Bulldog diver has faith

EAST PALESTINE-East Palestine diver Faith Anderson knew she was a quick study, but even she did not expect this.

After taking up the sport just four months ago. the freshman has qualified for Wednesday’s Division II state diving meet at the C.T Branin Natatorium at Canton McKinley High School.

“To have come this far in such a short time is amazing,” Anderson said. “I thought I would be able to pick up diving, but I never thought I would make it to state in my first year.”

Anderson earned her way to canton with a sixth-place finish (the top seven qualify) at last week’s Cleveland State district meet. At this time last year, diving was not even remotely on her mind.

Anderson was one of the top gymnasts in the area and appeared on the way to achieving her goal of competing in college gymnastics. As a seventh grader, she had been an alternate at the USA Gymnastics Level 9 National Championship. Then, last April, her life took an unexpected turn.

Anderson had been experiencing pain in her elbow, an injury that was misdiagnosed as tendonitis. It turned out, however, to be much more severe. Anderson cartilage had separated and needed to be surgically re-attached. It was an overuse injury that is common in gymnastics, Anderson’s career was finished.

“I had been in gymnastics since I was very little, so it was hard to take,” Anderson said. “It took me a few weeks to realize that there was nothing I could do about it and that I needed to move on.”

That led Anderson to diving. Although she had only casually tried it a couple of times before, Anderson recognized the similarities between gymnastics and diving, and thought it would be a good way to fill the void.

“I picked up diving really quick,” Anderson said. “It’s a little like gymnastics because you need very good body control while you are in the air, and I already had that. The rest was a bunch of smaller adjustments”

Within three weeks Anderson had already added three new dives to her repertoire. In addition to her physical gifts, Anderson’s mother-Tera Bertovich-thought the focus she displayed through years of gymnastics helped ease the transition.

“After the surgery, her attitude was phenomenal,” Bertovich. “Faith shows a lot of determination at whatever she puts her mind to. Once she found somewhere to put her energy, she ran with it.”

Anderson is a part of the Youngstown Area Diving Academy and trains at Youngstown State University’s swimming complex four days a week for 2 1/2 hours a day. The cost of membership is a little under $200 a month.

“Compared with gymnastics, the cost and time commitment aren’t nearly as much in diving,” Bertovich said. “She would be training over 20 hours a week in gymnastics.”

Since East Palestine does not field a swim team, Anderson had to take part in a special meet to qualify for the district tournament. Competing by herself at Youngstown State, Anderson had to compete 11 different dives to earn her way in, which she did.

“I could feel myself getting better as the year went on and I had a lot of confidence by that point,” Anderson said.

The state competition will begin at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

There will be five preliminary dives after which the field of 24 will be cut by four divers. After three more dives, the field will be further trimmed by four. 16 divers will compete for eight podium spots on the final three dives.

Anderson says she will be going to Canton free of pressure, having already exceeded her expectations in so short a time.

“I want to compete hard and enjoy it,” Anderson said. “I have three years left to continue to improve.”