In high school, Casey Hill gave up gymnastics for diving. The switch was easy.
“I was really good at the beam in gymnastics,” said Hill, a junior at Youngstown State University. “But gymnastics helped me big time when it came to diving. I think there has been only two out of the 100 divers I have met that wasn’t a gymnast before diving.”
Hill compared gymnastics and diving because they both involve flips and twists. She made the switch because gymnastics was taking a toll on her body.
“I used to have a lingering wrist problem, something a lot of gymnasts have,” she said. “I didn’t really have one specific injury that ended it. I just felt it was time to switch.”
The switch has been favorable for Hill. The two-time Horizon League Diver of the Week and first-place finisher sees a brighter future underwater.
“In gymnastics, so many coaches promise you, ‘Oh, you’ll go to the Olympics,’ but with me, I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere,” Hill said. “I might as well try something different, and it turned out to be a good decision.”
Last season, Hill captured the Horizon League Tournament title in the three-meter dive. It’s an accolade she hopes to repeat this season.
“What really separates three-meter from one-meter is the extra height,” she said. “[It] gives you more time [to] do more in the air. I definitely want to hold on to my conference title.”
Head diving coach Nick Gavolas said having a diver like Hill helps the whole program.
“She’s won, I would say, about 90 to 95 percent of her events, which scores a lot of points for us, and she’s doing a good job there,” Gavolas said. “I think as we look at recruits and they see the quality of divers that we have not just with Casey, it gives them another reason to come here.”
Hill considers the inward two-and-a-half tuck her best dive. Standing at the end of the board with her back facing the pool, Hill tumbles toward the diving board, making one-and-a-half rotations before sliding into the water.
But that wasn’t the dive that won her the conference title.
“My twister was my last dive that I won with at conference last year, and I nailed it,” Hill said. “It ended up putting me ahead of the [University of] Wisconsin-Milwaukee girl by .25.”
Hill has qualified for the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships for the third consecutive year.
She has also placed first against Marshall University, Niagara University and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and at the Clarion Diving Invitational.
“The season has been going good so far,” Hill said. “It started out a little bit slow because I probably should have trained a little more in the summer. But it’s been going good, learning some new dives, trying to up my degree of difficulty.”
Gavolas said, though Hill is only a junior, she is definitely a team leader.
“She leads by example,” Gavolas said. “If the workout is a tough workout, she gets out there and does and sets the example.”
Hill said divers know their competition better than players in most other sports. She attributes this to spending so much time with her competition in and out of the water.
“Believe it or not, a lot of us are friends outside of the pool,” Hill said. “Diving is pretty relaxed. I mean, we just sit outside the pool and talk about stuff that isn’t diving. We don’t really want to imagine flipping in towards the board.”
With one more year at YSU, Hill said she would like to continue to dive but is worried that school might prevent her from fulfilling her diving dreams.
“I would like to, but, with physical therapy and academics, I think it might be kind of hard,” Hill said.
“With grad school and the amount of studying, it’d be tough. But Nick and I always joke around: Let’s go to Rio de Janiero — which is where the 2016 Olympics are. Realistically, though, I think it would be hard.”
Gavolas laughed about the joke but said many things would have to occur for that to happen.
“We do have a fun joke about that,” Gavolas said. “The kids that are vying to go to the Olympics, they aren’t diving in college. You’re going to the Olympics, you’re diving 40 hours a week. You are consumed by it.”
Hill said, given the opportunity, she would jump at the chance to dive in the Olympics.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Hill said. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to the Olympics to compete?”