Diving in: Path to state swim championships has been different for Tigers’ McLean

Gillian McLean’s background in gymnastics helped her make a quick transition to diving.

Gillian McLean’s route to the one-meter diving board hasn’t been very traditional.

Before beginning competitive diving in November, the only dives McLean had mastered were the cannonball and jack-knife.

The Grand Junction High School junior is the only District 51 swimmer or diver to qualify for this weekend’s state swimming and diving championships at Edora Pool and Ice Center in Fort Collins.

“I had never dove before, so I couldn’t even do a front dive when I first started,” McLean said. “The first couple of days of practice were a whirlwind, but after a month it started clicking.”

A Level 8 gymnast, McLean was forced out of the gym and into the pool by a series of ankle injuries. But as recently as last October, McLean was still set on toughing out the pain and continuing gymnastics.

“My ankles were hurting every day, but I was still trying to go Level 9,” McLean said. “It wasn’t working, and diving has been so much easier on my joints.”

With the help of District 51 diving coach Mandy Squires, McLean started to get the hang of the dive combinations. Squires said McLean’s transition to the water was aided by her gymnastics background.

“I knew with her athletic ability, she had the ability to be a good diver,” Squires said. “But she put in the effort and hard work, so did I expect her to get to state in her first year? No, but I’m not surprised.”

To qualify for diving, a diver must complete a 200-point set of dives twice in a season. McLean put together her first group of qualifying dives Jan. 9 at Aspen. She qualified for state a few weeks later at the District 51 championship with a score of 202.85.

“When I did it, my team mobbed me, and I thought I was going to fall back into the pool,” McLean said. “I don’t know where I would be without Mandy. She’s been such a great coach.”

Although the state swim meet begins today, the dive preliminaries aren’t until Saturday morning. McLean plans to perform basically the same set of dives she did last week at the Southwestern League Championship.

Even thought it’s McLean’s first trip to the state tournament, she’s had a glimpse of some of the top divers in the state when she attended the Jeffco Invite in mid-January.

“I went to Jeffco and the best girl there got like a 420, which is really good,” McLean said. “I’m going to try and keep up with them and go top 16.”

McLean is one of 28 divers at the state tournament, and Squires said she thinks finishing in the top 16 is an obtainable goal.

“I would like her to go top 16,” Squires said. “That’s doable, and that gives us a lot of room for improvement for next year.”

Although McLean is the only local Class 5A Western Slope competitor, the Class 4A meet has a solid representation, led by Montrose. The Indians have seven swimmers competing in 12 events in addition to one diver. Montrose’s best chance to take home an individual state champion is Emily Stucky, who has the No. 1 seed time in the 100-yard butterfly.

Glenwood Springs has five swimmers competing in nine different events.


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