Courtney Ross transitions from gymnastics to diving in record time

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  • Easthampton junior Courtney Ross dives in competition against Chicopee Comp at Holyoke High School’s Claude Morin Natatorium, Tuesday. Ross won the event with a school-record total of 226.85 points. This is Ross’ first year diving. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton senior Amelia Craig dives in competition at Holyoke High School's Claude Morin Natatorium on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton juniors Courtney Ross, left, and Adriana Dresja smile after their final dives in a meet against Chicopee Comp at Holyoke High School on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton junior Adriena Dresja dives in competition at Holyoke High School's Claude Morin Natatorium on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton junior Courtney Ross, right, is congratulated after her final dive by diving coach Joel Bierwert and teammates, from left, junior Zoe Paradis-Stern, senior Amelia Craig and junior Adriena Dresja during a meet at Holyoke High School's Claude Morin Natatorium on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2020 11:47:09 PM

HOLYOKE — Entering last summer, Courtney Ross’ head was filled with questions.

What will I do? What will happen?

She had made the decision to stop competing in gymnastics, a sport she had engrossed herself in since she was 3 years old. She hoped to compete in gymnastics at the collegiate level one day, but injuries forced her to leave the sport behind.

Then came swimming and diving.

Ross gave the sport a shot in eighth grade, but decided that she wanted to continue pursuing gymnastics. Last year when the injuries started to pile up, she made the switch to the pool full time.

Diving incorporates a lot of the same rotations and body mechanics that are used in gymnastics. The switch seemed like a no-brainer to the Easthampton High School junior.

Gymnastics and diving “are very similar,” Ross said. “Gymnastics is an individual sport. You do your own thing, but you get a team score. It matches more and aligns more than you would think.”

The transition for Ross has been seamless. She qualified for the diving event at the Division 2 state championships in a meet against Chicopee Comp, Tuesday at Holyoke High School. The Colts beat the Eagles, 105-81.

During the meet, Ross broke a program diving record that was set in 1980 with a score of 226.85. Shay Fitzgerald held the previous mark of 212.

“It’s really cool that I can switch and still be good at something else,” Ross said. “I was scared to leave gymnastics. Luckily I switched to swimming and diving.”

Ross also competes in the 200 medley relay for the Eagles. Her family has had a lake house since she was young and she swims there when she visits.

“I definitely like swimming as well,” Ross said. “It’s a nice change of pace from diving, because it’s not a fear-based sport, so I can just go all out.”

Ross brings that all-out mentality to both swimming and diving. While competing in gymnastics, a minor mistake can result in injury. With diving, Ross has been able to go into dives confidently knowing that if she does make a mistake, falling into water is better than falling on the ground.

“The hardest part for gymnasts is being able to go in (the water) on their head,” Easthampton diving coach Joel Bierwert said. “But they’re landing in water, which is the softest thing they have landed on. It’s a little bit easier to overcome that fear.”

Ross has had no issues overcoming those fears. In her first few months with the program, she has been able to use her gymnastics knowledge and add in new elements to improve her techniques.

“Courtney is totally fearless,” Bierwert said. “Whatever dive I tell her to do, she goes for it. She gives it her best shot. That’s what I love about her. ... Every time she steps on that board, she knows she has to go for it, and she does.”

The four divers on the team form a tight-knit group. With the addition of Ross’ ability, she has helped raise the competitive bar for senior Amelia Craig, and juniors Adriana Drejsa and Zoe Paradis-Stern.

“Whenever she goes up to the board, she goes for it, and that trickles down to the other divers,” Bierwert said. “It makes them want to go for it.”

In Tuesday’s meet against Comp, Ross needed to complete a reverse dive to qualify it for the state championship.

She stepped up to the board, took a deep breath and went for it.

When she came out of the pool, she walked toward Bierwert and her fellow divers and received congratulatory hugs and high-fives.

“Seeing her (do it) makes me want to do it now,” Drejsa said.




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