The Grind: Kelsey Dekshenieks, Lambert High School class of 2018
When Kelsey Dekshenieks started diving, she wasn’t nervous about the aspects that might look intimidating to outsiders, like the act of twisting and contorting yourself high above the water and hopefully not landing on your stomach or face.
Coming from gymnastics, where every impact is another strain on the joints and a fall can result in a broken bone, landing in water was a welcome change for Dekshenieks when she started diving as a sophomore at Lambert. There was, however, a minor learning curve with the sport, given that Dekshenieks had never been on a diving board in her life.
She wore goggles to her first practice. She would belly-flop multiple times a week in the early going.
“It only hurt for a few minutes,” Dekshenieks said.
But the fundamentals and movements of the dives were just like what she had been doing in gymnastics, which Dekshenieks had been doing since elementary school, and she got very good, very quickly. Now a senior, she’s a contender for a state championship and has aspirations to earn NISCA All-America honors and compete in the ACC or SEC.
Dekshenieks has consistently leaned towards acrobatic sports, first with her participation in gymnastics, which she stopped around the time she started diving, and then in pole vaulting and cheerleading, which she has also done at Lambert.
So once Dekshenieks got used to diving’s quirks – like how she now just jumps straight up, rather than out, and now lands on her head after years of trying to do anything but that – her improvement was rapid. She joined a club team, Atlanta Diving Association, and started receiving interest from college coaches.
She finished 14th in the one-meter dive at the state meet as a sophomore, ninth last year as a junior, and this year, Dekshenieks has the degree of difficulty required to make a run at a state title. At the county championship meet on Jan. 20, her winning score of 451.15 was more than 80 points better than the second-place score.
Diving at Dekshenieks’ level is a demanding endeavor: A typical night of practice will see her leave her house at around 3:30 p.m. to get to practice at Georgia Tech, spend two-and-a-half hours there, and then drive back up to Cumming to practice with her high school team at 8:30.
Dekshenieks doesn’t mind the time commitment, though.
“I’ve never gone to practice being like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go,’” she said. “I used to always do that in gymnastics, because I didn’t really like it that much, but I’ve never had that with diving.”