Jama Schlauch, coach for Wylie’s new diving team, said she went to work on creating a plan to integrate diving into the program once she heard Casey Pacheco was named the swim team coach in the summer of 2021. “Coach Pacheco and I were high school teammates, and I knew he would do great things for the Wylie swim program.”
In the fall of 2022, she and Pacheco spoke more in-depth about the possibility and decided then to make it a reality. “I approached Coach Martin and Mr. Light about it, and they were extremely supportive,” said Schlauch.
The team began the 2022 season with six divers, but Schlauch said competing in swimming is like competing in track and field – where an athlete can compete in some events and not others. “If you compete in diving, that takes one event you are allowed to compete in. While all our divers are incredibly talented, we had to look at it from a team standpoint and consider if it would be more beneficial for the athletes to dive or compete in a swim event.”
Freshmen McKenna Herberg and Morgan Stickney rose to the challenge and represented Wylie in diving for the championship season. “I was not expecting to dive since it was new,” said Herberg. “It was a bit of a rough start, but we improved pretty quickly.”
Schlauch said the girls have grown incredibly over the season. “We often go back and watch videos of where they started and are blown away at the difference in then and now,” she said. “It’s exciting to think about their potential and what the next couple of years will look like.”
Stickney said she enjoyed her first season of diving and has already started preparing for next season. “It’s cool that it is new and to be part of that,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed learning [to dive] alongside my teammate and learning from each other.” She and teammate Herberg have been in gymnastics with each other for ten years.
The duo performed well for their first season. Stickney remained undefeated going into the district meet, then placed third at district, and fourth at regionals. Herberg placed fifth in both the district and regional meets.
For Schlauch, this year is just the beginning. Having divers in the swim program isn’t new to Wylie, but having a diving program is the goal. “In the past, Wylie has had a diver here or there, but my hope is to continue to grow and build a strong diving program beginning in junior high.” In February, Wylie did just that and opened the opportunity for diving to junior high students.
Schlauch, who competed throughout high school for Coach Bev Ball at Abilene High, said she didn’t have the gymnastics skills that can be helpful in diving, like Herberg and Stickney. “I was just the high school kid that spent summers teaching myself new tricks off the diving board,” said Schlauch. “Having no background in tumbling, my high school coaches were reluctant to give me the opportunity to try, but I was persistent.” Schlauch dove her sophomore, junior and senior years of high school and medaled in the district and was a regional finalist.
Divers attend practices at Redbud YMCA throughout the week during the season and will add trampoline workouts for the upcoming season, which Schlauch said is “tremendously helpful.” The high school season runs September through February with the junior high season running February through April.
Herberg said other students should give it a try even if they don’t have diving or gymnastics experience. “Try it even if you aren’t sure you would like it because you never know until you try.”
By Kristen Johnson
Photos By K. Broadstreet, Wylie Sports