story by Carina Leaman and Josh Imholte

The enticing smell of chlorine and the echoing splashes emanate from the pool year-round as athletes of all ages arrive for diving practice.

Diving is not thought of as a high school sport. It’s popular during the summer Olympics, yet seems to disappear from the radar after the medals are awarded; there simply isn’t a large demand for diving, from either spectators or athletes.

But for senior Marisa Rasnick, diving was the only alternative to giving up athletics all together.

“I started diving after I had to quit gymnastics because I hurt my knee,” Marisa said. “I dislocated it a couple of times, and I wasn’t allowed to do gymnastics anymore and I still wanted to do a sport, so I tried to find something that was similar.”

This seems to be the pattern for most athletes with South Carolina Divers. The twists and turns mid-air in diving are similar to the twists and turns involved on the uneven bars or floor exercises in gymnastics, allowing former gymnasts to begin diving with relative ease.

Diving also provides new challenges for athletes wishing to graduate from the floor.

“I did it [gymnastics] at the Little Gym, which is a smaller gym than most gyms, and it was time for me to either move up to a bigger gym to compete, or go to diving,” teammate Sophie Vrezyl said.

Overall, diving provides new platforms in the athletics world. Marisa’s mother Lisa Rasnick said it is a good sport to segue into, and there are more opportunities on the collegiate level.

Volumes of effort go into each dive, but what matters most comes before the athlete’s feet leave the diving board.

“A lot of people think that the most important piece is the entry, like you don’t want to make a splash, and that’s very important,” Marisa said, “but for me the most important part is the start, because if you don’t get a good takeoff from the board, then you can’t get a good entry. You have to have the best takeoff.”

The key to the best takeoff is the mental preparation.

“The most important part of the dive for me is my mindset, because if I don’t believe that I can do the dive, I won’t do it,” teammate Sydney Bluestein said.

Marisa has pushed herself ever since she joined the team; her change in sports hasn’t changed her determination.

“[She’s] fantastic, she’s very coachable, very driven, extremely talented, lots of potential,” head group coach Bryan Pitt said. “She’s kind of the leader of our group too, so it’s good to have people like her to help the youngers come up into the right way.”

Her influence has pushed her teammates to grow, even as she improves and looks towards her future in the sport.

“Well,  I think she’s just really good as a person, she’s really nice and encouraging,” Sophie said, “and I also think that she’s come a long way as a diver since she came here, and she’s just really nice to be on the team.”

As the year comes to a close and Marisa looks towards the graduation podium, the main focus is no longer on this season but on what may come in college.

“What happens this summer is not necessarily on our radar,” Pitt said. “We are training for the U.S. diving summer season, but mostly we’re just trying to improve her mechanical technique, get her stronger, and get her ready for next year.”