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Two Hillsborough County divers working to return to state meet

TAMPA — What's a diver to do if his high school doesn't have a pool?

If you're Giorgi Meyer, you and your dad drive three days a week to the YMCA of Central Florida in Orlando.

Of course, it's a relatively short trip when you consider Meyer's diving odyssesy began in the Republic of Georgia.

Meyer, the county's top diver last season, finished seventh in the Class A state meet in November. It was there that he caught the attention of the diving coach at Indiana University, a school that perennially produces diving All-Americans.

Meyer attended a Hoosiers diving camp over the summer where he learned several dives, including the back 2½ pike, which entails him standing with his back to the water before flipping and spinning into the pool.

The added skills should be a benefit when Meyer competes in the Western Conference Diving Championships Wednesday at Copepland Park Pool. The competition marks another stop on his three-year whirlwind progression from American immigrant to among the top divers in the state.

He dived for a few years as a young child in Georgia and saw an opportunity to make a splash in the small, tight-knit diving community here.

"There's not a lot of good divers," he said. "There's fun divers and serious divers, and there's not a lot of those serious divers.

"So, it was a good opportunity for me."

He started diving again his sophomore year and was initially trained by his mother, Natalia. Meyer and his father, Dwain, make the thrice-weekly, 100-mile drive to Orlando because they feel the coaching there will give him the best chance to fulfill his goal of earning a scholarship to a Division 1 diving program.

"This isn't pie-in-the-sky," said Dwain Meyer. "There are world-class athletes in his bloodline. He's got that potential."

Dwain said Giorgi's maternal grandmother was a diver for the Soviet Union and his aunt competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Some of the friends he competed against in Georgia have already qualified for the Olympics as well, he said. His goals, though, are more immediate.

"I'd like to score as high of a score as I can," he said, "and get third, second or first place in states."

Steinbrenner made the leap from Class A to Class 3A this year, so Meyer will dive against unfamiliar competition.

One of those competitors will be Bloomingdale senior Mitch Nelson, who has qualified for the 3A state meet in each of the past two years.

Nelson also added dives to his repertoire since finishing 14th at last year's state meet. He's been helped this season by a new coach, Rob Mazen, who dived for the University of Maine and moved here from New York.

"We've been tweaking his takeoffs and entries," Mazen said about Nelson. "He's a pretty solid diver, usually high in the air and straight up and down on his entries."

Nelson also moved to the area before his sophomore year, having previously lived in Utah. Like Meyer, Nelson learned to dive when he was younger. He found his way onto the Bloomingdale diving team when his mom signed him up.

"She signed me up without me really knowing, just kind of a show up and see if you like it type of thing" Nelson said. "At first, I was afraid they would be too good for me, honestly, but I came out and it was great."

While he's received offers from a few smaller schools, Nelson is not planning on diving in college, hoping instead to attend one of the larger Florida schools. He hopes however, to finish off his career with a third consecutive trip to the state meet.

"I'm hoping to go three-for-three," he said. "That's what I'm working for."

Laura Keeley can be reached at lkeeley@sptimes.com.

.if you go

Western Conference

Diving Meet

When: 3 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Copeland Pool, 11001 N 15th St., Tampa

What: County's top public school divers gather for first big meet of the season

Key Divers: Bloomingdale, Cal Nelson, Mitch Nelson; Newsome, Erin Mathers; Plant, Sydney Power; Sickles, Danielle Hunter; Steinbrenner, Giorgi Meyer

Two Hillsborough County divers working to return to state meet 10/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 3:28pm]
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