Rookie PaliHi Diver Went to State

By Laura Carr
Palisades News Intern

Asa Tatro steps onto the light-blue diving springboard at Palisades High’s Maggie Gilbert Aquatic Center with a glint of determination in his eye. Without a second thought, Tatro jumps forcefully off the board and catapults himself into the air. He executes a series of masterful twists and turns, and then completes his dive with barely any splash once he hits the water’s surface.

Tatro, a rising sophomore from Topanga who also competed on the JV water polo team and the swim/dive team this past school year, only began his diving career in early March, and yet he qualified for the state diving championships in Fresno in May.

Asa Tatro tried diving for the first time this spring and qualified for the state meet. Photo: Lesly Hall

Asa Tatro tried diving for the first time this spring and qualified for the state meet. Photo: Lesly Hall

 

The Topanga resident also had no prior experience in gymnastics—a sport that is known for creating excellent divers due to the exceptional body awareness and strength that the sport demands. However, Tatro has taken Parkour classes, something that his coach, Tom Davidson, learned about after the diving season ended.

“I didn’t know that he did Parkour, but that explains a lot of his body awareness,” Davidson said. “Going forward and training with him this summer that will be to my advantage. He has a bright future.”

Tatro, now 15, started diving only 10 weeks before the state CIF championships. “When I used to start swimming, I would run on the pool deck and then jump onto the swimming blocks and I’d front-flip off it, and my coach would yell at me,” Tatro recalled. “He was like, ‘You should just go dive,’ to get me out of swimming. So I gave it a try, and I ended up going to state.” Tatro said that at his first meet, “I felt very nervous but I remember completing all of my dives and feeling so happy.” Aside from diving being “pretty fun,” Tatro also admires the beauty of the sport. “There’s ways that you can dive, and you make the movement, but the really good people have a way to make it look so effortless and they fly through the air,” he said. “I think it’s a really beautiful sport and I really respect it.”

Tatro is the first in his family to try diving. His sister, Ocean, a 2013 PaliHi grad, and his mother, Jax Bernes (class of ‘94), both swam for the Dolphins. His sister, who also played water polo, attends the University of Colorado.

The most difficult part for Tatro has been to learn new dives without having trampolines and other training apparatuses, which are lacking at Pali.

Asa Tatro maintains his focus as he practices a dive at the Maggie Gilbert Aquatic Center at Palisades High School. Tatro gains points from dives that includes twists and somersaults in the tuck and pike postions.

Asa Tatro maintains his focus as he practices a dive at the Maggie Gilbert Aquatic Center at Palisades High School. Tatro gains points from dives that includes twists and somersaults in the tuck and pike postions.

Restricted to only a diving board, “there’s not really a good way you can practice a new dive,” Tatro said. “You kind of just have to go for it and hope for the best. If you mess up, you can back flop or belly flop, and it can just be so painful.”

He added, “I remember the first time I tried a front flip and a half at my old school (Malibu Middle School), I was just messing around, and I landed on my face and my skin started to peel off. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can really go wrong.”

Tatro’s best meet this season was at the Los Angeles City Section Finals, where he qualified for the CIF championships. He came in third behind two senior athletes who had far more experience in the sport than he did.

“I was up against the best people in our city, and it was just something about that day,” Tatro said. “I did really well and I moved on to State. I was really happy.”

In Fresno in the 1-meter dive, he faced 23 other divers, including three other freshmen. Although he placed 24th, Tatro gained valuable experience watching the other, older divers compete.

“When I went to State I saw this guy do a double reverse dive—it’s two gainers and then you do a reverse dive—and that was the most impressive dive I’ve ever seen in my life. If I learn how to do that, I could win State.”

The judging at the CIF meet was also fairer than what Tatro normally encoun- tered at a City Section dual meet.

Davidson noted, “A normal dual meet is judged by officials who know nothing about diving. They automatically see the high degree of difficulty and their ears perk up and they’ll want to give it a good score. Asa would do an easier dive and he did it very well, but because it doesn’t have a high DD they were less inclined to give it a high score.”

Davidson, who is also a coach for the Bruin Dive club team at UCLA, added, “Last year, I went up to the state meet and it was more club coaches like myself [judging]. Judging there was a lot more fair, a lot more realistic.”

With three more years of high school, Tatro has ample time to improve. Davidson said that if Tatro begins to train more frequently with the Bruin Dive team, “the sky’s the limit.” The club has a trampoline and other training opportunities that are not available at Palisades High. While Pali’s divers train for one hour every day at school, the club team has a diving board with a harness, which minimizes the fear factor that accompanies the idea of defying gravity.

In addition to practice at Pali, Tatro also works out by himself. He says that his goal for the next three years is “just to progress and go to State every year and try to get a better ranking there, and if I do well enough, maybe I can get into college for it, and that would definitely be an achievement for me. So, just trying to get better. Self improvement, that’s my goal.”

“I am incredibly proud of Asa’s accomplishments in dive this year,” said his mother, who competed in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley at Pali. “It has been such a pleasure to see his growth in so short of a time. I am so grateful to all the coaches at Pali for their dedication and support.”

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