By George Zhang and Maggie Neary, Photography Editor and Staff Reporter It is almost 9 p.m. when sophomore Avery Hillier arrives home from diving practice. Unpacking her bag, she unwinds and completes her homework. Every weekday after school, Hillier attends practice from 4-7:30 p.m. On top of those 3 1/2 hours of training, two more...
By George Zhang and Maggie Neary, Photography Editor and Staff Reporter
It is almost 9 p.m. when sophomore Avery Hillier arrives home from diving practice. Unpacking her bag, she unwinds and completes her homework. Every weekday after school, Hillier attends practice from 4-7:30 p.m. On top of those 3 1/2 hours of training, two more are spent in the car driving to and from Rutgers University, where her club team trains. When spectators attend a local diving competition, they often see Hillier — first as a name on the leaderboard, later as a medalist receiving her award on the podium. But what they do not see are the hours spent training for these moments.
Hillier started diving at the age of 8 and has since seen success in numerous competitions, such as the District I meet in which she placed first and other tournaments where she broke the Conestoga six-meter dive and 11-meter dive records.
“I was very shocked and surprised (at placing first). It was just a great feeling,” Hillier said.
Her mother, Megan Hillier, dove for Conestoga in the 90s and has been her daughter’s diving coach for two years. Throughout this journey, Megan Hillier believes the student has surpassed the master.
“I’m more of a cheerleader, a motivator,” Megan Hillier said. “As far as coaching (Avery), she’s at a level that I wouldn’t be able to actually critique and coach her.”
The Conestoga girls’ diving team practices once a week at the Lower Merion pool. Although Avery Hillier does not attend the ’Stoga practices because they interfere with her club practices, she feels at home during the meets.
“I was surrounded by a bunch of people who supported me and were happy for me,” Avery Hillier said. “We all cheer each other on, and it’s a very positive environment just to have people supporting you and then trusting and believing in yourself and knowing that you can do it.”
Junior Grace Gallagher also excels on the diving board and placed third at districts. Both girls qualified for the state meet on March 17 at Bucknell University, though Megan Hillier has some reservations about the new competition format.
“They (the girls are) not going to be able to do as many dives as they normally do, which really showcase their ability and their range. It’s been dumbed down to a six-dive meet (instead of 11),” Megan Hillier said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go, but they’re both going to have some big successes, I believe.”
Although Avery Hillier trains rigorously for the diving’s physicality, she also recognizes that there is a mental aspect to the sport.
“There’s a lot of mental challenges like trying new skills and new dives. It’s very hard because it’s scary to land the wrong way. It’s painful and you don’t want to hit the diving board. And physically, it requires a lot of strength. We do a lot of strength training as well as ‘in the water’ training,” Avery Hillier said.
Through the long drives and late nights, Avery Hillier has proven that she can rise to the top. The aspiring collegiate diver is an athlete who maintains an strong work ethic and mentality.
“She has this grit and determination to continue to be better and want to be better. I’ve seen her mature as a diver and really want more and hold herself to a higher standard,” Megan Hillier said. “I’m in awe of her as a diver.”
George Zhang can be reached at [email protected].
Maggie Neary can be reached at [email protected].
© 2022 Spoke.News. All rights reserved.