GJ’s McLean shakes off fatigue to finish eighth at state
FORT COLLINS — Much to her dismay, Gillian McLean just was not feeling it on Saturday morning.
The senior diver from Grand Junction High School was only a few hours away from the final event of her prep career when a combination of nerves and fatigue thwarted McLean’s performance during the diving preliminaries at the Class 5A state finals at Edora Pool and Ice Center.
Showing the gumption that allowed her to make a huge improvement since her junior season, McLean shook off her sluggishness to turn in a solid effort during the finals, posting a score of 353.05 to finish in eighth place.
“(Saturday) morning I just didn’t feel well,” McLean said. “I wasn’t feeling real well during the prelims. I came into the finals and I was feeling so much better. And I was thinking, ‘You know what, these are my last two dives in high school and I just need to put these in.’ I’m very happy with how I ended my high school career.”
McLean, who will continue her diving career at Wingate University in North Carolina, put together a fitting ending to a year of relentless work that allowed her to develop into one of the top divers in the state.
One year ago, only one diver finished below McLean during the preliminary rounds, as her score 136.5 left McLean in 25th-place — a long way from the medal podium. McLean closed that distance in a hurry over the past year and was rewarded Saturday with a medal.
“For her, it was all about consistency and never, ever giving up,” Grand Junction diving coach Mandy Squires said. “If something wasn’t going, we’d fix it. Up until two days ago, there were dives that we were tweaking and mixing in hopes that some would stick today. We were consistently working at it every single day.”
It was a lonely journey for McLean and Grand Junction junior Heather Jenkins, a first-year diver who finished in 15th with a score of 298.80. None of the team’s swimmers qualified for state, leaving the duo with an extremely small cheering section, yet the combined 13 points the two divers collected allowed Grand Junction to squeak into the team standings in 24th.
“I’ve improved a lot since last year,” McLean said. “I had a really awesome year and got eighth-place, and that feels really good for me. And Heather, she did so good. Making finals your first year of diving is a huge deal. She did awesome.”