Diving In: Winter Haven's James Voisard Looking for 1 More Title to Cap 2012
Wed. November 07, 2012 at 11:29 p.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
Winter Haven's James Voisard already has titles this season at county, districts and regionals. He finished fifth in the state last year. (Photo by PAUL CRATE | LEDGER MEDIA GROUP )
By LISA COFFEY
Winter Haven High School diver James Voisard was seen wearing a Burger King crown during warm ups at the county swim meet.
The playful Voisard earned the nickname Spiderman from Winter Haven High School coach Danny Wallace for his crazy antics throughout the season like hanging upside down on the 3-meter diving board.
Monday, he back-flipped onto the 1-meter board instead of walking on, then dove in.
Tuesday, Voisard wore a Batman mask to school.
Today, Voisard's character of choice should be a Transformer as he competes in the FHSAA Class 2A Swim and Dive Championships at the Central Florida YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando.
In the past year, Voisard, a lifelong gymnast and the son of gym owners, will show the crowd how he's transformed from a gymnast to a diver.
"I learned how to twist and do entries and flip like a diver," he said. "Gymnasts and divers don't really use the same technique at all. It does help you if you have a basic sense of awareness. The basics are still the same."
Voisard, a junior who finished fifth in his last two trips to the state meet, is seeded first at today's event.
He hopes the work he's put into making the transition propels him to a state championship.
"I think he's got a great shot," said former U.S. Olympic diver Mark Ruiz, who trains Voisard at the Aquatic Center. "If he dives like he has been throughout the year, I think he should be able to win comfortably.
Voisard sought out Ruiz's assistance to improve.
"I've got to give credit to James," Ruiz said. "They make the long trip to the Aquatic Center. We worked a lot on his form, becoming consistent and going in the right way head first. Because he's a gymnast he was so used to being feet first."
Not only did Voisard seek training assistance from Ruiz, but Tuesday he visited St. Pete Diving Club coach Bill Walker to fine tune his form.
Voisard is so set on improving himself, he even worked out with local swim coach Mike Wilcox to improve his swimming strokes. He swam on several Winter Haven relays this year.
The dedication led to a clean sweep on the diving board this season, as Voisard won the Ridge meet, broke the Polk record at the county meet and won district and regional victories.
In addition, for the first time, he scored more than 65 points with one dive at the county meet.
Other than the state meet, Voisard has lost just once in the past three years.
He had not practiced diving during the offseason until this summer.
"Diving over the summer really helped," he said. "I could get by my freshman and sophomore year with lack of technique, but you're supposed to learn the actual technique. My entries have gotten so much better and I'm pretty consistent now. I'm definitely more prepared than last year."
It was work.
"He made the changes and worked hard at improving his diving," Ruiz said.
Voisard tallied rare scores of nine on a dive at the tightly judged regionals.
"I have the skills this year," Voisard said. "I have to rely on all the hard work I've done so far. I have a decent amount of experience under my belt. If I have good approaches, my dives are going to be amazing."
Voisard and teammate Alex Branstrator dive today at 1:30 p.m.
Winter Haven's I.V. Simons competes in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Winter Haven freshman Hannah Kendall races in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Jordan Kendall, her brother, swims in the 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
Tenoroc makes school history by sending swimmers to state for the first time with Jonathan Sawyer (500 freestyle) and Briana Flores (10 backstroke).
Lakeland's Alex Sparbel, who is recovering from a broken finger, swims in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
The Class 3A meet is Friday. With five swimmers, the Eagles send the largest contingent in their history to the state meet. They include Hope Saunders (200 IM), Kyleigh Firman (50 free, 100 fly), Alex Carson (50 free) and the girls' 200 freestyle relay team of Saunders, Firman, Rachel Lulf and Lucy Muller.
Frostproof's Robbie Costine and Lakeland Christian's Stephen Mutz hit the diving board Saturday in the Class 1A meet.
Swimming at that meet will be David Wong of All Saints, Rebekah Howard of Oasis Christian and Derek Peeples of Santa Fe Catholic.
The preliminary races for all classes begin at 9 a.m. Finals are slated for 5:30 p.m.
[ Lisa Coffey can be reached at 863-401-6971 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ]