Newton’s title in her age group’s one-meter springboard competition highlighted a strong showing across the board for the Metro Atlanta Divers team two weeks ago at the AAU Diving National Championships in Huntersville, N.C. Seven of the team’s eight representatives made finals in both the one-meter and three-meter events for their age groups.
“You get one out of every 300 or 400 divers that can do that, but when she came in, she was so coachable,” Coach Bill Humber said, of Newton — a fifth-grader at Bells Ferry Elementary. “She looks you in the eye when you talk to her, and if I don’t challenge her, she challenges herself. There are times when she backs off of something, and I understand that, but she has surprised me so much. She
hasn’t been diving a year yet, and she’s been to two national championships.”
Newton clinched the title on her fifth and final one-meter dive of the meet, putting up a score of 36.80 with her execution of a back somersault 1½ twist to bring her total score for the meet to 153.45, just under 12 points clear of the second-place finisher. While she admits she was nervous, Newton had a good feeling about her chances on the one-meter board going into the finals.
“After I did my first meet, I felt like I could get first,” she said.
Other Metro Atlanta Divers with Cobb high school ties also found themselves among the top 12. Graylyn Jones, a rising senior at Wheeler who finished fourth at the Class AAAAA state meet in February, finished seventh in the one-meter springboard and 12th in the three-meter springboard for her age group in Huntersville. Pope senior Kelly Morris placed fifth and seventh among 18 year-olds, and her future high school classmate Nicholas Goh placed 11th and ninth in the 15 year-old boys group.
Humber founded the year-round diving program after being hired as Georgia Tech’s diving coach in 1990. He retired from his position at Georgia Tech in 2003 but has continued to serve as the head coach of Metro Atlanta Divers., which is based out of the Cobb Aquatics Center in Marietta. He has since capped the team’s roster size at 12 — it expanded to as large as 27 members at one point — and holds annual tryouts to replace divers who have graduated out of the program. Many aspiring divers are former gymnasts dealing with injuries that pushed them toward the pool.
“I’ve even made the gymnasts go through four weeks of lessons just like the beginners do,” Humber said. “A lot of them come here with a preconceived notion of what diving is about, and they realize it’s a lot different.”
The team travels to competitions around ten weekends out of every year, having competed at meets in Florida, Maryland and Texas so far this year in addition to the national championships in North Carolina.