The move from swimming pool to diving board is a change Sarah Kempf is glad she made.
Kempf, a Center Grove senior who placed 18th in diving at the state meet last season, devoted herself to offseason competitions and weight training in an attempt to improve upon that showing this winter.
Comfortable in the water from a young age (“My parents have told me I’ve been a fish since I was little”), Kempf started swimming competitively at age 6 in mostly freestyle and breaststroke events.
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Kempf’s family moved here from Denver midway through her seventh-grade year (2012-13). It was around this time she chose to turn her attention to diving.
“I was a swimmer for a lot of years,” said Kempf, who stands 5 feet and weighs 100 pounds. “I just got to the point where my joints couldn’t take it anymore due to the repetitive motion.
“With diving, it definitely takes a while to get over the fear of hitting the water in a bad position or things like that. But after a while you kind of get used to it. If you hit wrong, it hurts, but it goes away.”
Kempf progressed to where the inward one-and-a-half tuck and front double pike became her signature dives. She said these might be considered fairly average dives in terms of difficulty against upper-level competition.
“It’s more about how clean it is,” Kempf said. “You can complete the dive, but it doesn’t mean it was good.”
The senior said being small in stature can be a hindrance to a diver. After all, body weight significantly factors into how much bounce a competitor can get off a fiberglass board.
Kempf worked in the offseason to gain muscle in her legs through weight training. She hopes the added strength will give her more push off the board.
“I like the type of athleticism diving provides,” Kempf said. “It’s sort of a sprinting type of sport, but at the same time you do need to have a bit of endurance so you can continue doing these dives over and over again to the best of your ability.”
Evansville and Indiana State have shown interest in having Kempf dive for them at the collegiate level, though she has yet to commit to a program.
An excellent student (4.3 grade-point average), she’s looking to major in athletics training and eventually obtain a doctorate in physical therapy.
Longtime Center Grove girls and boys swim coach Jim Todd, whose team is back in action Tuesday at Perry Meridian, can’t help but be impressed by everything about his senior diver.
“Sarah is a great young lady first, an awesome student second and a great diver,” Todd said. “She contributes more than diving with her leadership.”
WORKING HER WAY UP
A look at Sarah Kempf’s postseason diving scores over her high school career: