Missouri’s Evan Watters stood backwards on the board, ready to make his last dive.
It was a dive he had only tried six times in practice. Each time, his coach didn’t score him more than a 4.
But Watters wasn’t thinking about that. He wasn’t thinking about anything.
He jumped high off the board and rotated forward three and a half times and made a smooth entry into the water.
The crowd applauded loudly. His coach was stunned.
Watters came out of the pool and looked at his score. With a 7.5, he easily won the meet.
The 3 1/2 inward tuck he performed is one the hardest. His ability to make dives like this has amazed coach Jamie Sweeney.
“He has showed me things on the diving board that I didn’t think were possible,” Sweeney said. “Things that get me choked up.”
“As a diving coach I know how fast normal divers spin and how high they jump. Every once in a while I will see Evan jump higher and spin faster than I thought was possible. He gives the illusion of breaking the laws of physics.”
Watters, a junior on the Missouri men’s swimming and diving team, has broken Sweeney’s records at MU for 1-meter and 3-meter diving.
All of this has come a year after watching his hopes of going to nationals crushed.
Watters finished sixth last season at the Zone Diving Championships. Only the top five advanced to the NCAA championships.
The setback, though, only proved to him that he was good enough to make it to the next level.
Since that time, Watters has made great progress on all of his dives.
He says his improvement this season has been all about consistency.
“I have just been in able to get in the right frame of mind at every meet,” Watters said. “I look at the meets as practice for nationals. I’m getting good competition from not only the other team, but also my teammates. This has helped me focus more.”
While Watters has consistently performed well in his meets this year, the same can’t be said for his diving in practice.
His dives never feel right in practice and, as a result, no one ever knows what to expect in the meet.
The thing that helps Watters perform better in meets and sets him apart from his competition is the way he approaches the event.
Unlike most divers, who get nervous before dives, Watters is relaxed.
He doesn’t think about the pressure. He sees the event as a game.
“To him, diving at nationals is no different than playing Wiffle ball in the backyard with his buddies,” Sweeney said.