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A record-setting recovery

For this week's participants at the state swimming and diving championships, what's not to smile about? A trip to sunny Fort Lauderdale and the chance to compete against the best is no small opportunity.

But do not underestimate Ryan Troup's smile. His is not the smile of your average senior happy to return to the year-end meet.

His is the smile of someone who was once told he would never come here again.

The St. Petersburg diver will take to the 1-meter board Thursday morning in the Class 3A diving meet at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Center, defying doctors who said he would miss his final high school season after undergoing a second shoulder surgery in a year.

"They said no diving until after Christmas," Troup said. "I was supposed to be in therapy for four months. I finished in 2 { to get in the water."

Quick to return and quick to rewrite the record books.

In the past month, Troup broke 30-year-old school records for dual-meet diving (where six dives are scored) and major-meet diving (11 dives scored), and at last week's district meet, he won with a personal-best 585.90 points.

Troup is in the midst of the best stretch in his career in part because he had to.

Upon returning to the team in mid September, he began gingerly, throwing in easy dives like front jumps. He hated it.

"I said, "Gosh, I can't do this anymore,' " Troup said. "I wanted to spin, to twist, to do all my stuff."

That "stuff," such as a reverse one-and-a-half flip with a one-and-a-half twist, is part of one of the toughest repertoires of any high school diver. They are the dives Troup longs to do, despite the fact for three years Troup's body put up red flags.

As a freshman, he had pneumonia during the state meet, yet rejected coaches' attempts to pull him out. He completed the event, finished 13th and was promptly shuttled to an emergency room.

Sophomore year was kinder. Troup was healthy and had a fabulous state meet, placing second. But the following May, he hit the water awkwardly from the 10-meter platform at Largo's Southwest Complex, injuring his labrum in two places and requiring surgery.

He returned in time for his junior-year district meet, won that and placed sixth at state. Then in the spring, the shoulder flared up again, requiring complete reconstruction.

Today, Troup said he is completely healthy, the shoulder pain only flaring up slightly in cold weather. For his last state meet, he can completely focus on the competition, which includes a national champion in Jevon Tarantino of Boca Raton Olympic Heights.

Troup concedes beating Tarantino might be a stretch, though his preseason goal of a top-five finish appears well in sight. Regardless, he knows a place on the podium will in no way measure this week's success.

"With the two surgeries, the fact that I'm still diving now, I'm happy that I get to go," Troup said. "Just going is good enough for me."

With that, he flashes a smile.

In the past month, Ryan Troup broke 30-year-old school records for dual-meet diving and major-meet diving, and at last week's district meet, he won with a personal-best 585.90 points.