by Chris Hunt
Until recently, many Lake Norman Charter School students didn’t know their school had a diving program. But on Feb. 10, that all changed when freshman diver Jill Mulveney broke into the school’s consciousness, winning the Knights’ first girls individual 1A/2A state title.
“Jill has brought a spotlight to diving,” said Lake Norman Charter boys and girls swim coach Alison Pick. “Now that we have a diver who has won a state championship, kids know that diving is available as a way to represent our school in athletics.”
For her efforts, Mulveney has been named Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2010-11 Lake Norman-Area Girls Swimmer/Diver of the Year. But as Pick is quick to point out, Mulveney’s probably the furthest thing from an attention seeker.
Practicing separately from her teammates didn’t help people get to know the quiet diver. It was only after winning the 1A/2A Western Regional title that her teammates had a chance to learn she’s actually Canadian and grew up competing in gymnastics before moving to North Carolina in 2007.
As a 13-year-old, Mulveney was inspired to join the Carolina Diving Academy after watching the 2008 Summer Olympics on TV. Since then, she can be found most afternoons leaping from ridiculous heights into the pool at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics. Her background in gymnastics is one of the reasons she’s been able to adapt quickly to the sport.
“Diving is similar to gymnastics with the flips and twists,” said Mulveney. “It was an easy transition because I love flipping and flying through the air. Diving is just fun.”
Not many swim teams boast a fearless athlete willing to compete in high school diving. Mulveney’s abilities are a luxury for Lake Norman Charter that many schools don’t have. Her performance at the state meet was one of the biggest reasons the girls swim team improved on last year’s third-place performance, finishing second this season, just one point ahead of third-place Carrboro.
“Having a diver is a valuable thing,” said Pick. “One or two divers can collect a lot of team points. It’s a hard thing (for other teams) to make up 18-20 points.”
As of now, Mulveney is the only diver on her team. But after her remarkable season, even Lake Norman Charter’s middle school knows about the diving team. With three more seasons ahead of her, it’s possible Mulveney might have a teammate to practice with soon.
“Her state championship was really important because it sets the tone for the next group,” said Pick. “Until now, we’ve never had a diver on the team. Now, we have (Lake Norman Charter) middle school kids interested. Diving can be an important part toward a championship and now kids know it’s out there.”