before the season. Mustafa said that learning how to do the sport together is what makes the team so special.
“Since I’ve been diving, no one has known what they’re doing before they get to practice. We all have these little quirks of the way we jump, or the way we flip,” she said. “It’s really fun to watch everyone start from knowing nothing and then now that we’re at the end of the season everyone can do all these tricks automatically without any warm up.”
In meets, divers are scored based on multiple factors, Green said.
“You have six dives, and there’s a theme per week. It could be back dives or reverse dives for example, and the first dive you do has to be in that category, and then you can pick your next five,” she said. “There’s also a DD, or degree of difficulty. They use that with how well you did on your dive and then add it up in total.”
As the dive team grows in size — now eight divers compared to four last year — it is also becoming more connected, captain senior Noah Gonzalez said.
“Last year it was just me, one other boy and two girls. We’re a lot closer this year. We sometimes try to hang out and get lunch after practice, which we never did last year,” he said. “We’re already saying that we’re going to go to a trampoline park after the season ends and see what we can do on a trampoline.”
The swim team has also grown, and captain senior Eleanor Bacon said she is excited about the number of newcomers.
“We have a lot of diversity on the team with people that are new to swim and feel comfortable joining,” she said.
A member of the South team since sophomore year, captain senior Sunny Tian said that the team’s camaraderie has grown stronger over the years.
“It sounds cliche, but for me, Newton South Swim and Dive feels like family. It’s something and somewhere that I feel like I can get away from academic school but still be with my school peers,” she said.
The nature of competitive swimming contributes to its close atmosphere, Tian said. Boys and girls individual events are scored separately, yet they all compete at the same meets and practice together.
“It adds to the community building because we’re not gender separated. We can just experience doing athletics and sports in general with other genders and other people that we normally don’t get to do things with,” she said. “It just builds a family-type community.”
Through meet days spirit and Friday night dinners, the team forms a tight-knit bond, Mustafa said. At the team dinners, the team comes together to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
“The captains have a little certificate that they print out, and they announce one girl swimmer of the week, a boy swimmer of the week and a diver of the week,” she said. “They’ll give a speech saying why they deserve it.”
The regular season ended with the Dual County League meet on Feb. 4, where the boys team placed third and the girls placed sixth. Divers competed in sectionals on Feb. 9, where Gonzalez placed 3rd. Swimmers competed in sectionals on Feb. 11-12, and the team looks forward to the State Championship Feb. 18-19.
Tian said that everyone should consider joining the team next year.
“The nurturing, welcoming environment that South Swim and Dive provides is really nice,” she said. “For anyone reading this, you should join South Swim and Dive for a future year.”