Martin eyes final splash John Carroll senior near 4th straight county diving title

January 24, 1993|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Heather Martin won't be satisfied with three Harford County diving championships.

The John Carroll senior has won every county title since her freshman year, and in three weeks, she will go for a clean sweep for her high school career.

Thursday night, Martin won her fifth meet of the season, outdistancing Bel Air rivals Jenn Seidl and Jenn Locke and Joppatowne's Kris Voit as well as teammate Laura Dembiec.

With her best score of the season, 90.00, Martin stands almost 12 points ahead of the next-best score, Seidl's 78.20. But Martin knows that could all change in a single meet.

"I do feel a lot of pressure," said Martin. "I'll be really disappointed personally if I don't get it, because it's something I've been looking forward to all four years."

John Carroll diving coach Chris Gauthier says he has no doubt Martin will defend her title.

"Heather has the form and the fluidity and the ability to go further than anyone else I've seen before. Her biggest trait is her consistency, and she has excellent form and entry," said Gauthier, ranked 18th nationally in the small-college division while diving at Towson State in the early 1970s.

Although winning the championship is her foremost concern, Martin also would like to set a county record. However, the record stands at a whopping 104.40 points. That mark, set by Joppatowne's Chris Opalka in 1980, is one of the two longest-standing records in Harford County swimming and diving.

To boost her score by 14 points, Martin must add more difficulty to the two optional dives she performs each week in addition to one required dive.

The most difficult dive Martin has done in competition is a forward 1 1/2 in the pike position. That dive has a difficulty level of 1.7, but Martin is practicing 2.2 and 2.3 level dives -- an inward 1 1/2 and a full twisting 1 1/2 . She did them in warm-ups before Thursday's meet, but opted to go with two other optional dives instead.

Gauthier expects Martin to be comfortable with the new dives by the time the county championship rolls around Feb. 12.

"Heather's at a level now where she's one step ahead of the competition," said Gauthier. "But she's also a half-step away from popping an even higher level of dives. She has the gymnastics and tumbling ability, the grace and the patience, and that's a rare combination, especially at this level."

Martin, a former three-time state champion gymnast, hasn't lost a meet since her sophomore season despite ligament damage in her ankle. Her last loss came in her first meet back after hurting the ankle in an auto accident three days before Christmas 1990.

Although she spent nine months in therapy, the ankle never fully healed and it almost always hurt. That never stopped Martin from diving or playing tennis in the fall, but she never fully recovered either.

"I never had an injury that lasted so long," said Martin, who quit gymnastics during her freshman year of high school after suffering dozens of chronic injuries. "I think I did dive on it a little too soon. But I just got sick and tired of waiting for it to get better, so I did what I wanted to do."

Last April, she finally had surgery to reconstruct the ligament. Afterward, she was off her feet for eight weeks -- two at home, two in a wheelchair and four more on crutches.

The ankle still hurts, said Martin, who wears a brace when she's not diving. After Thursday's meet, she headed home to ice down the ankle.

The injury has not stopped Martin from adding those more difficult dives to her repertoire. She's not the least bit tentative, said Gauthier. She just wants to make sure she can hit them.

"If I can get more difficult dives with the entry being clean, then I'll do them in a meet. If not, I'd rather do other dives that I can get in the water clean and get higher scores," said Martin, a member of the National Honor Society who carries a 3.77 grade-point average.

Despite the ankle injury, Martin frequently has received scores as high as 6.5 of a possible 10 on her dives.

"I've never seen her do really badly in a meet," said Bel Air diving coach Linda Cisco. "She works hard at it. That's the only way you can maintain that form."

Next year, Martin hopes to dive for Frostburg State, where she plans to study physical therapy.

"Heather has the ability to dive in college and to do well at the right facility with a coach who will push her," said Gauthier, adding that he thinks Frostburg is a good choice for her. "She just needs a little bit more time on the board, and in college, she'll get that."

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