Diving and dancing
Preacher’s pose on a diving board one day, pom-poms splaying on hardwood the other.
Two cultures in one body, and they agree.
Fruita Monument junior Tamera Newland, in her first year on the Wildcats Poms team, has excelled at both this winter.
“To do them successfully is very rare,” Fruita Monument swimming coach Jessica Haley said. “I’ve had some other swimmers try and do Poms and swim, but Tamera has been able to hold herself to a standard in both. She’s a phenomenal athlete.”
Newland steps to the diving board, clasps her hands as though praying. She is wet and cold and alone. There is no music. Rarely a cheer. Arms now extended, toes daringly close to the plank, it’s just a “wobble wobble” sound when she bounces and springs from the board, then spins and twists and breaks the water.
And it’s over.
Then she’s judged.
After one of Newland’s dives in December at the Montrose Invitational, marks of “6” and “7” — out of a possible 10 — flashed on a scoreboard. She had practiced the front two-and-a-half for one week. With her total score of 358.75 that is ranked No. 13 in Class 5A, she earned a spot at the Feb. 8–9 5A state meet in Fort Collins. She did not seem to earn many cool points.
That’s quite unlike being a Poms girl. Glamor from an American mainstream culture glossed by television shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” has landed Newland on a star-studded-like stage.
But judging remains. Earlier this winter, sitting cross-legged on a hallway floor outside of Fruita Monument’s new gymnasium, Newland, along with about 40 other dancers, waited. Tryouts were over. Behind the doorway, dancing gurus scrutinized abilities and winnowed the field. The girls talked, if only to dispel nervousness. Often they peeked through a crack in the doorway. Are they done yet? An hour-and-a-half passed.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” said Newland, a former gymnast. “That’s all I was thinking.”
The judges arrived and separated two groups into two rooms. One had made the team. The other had not.
“Then a coach comes in and says, ‘Hey, you all made the team,’ ” Newland said.
What ensued for the Fruita Monument junior were numerous school days beginning around 7 a.m., leading to an afternoon Pom practice at KidzPlex in Grand Junction or the high school, and ending with a couple hours of diving at Colorado Mesa University’s El Pomar Natatorium. The day might end around 10 p.m. or later.
Through it all, Newland has become a two-time, state-qualifying diver, a local standout in a relatively unsung sport.
She also was one of 25 dancers on display during basketball halftime shows.
Life changed a bit.
“Honestly, after I made the Poms team, I started realizing some people are going to look up to me like I looked up to them,” Newland said. “So, I need to have a positive attitude and let them know you can pretty much do anything. You just have to try and let them know anything’s possible.”
It’s one thing to dive and shake pom-poms in one season.
It’s another to excel at both.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Tamera’s 13-year-old brother, Travis Newland, who said he does not see his sister as much as he used to. “She’s my sister, and I like to have her around.”
That will have to wait until spring. Newland is busy collecting honors. Last week, she placed first in diving at the District 51 Championships.
The district divers are coached by Bear Creek High School graduate Abby Schmeckpeper (“tasty peppers” in German).
“I wasn’t wild about it when she first started,” Schmeckpeper said about Newland taking up Poms. “But she does it very well.”
One of the best on the team, it seems.
“She’s definitely one of our stronger dancers,” Fruita Poms coach Kerri Bensley said. “I’d say her best asset is her flexibility, and she’s real good at turns and leaps.”
Turns and leaps in Poms, twists and toe pointing in diving.
Newland has pulled both off.
“It’s been hard,” Newland said. “It’s been a lot of back-and-forth driving from one place to another. Thank God for my parents.”