Grand Junction’s McLean dives right in: Former gymnast going to state meet in diving

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Fruita Monument’s Jessica Fischer takes a breath Friday during the 200-yard freestyle race at the El Pomar Natatorium during the District 51 Championships. Fischer won the race in 2 minutes, 11.23 seconds.

Diving has come easy for Grand Junction High School junior Gillian McLean.

A former gymnast who took to the pool in November, McLean has been able to take the skills of one sport and transfer them to another with plenty of success; she’ll be diving at the state championships in Fort Collins in February.

The clinching dive came Friday at the District 51 Championships at the El Pomar Natatorium, which was won by Fruita Monument.

McLean finished the diving competition with 202.85 points, breaking the 200-point state cutoff for the second time this season.

“I’m pretty much speechless,” McLean said. “(Going to state) was a dream that I had when I started, but there was no way I was going to do it, and it became a reality. It’s mind-blowing.”

McLean spent 10 years competing in gymnastics at KidzPlex, even training to be a Level 9 gymnast. But as the sport took a physical toll on her ankles, she gave it up and took up diving.

Although she entered the season unable to do the basic dives, the fundamentals of both sports ended up being similar enough.

“It’s not really that big of a transition,” McLean said. “There’s just different body techniques that you have to use. You have the background of good form and tightness, and you know how to flip and twist, and that helps a lot.

“The basics you need in gymnastics are the basics you need in diving. You need to know how to flip, you need to know how to do pikes, tucks, twisting and same thing for diving.”

The success coming in didn’t surprise Mandy Squires, who is the diving coach for all three teams in the district.

“She’s picked it up very, very quickly,” Squires said.

McLean was the only state qualifier at Friday’s meet, in which Fruita Monument’s 120 points beat Grand Junction’s 93 and Palisade/Central’s 25.

“We plan for this meet,” Fruita Monument coach Jessica Haley said. “This is where they really start to shine ... there wasn’t any pressure to win. They knew if they did win, they got to push their coaches in (the water).”

Fruita got a head start in the points race, winning three of the first four races.

The Wildcats started out with a win in the 200-yard medley relay and followed it up with solo wins by Jessica Fischer in the 200 freestyle and Leah Temple, who finished .62 seconds off the state qualifying time of 26 seconds in the 50 freestyle.

Temple also won the 100-yard freestyle and Fischer picked up the win in the 500 freestyle.

Grand Junction finished with three wins. Chloe Jagelski took first in the 200 individual medley and Noelle de Puey took the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:12.93. The Tigers also had a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

The Palisade/Central team had Teddy Hayes take second place in the 100-yard freestyle, and diver Lilly Poush took second behind McLean.


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