Loyola's Soulakis makes big splash with small ones

January 31, 1993|By Tara Finnegan | Tara Finnegan,Contributing Writer

Loyola's John Soulakis stands tall and still with his head held high and toes perched on the edge of the diving board.

He closes his eyes, pauses and then blindly leaps, twists, turns ++ and flips before hitting the water leaving behind only a small splash.

"For some reason my 'rip' entry is really good, and that's pretty lucky because a lot of people have trouble with that," said Soulakis, who is one of two seniors on the Dons' swim team.

A flawless entry, plus a textbook diving form, separates Soulakis from the other divers in the metro area. In the Dons' biggest dual meet of the year, against Calvert Hall, he scored 234.60 points (based on six dives) for a decisive first-place finish in the 1-meter dive.

"In the past, the Loyola-Calvert Hall meet has come down to the points in diving to who would win the meet," Soulakis said. "I try to keep a lighthearted attitude, but not a distracting one in all the meets, even the pressure ones."

Against MSA opponent Gilman on Wednesday, Soulakis once again won the diving event with a score of 256.20. He holds an area best score of 275.35 in the 1-meter dive.

In addition to his local dominance in the 1-meter dive, Soulakis is the reigning Eastern Interscholastics 1-meter diving champion.

These results are credited to Soulakis' work ethic. He travels at least five days a week from his home in Ellicott City to Rockville, where he practices for 2 1/2 to three hours a day on the 1-meter, platform and 3-meter dives, at Montgomery Dive Club with his coach, John Wolsh.

"John is an outstanding young man and a very supportive person for all of those around him. He's a good leader by example," said Wolsh, who is the head coach of Montgomery Dive Club and is in his fourth year of coaching Soulakis.

"He has improved rapidly on the platform, and at this point that is an area where he has great potential."

Soulakis said he first started diving at a community pool when he was 7 or 8. By the time he was in the seventh grade, he qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships. Soulakis said he has qualified for the junior national meet every year except for one time since seventh grade.

At last year's nationals in Austin, Texas, Soulakis placed sixth in the 1-meter, 11th in the platform and 13th in the 3-meter dive.

Ahead for Soulakis is the rematch of Loyola-Calvert Hall on Tuesday and the chance to defend his MSA championship and Eastern Interscholastics title.

"I'm hoping to win it again because I should be facing the same people as I did last year," Soulakis said about the Eastern meet. "I do feel a little pressure because I won it last year, but I'll go in trying to do the best I can."

In preparation for the Eastern Interscholastics, at La Salle University in Philadelphia on Feb. 26, Soulakis is working on high degree-of-difficulty dives (3.0) such as a reverse 2 1/2 , an inward 2 1/2 and a back 2 1/2 for the 1-meter competition.

"Sometimes you have to be half crazy to do all that stuff," Soulakis said. "But a lot of it is building up your confidence and once you get that one good, you try doing something else. It's half being crazy and half working at it."

With hopes set on a Division I scholarship diving program, Soulakis is looking at Pittsburgh, Minnesota, the University of Southern California and Stanford.

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