That explains why Kennesaw Mountain coach David Reason has always taken pride in the term “swimming and diving,” not just “swimming.” His teams were stacked with both when he coached Stone Mountain in the 1990’s.
“I put emphasis on diving when I came over from DeKalb County,” Reason said. “In DeKalb, divers were a big part of my team. When I got to Kennesaw Mountain, I wanted to stress that we didn’t want to be just a swimming team but also a swimming and diving team.”
History proves that divers are harder to find than swimmers. That means even some of the other strong programs, such as multiple state champion Lassiter, has had difficulty fielding a strong diving contingent in the past. Harrison hasn’t had a standout diver since Sarah Ohr, who went on to dive at Stanford, won state in 2005.
Kennesaw Mountain diving has been consistently solid since Reason launched it in 2000. He had one boys diver his first season, Will Stroud, who made a splash by placing in the top five in the state.
Stroud turned out to be a selling tool for the Mustangs.
With Kennesaw Mountain being a new program at the time, Stroud’s success got the attention of other potential divers, and they began coming out for the team. The majority of the new divers that came into the program were girls.
Nikki Hutchison, who placed second in Cobb County and eighth in state her senior year in 2005 before going on to dive at Georgia Southern, was the first notable name.
Alex Robinson, now Alex Smith, won Cobb County in 2006 and is now a community coach under Reason. Ansley Long, now diving for Georgia, became the Lady Mustangs first state diving champion in 2009. Alex Hart, now a freshman diver for Evansville, followed with a state title of her own in 2011.
Kennesaw Mountain has had at least one diver place in the top three at county every season since 2002 and at least one in the top eight every year since 2005. The Mustangs have also produced five county champions, five runners-up and two more second places at the state meet.
According to Reason, Kennesaw Mountain’s female divers have scored the second most points at state in the highest classification since 2002.
Since Smith came on board as coach in 2009, the girls diving program has gotten deeper and the boys program is starting to grow.
The Lady Mustangs now has three divers – seniors Jordan Shealy, Rochelle Still and Abby Martin – are capable of either winning county and state or placing very high in both.
“They are like our ‘Three Musketeers,’” Smith said. “They’re talented and have a great future ahead in the sport. They have been on the team since they were freshmen and they inspire a lot of people to come and dive. They’ve brought awareness, which is phenomenal.
Shealy, who has been diving prior to high school, placed fourth at county and fifth at the state championship both her sophomore and junior seasons. She’s currently third all-time at Kennesaw Mountain with a 6-dive score of 258.40 and an 11-dive score of 436.75.
Still and Martin didn’t start diving till high school, thanks largely to the successes of Long and Hart before them. Still is looking to improve upon her seventh place finish at county and 19th place showing at state. And Miller hopes to exceed her ninth place county finish and 27th at state.
Smith said all three are much improved from a year ago. They’ve progressed on the more challenging dives they hadn’t mastered a year ago, which will help with the point totals.
“They all seek to be perfectionists,” Smith said. “They focus so much on form so they can make their dives as beautiful and effortless as possible.”
The Kennesaw Mountain coaching staff also speaks highly on freshman boys’ diver Brody Guiher, who Reason says has “tremendous upside.”