Nov 29, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
In 2006, Kaela Fiutak was an aspiring gymnast with no interest in joining the Skaneateles swim and dive team. Now, five years later, Fiutak, a senior at Skaneateles High School, is one of the top 25 divers in New York state, has won numerous awards and recently became the first athlete to ever earn the chance to compete at states for the Skaneateles High School Swimming and Diving team.
“I never really thought I would want to dive, but my gym teacher, Jill King, was the swim coach and she knew I did gymnastics. In sixth grade she asked if I wanted to start diving. I said no,” Fiutak remembered. But the next year she changed her mind and decided to give diving a try. “It was just different enough from gymnastics that it gave me a break,” Fiutak said. “I probably wouldn’t have tried it if it wasn’t for Coach King.”
King, recently named coach of the year for class C in section III, remembers Fiutak’s first years as well.
“Kaela was strictly a gymnast. I saw her flipping around in gym class one day and knew she wasn’t doing any school sports,” King said. She convinced Fiutak to try diving, and after that first dive, “I knew a diver was born at that moment.”
Fiutak had been doing gymnastics since about age 6, and started diving on the school team in eighth grade, working with diving coach Kathryn Rozak. After three years on the team she took her junior year off from diving in order to concentrate more on gymnastics. For her senior year she decided to return to the pool — and what a year it has been.
She was awarded MVP at the Skaneateles vs. Mexico meet earlier in the season. She won Class C sectional, placing fourth overall after the first day, Friday, Nov. 4. She won the state qualifying meet the next day, which earned her a spot in the state tournament. She was also awarded the Outstanding Diver Award at the meet.
At states on Sunday, Nov. 6, she placed 25th, missing the cut by only 0.25 points.
“I was very happy with how it went, especially being my senior year. It was just a perfect way to top off a great season,” Fiutak said. “Diving is very mental. In past years it somewhat got into my head. This year I loved it, I think because I took a year off.”
Fiutak said going to the state competition was “really eye opening” to see all the impressive athletes from bigger schools who dive year round, whereas she only dives about three months a year.
“It was also awesome because I got to earn points for the team,” Fiutak said. “Even though it seems like an individual sport, I was helping out the team in the end. It wasn’t just for me, it was for them too.”
The Skaneateles girls swim team, in fact, won its sixth sectional title in seven years at the Nov. 4 meet.
“Kaela dove great, she was very nervous, as can be expected, and there were some phenomenal divers there,” King said. “She dives three months a year, so to consider that she was up there with club divers [who dive year round] shows her natural ability.”
With the diving season over, Fiutak is looking forward to spring track season, where she competes as a sprinter and a pole vaulter. She hopes to return to state competition in those sports as well, she said.
While she’s been looking at colleges to attend next year, Fiutak figured she would try to find a school where she could be on the pole vaulting team, seeing that as a better possibility than diving. Her senior year at Skaneateles has been so successful, however, that she may be able to dive in college after all.
In fact, one college she is interested in, which has no diving team, said it would be interested in starting a diving team if she attended the school.
“It’s just been amazing. We had no idea this year would hold such great events for her, great occurrences,” said Kira Fiutak, Kaela’s mother. “And it’s nice that it opens up doors for Kaela that we hadn’t even considered.”
But Kaela’s graduation certainly will leave a “huge hole” in the diving team, King said. Not just in earning points at meets, but in teamwork and motivation.
“Absolutely, she inspires others on the team,” King said. Fiutak has told the younger team members about her competition experiences, has encouraged them to work hard, offers advice and may help out at summer dive camp next year.
“She’s inspirational because she had no idea what she was doing five years ago when she stepped on that board, and then she built it all up herself with her natural talent,” King said.
For Fiutak, finding diving has actually helped her find herself in many ways.
“I would definitely recommend diving to anyone because you learn so much about yourself, and mentally I believe I have come a long way due to diving,” she said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.