As a freshman, Bothell’s Jeffrey Goong remembers his dive coach holding him as he attempted a simple dive — and not from the diving board, but from the blocks.
Three years later, and Goong is aiming at his second consecutive state diving title. Goong holds the school record for the six-dive format, set earlier this season, and won the second of back-to-back district titles on Feb. 11 at the Juanita Pool in Kirkland.
“When I was on the podium [at state last year], it was a shock,” Goong said following the district dive finals on Feb. 11. “I knew I was ranked first going in to state, but once I was up there, it was like, ‘Woah, this is really happening.’ It helped my confidence a lot, knowing I was doing as good as I thought I could do. It was also a relief because I didn’t have to stress in my senior year about winning.”
And for Goong, the confidence boost is big. Goong began diving competitively for the first time during his freshman season, and made big improvements to eighth at districts.
Goong joined the swim and dive team at the behest of his PE instructor, who was friends with the diving coach and noticed Goong doing back-flips during class. But the transition from back-flips to the twisting and tumbling technique of diving is — surprisingly — harder than it looks.
“A lot of it is trial and error and just trying to listen to what your coach is saying and taking all their advice and trusting in what they’re saying,” Goong said. “You basically have to smack a lot of times before you get it right.”
His focus this season as he prepares for the upcoming state championships in Federal Way is simply to be the best he can be. Most of the field from last season has returned, as there were only two seniors among the top seven finalists.
“I knew that my junior year, I had enough difficult dives, so this year I just had to focus on making the difficult dives I already had even better,” Goong said. “That’s what past state champions I know of have done, so I just tried to do what they did.”
Ben Nicholas won back-to-back diving titles for Bothell in 2007 and 2008. Repeat champions are relatively common, with 10 multiple-time champions since Newport’s Wayne Wager won his first in 1972. Goong’s 2016 championship was the third title in Bothell’s school history.
Goong said he isn’t particularly worried about his score or where he finishes this weekend.
“I just want to do my best,” he said.
The Bothell and Inglemoor boys placed fifth and sixth, respectively, at the Class 4A District 2 championships on Feb. 11 at Mary Wayte Pool on Mercer Island.
The Stride brothers, Brandon and Corey, had several standout performances for Bothell. Corey finished third in the 200-yard freestyle and fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke, while Brandon finished second in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.
Both swam legs for Bothell’s 200 medley relay team, which has already qualified for the upcoming state championships, along with Cameron Birrell and Brandon Troung.
Brandon Stride has already qualified for state in the 200 individual medley. Corey Stride qualified in the 200 freestyle, and both brothers are state-qualifiers in the 100 breaststroke.
Birrell made the finals in the 100 breaststroke, finishing sixth, and is a state-qualifier. Spencer Park is an alternate for the relay team.
Inglemoor senior Alex Crotteau left with two wins — the 50 freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay, alongside Spencer Straight, Branden Hinckley and Andrew Jumanca.
Hinckley took fourth in the 50 freestyle and Quinn McCloskey finished second in the 500 freestyle.
Inglemoor’s Charlie Bohlin finished in a tie for fifth in the 200 freestyle.
The Inglemoor 400 freestyle relay team — Crotteau, Bohlin, Hinckley and McCloskey — finished third.
The 200 and 400 freestyle relays will both swim at the state meet, as will Adam Bradshaw in the 200 individual medley and Crotteau in the 50 freestyle.
The Class 4A Swim and Dive state championships are scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. on Feb. 17 at the Weyerhaeuser Swim Center in Federal Way.