BY TIM TAYLOR
Valley Sports Report
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Whatever Athens' Taylor Walker accomplishes at the 2019 PIAA Girls Swimming and Diving Championships at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium will be icing on the cake of an impressive rookie season.
After all, the freshman just started diving four months ago.
"I've been playing basketball my entire life, so when I started to do diving it was kind of a shock to everyone," Walker said. "I just thought it was time for a change and it could be fun. My cousins were divers and some of my friends and so I thought why not give it a try."
Her family was certainly caught off guard.
"They were definitely shook," Walker said. "It basically took everyone by surprise, but they were so supportive and I'm very lucky to have such supportive family like that."
Although she had no idea what to expect when she began diving, Walker says she enjoys her new sport.
Of course, with no diving background, the entire season would become one big learning experience, but she has steadily improved to earn a trip to states.
"Thinking of the start of the season, I could barely do a forward dive and just thinking of the progression is nuts," Walker said.
She credits her improvement to plenty of practice, both in the Athens pool and elsewhere.
"Just practice, practice, practice," she said. "I also go to Ithaca College to get extra touches on the board. Repetition is definitely key."
Walker started practicing at IC a couple weeks ago and makes the trip there three times a week.
Even with all the practice and improvement, Walker was still stunned by the fact she qualified for states.
"I am so surprised to be moving on to the state level," Walker said. "I did not expect this at all whatsoever."
To qualify for the state meet, Walker would have to perform well at the District 4 meet. She did, scoring 302 points to place second behind Danville's Gabrielle Hackett, who chalked up 332.75 points. Bloomsburg's Lily Leh took third and Sayre senior Mackenzie Wilkerson was fourth, scoring 300.9 and 300.4 points, respectively.
"I went down to districts just hoping I could complete all 11 dives," she said.
During a dual meet, divers perform six dives, so the only time they get 11 attempts is at the invitationals and during the postseason. That usually means there are a lot more divers competing as well. To some extent, there is a different mindset needed for an 11-dive event.
"Definitely, it's a lot more mentally challenging knowing that it's one dive, and then you have to wait for all the other girls to go and you can see their competition," Walker said. "It's a lot tougher, longer."
Her goal for states?
"I just want to do the best that I can and whatever happens happens," she said. "I'm definitely just going for the experience since I am so new to the sport. I just want to do the best that I can for myself."
Walker is seeded 20th in the 24-diver field. Ringgold's Anna Vogt, third last year, is the top seed.
The girls AA diving competition begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
IN PHOTO: Athens' Taylor Walker. ... PHOTO BY TIM TAYLOR.