By BRIAN JENNINGS
Chase Galayda said that he felt butterflies when he walked to the diving board at the Class LL diving trials, but he didn’t show it by his gait. The Southington freshman backed his way to the edge of the board, paused for a moment, and stretched his arms wide. With a few bounces on the board, he leapt backwards and dove forward, entering the water with hardly a splash.
“When you’re up on the board and you’re looking down the board, you get really scared,” said Galayda. “Am I going to go off the board right? Am I going to fall? But once you’re in the air and you know what you’re doing, it feels as if I’m walking. It feels totally natural. You hit the water and everything’s fine.”
Galayda competed at the Class LL diving championships at Hamden High School on Wednesday, March 9 and placed 18th out of 29 divers with a score of 296.95. After five dives, he made the cut for the finals. After three more, he qualified for the championship round.
His final mark broke Southington High School’s 11 dive record of 263.15, set by Katie Monbaron in 2010.
Kevin Bradley (457.75) of Norwalk-Brien McMahon won the Class LL diving title. Devon Satir (455.5) of Greenwich finished as runner-up, and Jimmy Donahue (384.9) of Trumbull placed third. Ian Humber of Newtown, Ethan Godfrey of Glastonbury, and Nicholas Jefferson of Glastonbury medaled as well.
“I think I did pretty well,” said Galayda. “The meet was tough. There were a lot of really good kids there. It was really scary because I knew that they probably had prior experience, and this is only my first year. So I didn’t really know what to expect going in.”
Galayda has been training at American Gymnastics Training Center in Plantsville for 11 years, and he said that his experience with gymnastics has played a big part in his diving.
“Gymnastics helps because of the air awareness,” said Galayda. “I know where I am and I know when to open. The front dives are hard when I have to land on my head because I have no awareness for that.”
Galayda earned his highest score on his second dive, which was a backwards double somersault (36.3).
“In gymnastics, there’s mostly back-flipping skills,” said Galayda. “I have a lot of air awareness while I’m going backwards, so I knew when to open.”
Galayda said that his forward two semi and pike (21.85) is his most challenging dive out of the 11.
“It’s really hard to get the rotation around off the board,” said Galayda. “I’ve gotten better, but it’s still pretty tough.”
If there’s any dive that needs work, Galayda said it’s his forward full twisting one and a half dive (22).
“With the forward entry dives, I don’t really know where I am,” said Galayda.
When it comes to blocking out concentrating and focusing when he’s up on the diving board, Galayda said that he blocks everything out and draws a blank in his head.
“It’s really tough having everyone watch you while you’re on the stage, but I just focus on my dive. I try not to think about it,” said Galayda.
“There’s lots of noise, music, and people cheering,” said Galayda. “And you have to focus on the one thing that you’re doing. So it’s easy for me now to block out all the sounds and eyes staring at me.”
Galayda said that his diving coach, Jan Zagorski, has been a huge impact on his training throughout the season to help him prepare for the Class LL meet. He said that putting his arms down when he dives has been Zagorski’s most helpful pointer to him because he tends to land with his arms up.
“She’s helped me a lot because I’ve never done diving before and she helped explain what was going on,” said Galayda. “She helped explain how I do certain things off the board and how it’s different from what I’m used to.”
Galayda has been competing in gymnastics with tons of people for over five years now, and said that he is used to meets with a lot of kids. He said that backwards and forwards double flips have always been a strength in both gymnastics and diving, but forward has been most consistent with diving.
“It’s got the flipping aspect,” said Galayda. “For front flipping skills on floor, you have to do a hurdle before you go, just like diving. When you flip and land, just like would in diving.”
Before diving, Galayda played baseball for a couple years, but fell out of it. He said that he needed something new and wanted to do something for the school.
Galayda currently has a freshman civics class with Southington coach Evan Tuttle. One day after class, Tuttle noticed Galayda’s American Gymnastics sweatshirt and pulled him aside after class to ask if he would be interested in diving for the Blue Knights.
“At first, I didn’t think much about it, but he asked me a few times,” said Galayda. “I started talking to my mom and dad about it. I said I would think about it because I was scared and never did a school sport before. I never did anything, except gymnastics. I didn’t know how it would feel.”
After just one season on the board the program record holder is already in uncharted water.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at email@example.com.