TRINITY — When three military helicopters flew overhead during last year’s Sunshine Athletic Conference meet in New Port Richey, few people noticed.
Mitchell’s Amanda Maser was an exception, as the formation was a wave goodbye from her father.
Maser’s dad, a medic in the U.S. Army Reserves, was headed to Fort Hood, Texas, before deploying for Afghanistan. Though Darrin Maser did not get to see his daughter compete that day, she hopes he will be back from his overseas mission in time to watch her at this year’s conference meet.
“It was kind of sad, but it was kind of cool and we waved to him,” Maser recalled. “He’ll be home, hopefully, by conference.”
Added her mother, Sherry: “I felt really bad because we had to choose to go to his ceremony where they were sending him off, but we went to conference. He knew we were there, so he kind of strayed a little so we could see him.”
A senior who also swims sprints and on relay teams, Maser ranks among the area’s top divers. Aside from being 5-0 on Mitchell’s unbeaten team, she is a two-time conference and district champion aiming for repeats in both meets with hopes of making a second straight state appearance.
“I enjoy both, but I’m mostly a diver,” Maser said. “I just swim for fun.”
“She’s a decent sprinter,” Mitchell coach Kelly Erickson said. “She doesn’t really train for swimming, but she’s got some natural ability.”
Maser, a former competitor for Suncoast Gymnastics (ages 4-11), credits that sport for giving her a base in which to build her diving skills.
“(Diving) came really easy,” she said, adding that gymnastics “helps a lot with having technique and overcoming fears.”
As a freshman, Maser placed 10th at regionals and has improved steadily since. As a sophomore she won conference and district titles before placing fourth at regionals and narrowly missing a state berth. Last season, Maser repeated as SAC and district champion and wound up third in her state debut.
Yet as much as she would like to bring home a state title, Maser retains an even temperament about her goals.
“Someone who’s gotten to the level Amanda has is very driven,” Erickson said.
Maser said she would like to make state, in part, to share the experience with swimmers and divers from her club team. When not competing in meets with the Mustangs, Maser spends most of her practice time at Southwest Pool in Largo training with club coach Tony Perriello. In addition to Mitchell, she competes for West Florida Lightning Aquatics.
And there’s a matter of family bragging rights. Maser’s older brother, Sean, is a 2010 graduate who played on Mitchell’s state championship soccer team.
While Maser enjoys swimming on relay teams with her teammates and swimming sprints to help the Mustangs accumulate points, she is not one to cut up on the deck.
“I have a routine I do before I get on the board,” she said. “I just listen to music, take a deep breath and then I go. I get a picture-perfect dive in my mind and try to do it like that.”
Since the summer, Maser has been working to master a forward front somersault with three twists off the 1-meter springboard.
“My best dives are my twists,” Maser said. “That one’s fun. It’s new, but I’ve been working on it.”