JUNIOR DIVER SARA MEISENHELDER IS SETTING RECORDS
Sara Meisenhelder is the last person you would expect to utter these words about the sport of diving.
“Diving is scary — even Olympians have been on record saying they are scared,” said the 20-year-old junior and record-breaking diver for Georgia Southern’s dive team.
It’s easy to understand why. Most days, Meisenhelder hits the water at speeds up to 30 miles per hour per dive — and that’s not just for one dive. “I complete anywhere from 30 to 50 dives per practice session,” she said. It takes a lot of energy — there is a lot of setup and preparation for each dive,” she added.
Before joining Georgia Southern’s diving team three years ago, Meisenhelder was perfecting her 10 meter dives as a member of the Starz Diving Club Team in Carmel, Ind. She recalled that her interest in diving began at the age of eight, when she thought about trying the sport just for fun.
“My aunt was a diver at Ball State University, so I thought, ‘why not’? I’ve loved the sport ever since, and I found that I have a natural talent for it,” she said.
In high school, Meisenhelder was named eighth in the state of Indiana for diving, and she participated regularly in national championship meets and training with future Olympic athletes such as Mary Beth Dunnichay, who would eventually become a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Diving Team.
Since arriving at Georgia Southern, Meisenhelder has switched gears and only competes in springboard diving. So far, she has dominated the sport by breaking the one meter and three meter school diving records.
“Sara has a special ability and she is a big time performer,” said Head Swimming Coach Nate Kellogg. She is a leader in her performances.”
During the past year, Meisenhelder has indeed proved her leadership in the sport, when she was tapped as the 2012 Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) Diver of the Year. The award is based upon her performances for the entire year, and she beat out more than 20 other divers from the College of Charleston, Davidson College, the University of North Florida and other institutions to capture the honor. “It was nice to have my hard work recognized — it was a great accomplishment,” said Meisenhelder about the award.
David Giambra, Meisenhelder’s diving coach, shared her progression in the sport. “Sara has a lot more confidence this season. She is consistently building on last year’s performance,” he said. “Sara doesn’t realize it, but when our team competes in conference championship meets she just flips the switch and takes it to the next level.”
Meisenhelder has been working hard this spring to perfect her dives for the NCAA Zone Meet. She is the first diver from Georgia Southern to qualify for the meet, which puts her in competition against 45 divers from various colleges and universities around the South.
While her off-season training will soon slow down to three days a week, Meisenhelder will be working harder than ever for next season. “I want to make the zone championships again and win the conference. Hopefully, I can break another record,” she said about the 2014 season. Although constant diving has taken a toll on her knees and back, Meisenhelder is relentless in her pursuit of the sport. “I know I would never forgive myself if I gave up,” she said.
Giambra has no doubt that with Meisenhelder’s focus, determination and team-oriented work ethic, her goals will become a reality. “Sara works hard for herself, but harder for the team.”
- Mary Beth Spence
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