COLUMBIA - After quickly drying himself, David Bonuchi casually walked up to the edge of the diving board at his new practice center, the Mizzou Aquatics Center. He walked back to the base of the board, turned, took a deep breath and began his approach.
His hurdle was strong, and as he flung himself into the air, his body twisted into multiple somersaults. He entered the water slightly bent and, upon resurfacing, took a frustrated slap at the water.
“It was a miss. I normally don’t miss dives, so it’s upsetting when I try hard and don’t complete a dive,” Bonuchi said.
With that attitude, Bonuchi, a sophomore at Hickman High School, has carved a niche in the diving world, a niche filled with success that has taken him around the world. At 15, Bonuchi has already been all over the U.S. and traveled to Europe and China for diving competitions.
“I take the same mentality toward those (national) competitions and the local ones. I treat them the same,” Bonuchi said.
Up until this year, though, Bonuchi had only participated in AAU events. The time he devoted to practice last year made diving for Hickman difficult. Thanks to a new daily schedule that features two consecutive practices, one for each team, Bonuchi now gets to showcase his talent in high school and on the AAU circuit.
“I am fortunate to be coaching an athlete that is as talented and as dedicated as David,” Hickman diving coach Aaron Ashworth said.
Ashworth is in his first year coaching Hickman and Rock Bridge diving after earning All-American honors at the University of Alabama, but even before taking the job at Hickman, he knew about Bonuchi.
“The diving world is not huge; it’s not like knowing a football player in California. But even when I was still in Alabama, I knew about David and his performances in competitions,” Ashworth said.
A broken left wrist held Bonuchi out of Hickman’s first meet this year, but in his debut at the DeSmet Swimming Invitational last weekend, Bonuchi put on a show, finishing first and breaking the meet record with a score of 460.55.
Bonuchi’s spot on the Hickman team this year was not a guarantee, but not because of his lack of talent. Duringan inspection of the Hickman swimming pool last season, engineers discovered that the diving well did not meet state specifications for the slope of the walls in the pool . The school removed the diving board immediately, and the Hickman and Rock Bridge diving teams were without a home. Athletic directors Doug Mirts from Hickman and Jennifer Mast from Rock Bridge, along with Columbia Public School District Athletic Director Bruce Whitesides turned to MU and the Mizzou Aquatics Center for help.
“That’s the only diving facility in Columbia. There’s no other diving facility indoors,” Mirts said. “(If they said no) we would have no options.”
Despite the murky future of the program, Bonuchi was sure something would be arranged.
“I wasn’t worried,” Bonuchi said. “I knew they would figure it out, and my coaches assured me it would.”
A week into the swimming and diving season, a deal was made with MU that allowed the diving teams to practice at theaquatic center. Bonuchi and the Hickman and Rock Bridge diving teams found a new home.
Practicing at the Mizzou Aquatics Center is not much of a change of scenery for Bonuchi. It has been thepractice facility for the Missouri Diving Club, his AAU team, since he began diving when he was 11. It is also where Bonuchi perfected his talent, leading to a plethora of accomplishments. In 2006, he began to gain increased attention, performing well in several national events. That summer, Bonuchi finished second on 3-meter springboard at Junior West Nationals and fifth on platform at the 2006 Speedo National Diving Championship. This year, Bonuchi followed up an impressive 2006 with an even more impressive 2007. In the spring, he swept the Junior East Nationals, winning both the 1 and 3-meter springboard. This summer, he finished second on all boards at the Junior West Nationals, and in early August, improving at each height from the same event the previous year, Bonuchi finished third in 1-meter springboard and second in both 3-meter springboard and platform at the 2007 Speedo National Diving Championship.
“In the past year or so, we’ve started to see a breakthrough, a shift of being in the top 10 to the top three in the nation in his age group,” Amy Gosney, head coach of the Missouri Diving Club, said.
In between his domestic competitions, Bonuchi was invited to travel to an all-star competition in China last summer and a British national competition in England in August.
If not for a wrist injury four years ago, though, Bonuchi’s diving career may have never even started. At 11, a cist on his wrist temporarily halted his career in gymnastics. His father then guided him towards diving as an outlet for his talents, which for Bonuchi was an easy transition.
“(Gymnastics) helped me with my body control and flips,” Bonuchi said.
After the high school season ends, Bonuchi and Gosney plan to move him to the next level, the senior circuit. They are looking to make the move official at the AAU East Nationals in the spring.
Whatever Bonuchi’s finish in that event may be, Gosney is certain his focus and approach will remain steady.
“He’s one of those kids that has a really good attitude and talent, which is a unique combination and a good combination for an athlete to have,” Gosney said.