by Jackie Jenson
Photography by Thru Him Photography
Diving for more than nine years, Detroit Lakes’ Zane Freeman is putting his experience to work as he prepares for a run at the upcoming Class A Minnesota State High School League Boys Swimming and Diving State Competition to be held at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center on March 5-7 in Minneapolis, Minn. Last year as a sophomore, Freeman placed sixth in state, earning 13 points for his team and compiling an individual score of 379.20.
“My goal is to break 400 this year,” notes Freeman.
To do so, Freeman says he needs to be very mentally as well as physically tough.
“[To make my goals] I need to be bullet proof in the head. Diving is a real mentally challenging sport. I need to be in the zone.”
U.S.A. Diving Coach Ron O’Brien once said, “What keeps me going is not winning….but the pursuit of excellence.” Coaching five Olympic dive teams from 1972 to1988, O’Brien embraced that philosophy to its core, amassing an impressive 12 gold, three silver, and four bronze Olympic medals during his coaching tenure.
Freeman has a similar attitude with regards to diving. With a good shot at taking state this year, he is readying his dives to be as competitive as possible. Success, says the young diver, comes with the ability to continually improve. Freeman likes his chances. So does his coach.
“His chances are pretty good to medal at state this year,” says Detroit Lakes High School Diving Coach Bobbi Jo Koons.
“As for the top state finishers from last year – those that placed above me – two were seniors and have graduated and another moved to class AA, so it puts me in a good position,” sums up Freeman. “There are always new divers to compete against though,” he continues.
In this respect, Freeman notes getting to state is a unique task, something you take day by day and can’t get ahead of one’s self. “The key to making it to state,” says Freeman, “is to take everything in order, one step at a time.”
“First and foremost, I have to do well in sections,” explains the young diver. “Then I have to perfect the dives I bring to state.”
Currently, Freeman is readying an Inward Double and a Back Twister for competition. The double has a 2.8 degree of difficulty; the twist, a 2.7.
Diving is a sport with a lot of moving pieces, says Freeman. From a long list of categories including forward, back, reverse, and inward, to the varying degrees of difficulty associated with each dive, there a number of ways to get to the top of the leader board in diving, making each competitor’s dive sheet a unique map to victory.
“True team sections and state diving competitions involve 11 dives; for most invites you need six,” explains Freeman. “Either way, a diver drops their top and bottom scores and the remaining dives are added together after they have been multiplied by their degree of difficulty. Highest score wins.”
The key to winning, explains Freeman, is the ability to make consistently clean dives.
“I have a 1-1/2 Inward Flip that is very clean and a Back Dive that is my go to. I was featured in the Pioneer Press last year after state with the Back Dive,” says Freeman.
Then there is just good old-fashioned practice in and out of the pool. Being able to practice dives in the air is a great advantage, remarks Freeman, who says he goes back and forth between board and trampoline.
“I started practicing dives on the trampoline when I was really young. I owe a lot of my early success to trampoline work, yoga and gymnastics belt work,” explains Freeman. “We practice at the Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics in the belt in the air. It’s very helpful and very cool.”
“Zane is a hard worker and when it comes to swimming or diving,” expounds coach Koons. “He is a good competitor, and he likes the challenge of other athletes doing well. He is humble about his talent and willing to help others out as well.”
To balance out the independent nature of diving as well as stay in shape for the winter diving season, Freeman participates year round in other sporting endeavors. He plays soccer and football in the fall and runs track in the spring. Through the years, he has also participated baseball, swimming and golf.
“I like to keep busy, so I do other sports like track and soccer,” explains Freeman. “I also like that they are team sports, very social,” continues the diver. “Diving is so independent. We have a small team, and we practice at the Center in Detroit Lakes. I rely on Getty (Austin Gedrose), a real good buddy and diver, as another motivator. He makes practice bearable being able to laugh with a teammate and friend. ”
In addition to lots of practice and being prepared, Freeman says he has two secret weapons he is taking to state this year: a positive attitude and a great coach.
“I start each dive the same way,” explains Freeman. “I take a deep breath and smile to stay positive. Smiling gets me prepared to do well.”
As for Coach Koons, she offers Freeman valuable feedback so that he can keep improving and moving forward in the sport of diving.
Freeman notes, “Bobbi understands us and knows us each personally. She challenges us to do better. She knows what we have to work on and what we need to do it. Bobbi is one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. She makes everything more fun and enjoyable. We need more coaches like her around.”
Active in the sport of diving since the second grade, and with the twists and turns of competition getting more challenging, Freeman believes it is important to get away from the sport for a while to actually do his best.
“Diving is very mental as well as physical,” he explains. “I‘m in the pool every day so it’s great to get away from it for a while and play hockey with friends or shred down Detroit Mountain snowboarding – anything to take diving out of my head for a while.”
Freeman placed 13th at the Minnesota State High School League Boys Swimming and Diving State Competition when he was a freshman and took sixth as a sophomore. Now as a junior, he is ready to dive in and build on past state accomplishments, laser-focused on the 2016 state competition.
“My goal this year is to make it back to state and improve on that sixth place finish. I’m going to take a deep breath, smile and cleanly do a Front 2 -½ Pike with a degree of difficulty of 2.6.” he notes. “It will be my new go to dive.”