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Watertown senior Watson committed to diving

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Training books, YouTube videos and an exceptional study habit have helped Shayne Watson evolve into one of the area’s top divers.

A third-year diver, the Watertown High School senior is undefeated in the Frontier League and has posted the league’s top diving score of 225.22 points this season.

The Cyclones (7-0 overall and league) are on track for their fourth consecutive undefeated season and will vie for their fifth straight league championship title later this month. Last year, Watertown captured its first sectional title in boys swimming.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of that,” Watson said. “We’ve had so many good swimmers.”

Watson is the defending league champion and holds the Watertown school record for diving with a score of 226.87. He broke David Dietterich’s 1974 mark last year.

Neither Watertown coach Jeff Ginger nor assistant Tom Graban have extensive experience working with divers, so Watson is largely self-taught through diving manuals and videos.

Some gymnastics training when he was younger helped with the twists and turns.

“Shayne is good because he’s technical-minded,” said Ginger, the ninth-year head coach. “He thinks in terms of details. Not everyone does. Some kids want to get up there and just feel their body in the air, kind of finesse it and do the artsy thing.”

Watson compiles lists to take to practice, outlining the things he’s going to work on that day. He picks something every day and works on it until he gets it right. His father, Mark, records his dives at every meet so Shayne can review them.

“Shayne thinks like an engineer thinks,” Ginger said. “He’s very meticulous, very detail-oriented.”

Ginger’s favorite dive for Watson to perform is the reverse dive and pike. During the dive, Watson jumps upward and outward, touches his toes, and then drops his torso backward and down, and enters the water hands first.

“It’s absolutely a gorgeous dive,” Ginger said.

Watson had not perfected that dive by the end of last season, but he’s very good at it now, according to Ginger.

“It requires him to be very comfortable on the board,” Ginger said. “He needs to know where his body is in the air. At this point, safety is not a really a big thing with Shayne because he’s so careful about getting up and off the board.”

A lot of what Watson has focused on at diving camps is getting way up off the board and executing the dive from the top of the jump.

Watson says his best dive is the forward 2 somersault in tuck. He’s working on perfecting his forward 1 somersault with two twists, and his back 1 somersault straight.

“The hardest thing about diving isn’t actually being able to complete the dives,” Watson said. “Fear is the biggest obstacle.”

Watson had to work to overcome that fear after he hit the diving board while performing a reverse dive during the league championships his sophomore season. He was injured badly enough that he couldn’t complete the rest of his dives and finished next to last.

“Everything you do is mental,” Watson said. “Just standing there thinking you have to do a hard dive, and you’re going to be going ridiculously fast when you hit the water is the scariest thing. The reason a lot of people stop diving is because they’re afraid.”

Watson said repetition is the best way to ease the fear.

“If there’s a dive you don’t like, but you need to compete it, you just have to keep doing it in practice until you feel comfortable,” he said.

Watson joined the swimming team his sophomore year when he learned the squad was in need of a diver. He had wrestled in eighth grade, but a broken leg during his freshman soccer season knocked out that winter sports campaign.

Watson, who has about 16 solid dives he can execute consistently, now trains the other divers on the team and has earned the nickname “Coach Watson.”

“He’s a one-of-a-kind,” Ginger said. “If it wasn’t for having a kid like Shayne on the team, I don’t know if we would ever produce a diver like him.”

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