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January 14, 2013

Taking the plunge

By: Marc Mullen

After spending two years at Indiana, where she didn’t finding diving a lot of fun, Logan Kline made a life-altering decision to transfer to Virginia Tech, where a top-notch facility and a terrific coach have helped her earn two All-America honors

Voted as the American Film Institute’s 39th most memorable American movie quotation of all time, the line “If you build it, he will come” was first whispered to farmer Ray Kinsella as he was walking through his cornfield early in the first scene of Field of Dreams. What followed was an inspiring story that ultimately earned three Academy Award nominations, including “Best Picture.”

Now, for the Virginia Tech diving program and its leader, coach Ron Piemonte, there wasn’t a moment exactly like what took place in the film, but that thought probably went through the mind of Piemonte following the plans for the building of the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. With all the upgrades from their former home, the swimming and diving coaches could recruit higher-caliber divers, and the results are being seen.

Prior to the opening of the CAC, just one Tech diver – Mikey McDonald – had earned All-America honors, as McDonald racked up four honorable mention nods during his career. Yet last season alone, five Tech divers earned nine All-America honors, including two by current senior Logan Kline, who didn’t initially sign with the Hokies out of high school.

“Ron was actually maybe the second person to call me on the day that you could call (and start recruiting),” Kline said. “However, I wanted to go somewhere with a phenomenal facility. So I kind of told him that’s what I wanted, and Tech didn’t have that and so that was it.

“But since then, Tech built this facility, and when I was thinking about leaving Indiana, I thought about the fact that he was one of the first people to call me. We’ve always been close, and it just seemed like it (going to Tech and diving) would be good.”

“That’s very true,” Piemonte said. “When I was recruiting a few years back, the CAC wasn’t finished, and that definitely affected my recruiting diving wise because to recruit a very high-level diver, you need to have a good facility.

“War’s (War Memorial Gym) okay, but it’s not the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. The thing is, when you’re trying to get an athlete of (Kline’s) potential or her level, they’re not going to go to a place unless they have a facility like the CAC. Since the CAC’s been done, you’ve seen the diving program here go like this (arm extended up at 45 degree angle), and a lot of that has to do with the facility.”

Kline grew up near Kansas City and was involved in gymnastics until the fifth grade before pursuing diving. She quickly moved from a small club team in her hometown to diving at the University of Kansas, which was about 40 miles from her house.

She sported quite an accomplished career during her high school days, which included numerous All-America honors and state and AAU national titles. She then took her talents to Bloomington, Ind., where she learned new dives and came up with a 10-meter platform list, but she never lived up to her potential.

“It was really great at Indiana for two years, but I really wasn’t enjoying the sport as much any more,” she said. “So I contacted Ron, and we’ve known each other for a while and it just kind of seemed like a good place. I talked to Logan Shinholser, and I was like, ‘I think this would be better for me.’”

In her first year at Tech, she couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

Kline set a pool record in the 1-meter event in her first meet with the Hokies, later set both the 1-meter and 3-meter school records in a meet against Virginia and capped off her first ACC Championships with two silver medals in the 3-meter and platform events.

But her worst fears came to fruition at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships in March.

“Last year was the most amazing year that I could have ever asked for,” Kline said. “I never made NCAAs before. Something always happened at Zones. I probably should have (made the NCAA Championships) both my freshman and sophomore years, but fluke things always happened.

“And then last year, 1-meter was the first day, and if you qualify in one, you get to go in all three (events). So in the 1-meter, I messed up, and I thought ‘Maybe I’m just destined to never make it.’

“Then in the 3-meter, my first list was great. I had to get in the top two, and I hit the board on my second list and I was like ‘Great. I really am destined not to make it.’ But then I fought back and made it. Then to make the NCAAs (NCAA Championships) and to final in my first NCAAs was amazing.”

Kline finished seventh in the 1-meter event at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish ever for a Tech female diver, and then she added a 16th-place finish in the 3-meter event to earn honorable mention honors, thus becoming Tech’s first two-time All-American female diver. (Kaylea Arnett would join her as a two-timer as well.)

Kline credited her current coach for much of her success last year.

“Ron’s approach to diving is so fun,” she said. “I never feel like I have to do it for him. At Indiana, I kind of felt like I had to dive well and perform well for my coach, and I always felt like I was letting him down a bit if I didn’t. And that was hard for me because I always want to have other people be proud of me.

“Here, if I mess up on a dive, it’s just me being mad at myself. I don’t have the coach being mad at me, too, and that helps a ton. I’ve been able to have so much more fun diving now that the pressure is off, and I’m just doing it for me now and it’s just all Ron. He’s great.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the Hokies have been able to bring to Blacksburg many high-caliber divers – both men and women – which brings high-level competition to practice.

“I couldn’t put together a better team than what we have here,” Kline said. “Everyone works hard. No one has a bad attitude. It’s really great. We should get at least six athletes to NCAAs out of 10, which is amazing.

“I think about that all the time – how lucky I was to transfer here and have two other girls that are pushing me every day (Arnett and Kelli Stockton). They’re sophomores, but they’re pushing me so much. It’s really fun having that and definitely helpful. There are a lot of times when I am not as motivated going into practice, but they’re doing stuff, and I’m like ‘I gotta do it!’ It’s awesome, and it’s pretty special.”

Though she appreciates the help from her teammates and her coach in practices, she understands that diving is an individual event, and success usually hinges on one’s mentality, as all eyes are on just the single diver on the board or the platform. Kline’s upbringing, in which she grew up as the oldest of seven kids (spanning 14 years), could hold a key to her success.

Why? Just listen to her answer two totally different questions.

On growing up? “It was fun,” she said. “It’s nice to have people around, and it was never boring. It kind of helped me learn to focus well and tune out things when I needed to study and stuff. So it had its benefits.”

On her approach during a meet? “If you look at the history of my meets, I tend to finish better when I zone out the competition and just focus on myself,” she said.

Taking it a step forward, though, Kline described one of her best feelings ever when she focused on … well, nothing. Going back to her qualifying for NCAAs, she explained how she needed to hit her last dive and how she pulled it off.

“After a dive that I do really well, usually I will come out and ask ‘What was I thinking?’” she said. “Usually, there was nothing. My body was just doing it, which is just the coolest feeling ever.

“Like, last year at NCAA Zones on the 3-meter, I had to hit my last dive – a full out – for 7.5-8’s (scores). I knew that I could do it, but I didn’t think about anything. My body just did it, and I did it for 8s. It’s weird. When you do a good dive, most of the time, you just aren’t thinking. It’s odd, but it’s just a really cool feeling to have that happen, and it doesn’t happen every day.”

For sure, it’s been cool having Logan Kline in Blacksburg. It took a building to help convince her, but Tech and the town of Christiansburg teamed to build it and now the best are coming to this university. She’s been one of the first of hopefully many.


Q: What is your favorite event?

LK: I would say I am most consistent on the 1-meter, for sure, but I do like to compete in the 10-meter. I just feel less pressure up there, and there’s no board movement, which I get nervous about in the meets.

Q: Do you have any pre-meet rituals?

LK: I always repaint my toenails before a meet, just so I can look down when I’m waiting to go. So they look pretty. It’s usually pink, a hot pink color. It might be weird, but I tend to do that.

Q: Do you eat anything special before a meet?

LK: Yeah, I used to really like bananas, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate a banana. But I do like to have peanut butter, take a bite here or there. I don’t like to eat full meals before a competition, so it’s just nice to have something to give me a little bit of energy before a meet.

Q: Do you enjoy any other sports?

LK: I played tennis for a little bit, just because my mom did that. Actually, if I hadn’t been a diver, I feel like I would have been a tennis player. I’m not sure if I am tall enough, but I would have liked to have played that.

Q: What’s your plan after this season?

LK: I’m doing a fifth semester because want to go to med school to be a dermatologist. I wasn’t really ready to apply and start next fall. So I will apply this summer, and I think I’m going to apply early decision to Kansas. The med school is actually in Kansas City, so it’s right where I live.