Friday, January 27, 2023

Marcus divers make big splash

Marcus High School enjoys a fine athletic tradition in many sports, and as of last season, diving can be added to the list.

In 2021-22, Marcus sent four divers, Paul Hong, Sydney Rice, Nolan Chennault and Teague Bates, to compete in the State Swim & Dive Championship.

This was the most divers the Marauders swim and dive team has ever sent to the state competition in school history.

All four athletes were subsequently named NISCA Diving All Americans for the 2021-2022 season, and coach Sherry McGuire said it was quite a coup for her program.

“It was amazing,” McGuire said. “I have been blessed with the honor of bringing one or two divers to the state meet for years. But to have four extremely talented and motivated divers was a coach’s dream.”

Last year was Sydney Rice’s second trip to the state meet, and both years she finished in the top eight.

Rice, who was McGuire’s first, 4-year All-American, is now diving on scholarship at the University of Miami-Ohio, but Hong, Chennault and Bates are all back.

McGuire said all three had outstanding seasons in 2021-22.

“To have three boys with the guts to go after it all year, each of them having their own unique style was fantastic,” McGuire said. “They are so supportive of each other and push each other to do their very best. Having Teague, Nolan and Paul standing on the award podium at the region championships was surreal. To then have all the divers perform so well at the state championship was awesome.”

But not everything comes easy for the trio.

The Marcus divers have had to overcome mental blocks, confidence issues and a particularly challenging medical procedure.

“I had bilateral elbow surgeries caused by osteochondritis dissecans (elbow joint disease),” Bates said. “I had to take two years off from diving, but I was able to come back strong and make it to state last year.”

Bates, 18, said for he and his fellow divers to reach state was massive for the Marauders program in 2021-22.

“It was a big achievement for us,” Bates said. “We led the Marcus swim and dive team, and it’s something that hasn’t been done before.”

The Marcus senior, who also has a great passion for science, said what impresses him the most about his teammates is their dedication.

“We’ve all been through tough situations together, and we work hard to make sure we all are doing our best,” Bates said.

The 2021-22 season was the first time that Chennault, 16, qualified for state, and he said that while it was a proud moment for him and being selected as an All-American is a great honor, he tries not to become overwhelmed by it.

“It means to me that all my hard work has paid off,” Chennault said. “But I feel no pressure added— just that I need to continue working hard.”

Chennault said that he, Bates and Hong have great camaraderie, and because of that fact, they do not want to let each other down.

“The four of us are very close because we all dove on the same club team,” Chennault said. “Being a part of this team means a lot to me because I love the people I’m surrounded by.”

Hong, 16, brought home some hardware from last year’s state meet and said his goals for the 2022-2023 season are to improve his consistency and score with higher marks.

The Marcus diver, who won a bronze at the state meet last year, echoed Chennault’s sentiments regarding the esprit de corps that exists among him and his teammates.

“I’ve known the other divers since I first started diving, and we’ve grown exponentially closer since high school,” Hong said. “Being part of this team means that my skills can contribute to the success of Marcus High schools sports programs.”

Hong said he was also honored to learn that he was selected as an All-American.

“It’s a notable title to have, especially when there’s so many great divers in Texas,” Hong said.

McGuire said the All-American selections are a “huge honor,” especially when it comes to potentially competing at the next level.

“Being an All American means they are recognized as being among the elite top 100 divers in the nation,” McGuire said. “These divers all want to continue to improve and continue to dive after high school. College coach’s eyes are on the NISCA All Americans Lists.”

The Marcus coach said the key factors that contribute to her diver’s success are that “they are very supportive of each other, they feed off each other and share the passion to perform,” and said to build on last year’s success, they will have to continue to push hard to improve by working on the little things that matter so much.

“Our goal is always for continuous improvement,” McGuire said. “We strive to make every practice, meet and championship better than the one before. Ultimately, our goal is to focus on improving both as an individual and as a team.”

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