LIBERTY TWP. — Lakota East High School senior Lindsey Jones began diving simply as a way to try to replace gymnastics when injuries forced her to give up the sport she had been doing for nearly 15 years.
After two and a half years, Jones finally feels she has completed the transition as a true diver.
Diving has enabled her to use her gymnastics abilities in a less demanding environment, and as it turns out, she’s pretty good at it. Jones, the Greater Miami Conference diving champion, will compete in the 1-meter dive at the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Swimming & Diving Championships on Thursday in Canton.
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“I’m mostly excited,” Jones said. “I feel it’s my payoff for working hard the past two and a half years. There are no nerves because I’m just focusing on how great of an experience and how great of an opportunity it is.”
Jones had suffered several injuries over the years as a gymnast, including a torn hamstring and fractured wrists, but the final straw came when she fractured her back and doctors told her it would never heal if she continued to compete. She had seen other former gymnasts succeed as divers and decided to give it a try.
Although many of her gymnastic skills helped her as a diver, the adjustment was difficult. There was still much to learn, and she spent four or five days a week practicing on top of her own individual workouts to try to improve.
“(Gymnastics) was no longer worth the pain,” Jones said. “I just knew I needed to make a choice to heal my body. I actually think I enjoy diving more now. Doing something for 15 years, I was clearly attached to it and it’s all I knew, but diving is very different. There are pros and cons to both, but mentally I am less stressed with diving so I enjoy it so much more, and not having to worry about injuries is such a plus.”
East diving coach Cathy Prebles recalls thinking Jones could become a state competitor the first time she saw her dive at a practice her sophomore year. Jones was a GMC honorable-mention selection that first season, then made the second team as a junior and first team this season after winning the conference meet.
Jones qualified for state with a third-place finish at the Southwest District Championships. She is a first-time qualifier.
“She’s put the work in to make it happen,” Prebles said. “She really knew what she needed to do to make that correction and get to state, and she worked hard to make it happen. Not that she hadn’t in the past, but like anything else, there are always things an athlete has to tweak. There was a lot of work with the hurdle, the confidence, the mental aspect of diving, and that confidence and determination really set her apart this year.”
Jones’ scores have improved dramatically this year as she posted a season-best of 435.6 after mostly scoring in the 200s as a junior. She said she started out with “very much of a gymnast’s approach” but now has more of a diver’s form while using her power and height to her advantage.
Jones is seeded 13th in the Division I diving competition after scoring a 434.55 at districts. Five individuals scored in the 500s, including West Clermont’s Morgan Southall from the Southwest District.
“I knew if I put together a list of my best dives I had done in practice I would have the ability to go to state,” Jones said. “From there, it was just making sure I was consistent enough in those dives to put together the scores I needed to get to state.”
Jones will be competing with the same dives she used at districts, except she is replacing a back one-and-a-half twist with a back two-and-a-half twist with hopes the higher degree of difficulty will help her scorer higher.
Her goal is to put up personal-best scores and hopes that will be enough to get her to the podium. Prebles believes she can compete with the best divers in the state.
“She doesn’t back off any kind of challenge,” Prebles said. “She’s become very aggressive with her board work, and it was just a matter of taking the dives she had. She had the degree of difficulty all along, but she really stepped up and came on strong this year.
“She has a great list going into state, and she is at a really good point for competing. The dives are there, the confidence is there. She’s ready to go. She put the work in and now it’s go time.”
Area State Qualifiers
The following is a list of state qualifiers from the Journal-News coverage area for this week’s state swim meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton:
One-meter diving — Sam Hool, Talawanda
200 medley relay — Lakota East, Talawanda
200 individual medley — Adam McDonald, Lakota East
500 freestyle — Jacob McDonald, Lakota East; Jacob Ortwein, Lakota West
100 backstroke — Jacob McDonald, Lakota East; Michael Lorenz, Lakota West
100 breaststroke — Adam McDonald, Lakota East
400 freestyle relay — Lakota East
200 medley relay — Badin, Fenwick
200 freestyle — Luke Paxton, Badin
200 individual medley — Adam Sherman, Badin
100 butterfly — Luke Paxton, Badin
100 breaststroke — Adam Sherman, Badin; Brooks Olson, Fenwick
400 freestyle relay — Badin
One-meter diving — Lindsey Jones, Lakota East
200 medley relay — Lakota West
200 freestyle — Grace Luebbe, Lakota West
200 individual medley — Hannah Cech, Lakota East; Lizzie Jantausch, Lakota East; Caroline Rice, Lakota West
50 freestyle — Paige Striley, Lakota West
100 butterfly — Grace Glosson, Lakota West; Bridget Cramer, Lakota West
100 freestyle — Paige Striley, Lakota West
500 freestyle — Hannah Cech, Lakota East; Grace Luebbe, Lakota West; Tara Witkowski, Lakota East
100 backstroke — Grace Glosson, Lakota West; Mercy Patterson, Talawanda
400 freestyle relay — Lakota West
100 butterfly — Anna Baker, Fenwick
100 backstroke — Anna Baker, Fenwick
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