Thursday, September 20, 2018
Hometeam

Meet Berkeley Prep’s Nicole Stambo, a daredevil of a diver

TAMPA — Berkeley Prep senior Nicole Stambo does a dive that almost no other high school girl in the country attempts.

Reverse, two-and-a-half tuck.

It requires jumping on a 1-meter-high board, springing ridiculously high, tucking, flipping backwards — two-and-a-half times — straightening and knifing the water.

Other people don't do it because it requires too much strength and speed to pull off in a few seconds. But more than anything, they don't do it because it's super scary.

"When you jump facing out and then flip back to where the back of your head is coming down toward the board, well, that's what scares people," said Stambo's coach, Mark Ruiz, who is the director of diving at the YCF Diving club in Orlando. "But Nicole does it and she does it well."

Almost always.

Last year at the Class 2A state meet — while attempting the reverse, two-and-a-half tuck — Stambo's knee buckled jumping on the board and she botched the attempt.

It cost her a bunch of points and she ended up taking second overall, a disappointment after handily winning the state title as a sophomore.

"It's a risk-reward dive," Ruiz said. "You hit it and it's a big points, but it's so difficult that you could miss it."

Again, almost always Stambo hits it.

That's part of the reason, along with the fact she performs her 10 other dives during a competition extraordinarily well, that she has, among other things:

• Set the school diving record with a whopping 531.65 points.

• Won the state title as a sophomore with 507.95 points.

• Been named a high school All-American three years in a row (awarded to the top 100 divers in the country each year).

• Earned a scholarship to Southern Methodist University, after getting recruited by every major college swimming program in the country.

Stambo shrugs and smiles at all of it, seemingly not too caught up in the hoopla.

"I'm just happy to be doing what I love to do," Stambo said, which translated means she loves using her incredible athleticism in a variety of ways.

Berkeley Prep senior Nicole Stambo has committed to dive for Southern Methodist University next fall. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

The love started at age 3 with gymnastics, which she did until the seventh grade, finishing near the top in national competitions, just a few steps away from Olympic-caliber events.

Until, that is, she broke her nose and wrist after taking a couple of severe tumbles.

With a bandage on her nose, she said she thought, "Maybe I should try something else."

She played soccer and was great at it, starting for Berkeley Prep as an eighth grader.

She pole vaulted and was great at it, setting the school record at 10 feet, 7 inches and finishing fifth at state as a sophomore.

She also dived, and, of course, was great at it.

"I decided to focus on diving," Stambo, who dropped the other sports last year. "I would say diving is my biggest passion."

So passionate, in fact, that three or four times a week Nicole and her mom Lori jump in the car and travel about two hours (sometimes up to three if there's an accident) to see Ruiz in Orlando for several hours of diving practice.

Dive. Dive. Dive. Dive. Dive.

Off the 1-meter and 3-meter boards, then off the 10-meter platform.

Then Stambo and her mom drive back, Nicole pretty much doing her homework in the passenger's seat the whole time.

Straight As? You bet.

"I want to be a dermatologist," said Stambo, who is taking a bit after mom who majored in chemistry, and her dad Nick, who is an interventional radiologist. "That's another reason I chose SMU. They have a good medical program."

All the while in the back of her mind Stambo has tucked away the Olympic dream, which she has held onto since her days as a little gymnast.

But first things first.

Which means focusing on the dives at hand.

After all, there's no other way to be if you want to pull off something like the momentous reverse, two-and-a-half tuck.

Comments
Grab Bag: Forfeit games and risk your playoff chances

Grab Bag: Forfeit games and risk your playoff chances

When it comes to football playoffs, forfeit a game and you may as well forfeit your season.Northside Christian recently was fined $2,302 and slapped with a three-year postseason ban by the Florida High School Athletic Association after forfeiting a S...
Updated: 6 hours ago
HomeTeam 15: Football predictions (w/ video)

HomeTeam 15: Football predictions (w/ video)

Our staffers’ predictions for our spotlight games of the week:TonightCarrollwood Day at Admiral Farragut, 7Rodney Page: Carrollwood Day 20-14Bob Putnam: Admiral Farragut 28-21FridayHillsborough at Tampa Bay Tech, 7:30Rodney Page: Tampa Bay Tech 28-24...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia soon to surpass the mentor who once fired him

Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia soon to surpass the mentor who once fired him

TAMPA — After practice Monday, Hillsborough High School players formed a ragged line in the football fieldhouse. The man handing out the ice cream sandwiches kept making sure no one cut in line or got seconds before others got firsts."Yeah, a r...
Updated: 10 hours ago
For unbeaten Mitchell, practice really does make perfect

For unbeaten Mitchell, practice really does make perfect

TRINITY — When you graduate one of the best players in school history, chances are it will be be tough going, at least early on, the next season.So far, Mitchell High's football team is defying the odds without the services of all-everything at...
Published: 09/20/18
Coach Earl Garcia high on quarterback IQ of Charlie Dean

Coach Earl Garcia high on quarterback IQ of Charlie Dean

TAMPA — Charlie Dean has settled in at Hillsborough High, a place he says feels like home, with a coach, Earl Garcia, he totally respects.In many ways it feels like a relief.That's because Hillsborough is Dean's third school in three years, the...
Published: 09/19/18
No load too much to bear for close-knit East Bay players

No load too much to bear for close-knit East Bay players

GIBSONTON — The folks in East Bay's football program — from the coaches to the players to the faculty and the parents — are about as tight as a group can be.It's been that way for a long time, dating to the years under former head c...
Published: 09/19/18

Volleyball: PHU continues mastery of St. Petersburg with 3-0 win

ST. PETERSBURG — The much anticipated showdown between Class 8A, District 10 rivals Palm Harbor University and St. Petersburg ended up being a 25-21, 25-23, 25-20 sweep for the Hurricanes. It was the first loss of the season for the Green Devil...
Published: 09/18/18
HomeTeam 15: Volleyball power rankings, Week 5

HomeTeam 15: Volleyball power rankings, Week 5

A look at this week's top teams in Tampa Bay:Elite status1. Plant (12-0)Up next: Thursday at GaitherLast week's spot: No. 1Why they stayed put: If the Panthers thought they might be Class 8A state championship contenders, that was confirmed last week...
Published: 09/18/18
Marreese Speights’ nephew inherits his height, but puts it to use on the gridiron

Marreese Speights’ nephew inherits his height, but puts it to use on the gridiron

ST. PETERSBURG – Percy Speights is ready to battle. With knees slightly bent and elbows instinctively deployed, the 6-foot-4 sophomore stakes out his spot, pushing and pressing until his opponent is no longer a factor.It is hard labor for the d...
Published: 09/18/18
Road warriors truly define Palm Harbor University volleyball players

Road warriors truly define Palm Harbor University volleyball players

PALM HARBOR — The microphone was put away for the day, so Palm Harbor University volleyball coach Dexter Rogers had to shout. Luckily, the intimate crowd at Carwise Middle School was easily within earshot.It was senior night, and the Hurricanes...
Published: 09/18/18