Swimming & Diving: Record-setting dive propels Ohio sophomore forward in pool

Haleigh Bartlett sits on a diving board at Ohio University's Aquatic Center. (Katharine Egli | Picture Editor)

Ohio coach Greg Werner was in awe when he saw the new record board being put up to the right side of the scoreboard in the Aquatic Center.

For a time, it hadn’t even displayed the names of Ohio’s best swimmers for the current season. In fact, the most recent board only showed the names of last year’s school record breakers, Tori Bagan and Mary-Rose Hillstrom.

He didn’t know that sophomore diver Haleigh Bartlett would outdate the board only 72 hours later, scoring a new school and pool record in the 1-meter diving competition against Toledo with a score of 325.27 points.

“I don’t feel bad about that,” Bartlett said. “Records are meant to be broken.”
The coaching staff did not see the outburst coming. Bartlett had battled bronchitis during the days leading up to the meet against the current Mid-American Conference champion.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Ohio diving coach Russ Dekker said, adding that Bartlett was still sick during the competition. “But it never surprised me. Sitting out for a week isn’t going to hurt you if you’re mentally ready.”

While mentality is the reason she broke the record, it might also be the reason Bartlett got to the point where she would be able to break a school record.

Bartlett didn’t start her diving career until her freshman year of high school, after she had to give up gymnastics because of an injury. The transition wasn’t easy for her in the first two years.

Bartlett’s first year of diving ended with a concussion after her head hit the board.

“I was really afraid to go back and dive (again),” Bartlett said, adding she is still very nervous before new dives. “But I knew what to do for this not to happen again.”

When she returned for her sophomore year, Bartlett placed third at the state meet right away — despite sometimes not having competition during dual meets.

What really made her improve, however, was the time with her club team, which gave her the chance to finally be rated by professional diving coaches. She also learned to dive at the 3-meter board.

“College coaches are looking for divers that are as good in 3-meter diving as they are in 1-meter diving,” Dekker said.

By the time Bartlett was a senior, she won the state championship at 1-meter and placed 15th at nationals in the 1-meter diving competition with her club team.

“What you do in junior diving is more solid than high school diving,” Decker said, adding that he only recruited Bartlett because of her club results.

Bartlett’s college career started with high hopes but fell short of the finals at the MAC championships.

“She is much better than what she is showing up to this point, but we’re getting glimpses here and there,” Werner said

One of those glimpses could be seen during the school-record-breaking meet against Toledo, and Dekker is convinced that if she could show that same diving set again, she could win both events at the MAC championship this week and make it to the NCAA competition.

The only obstacle Bartlett has to overcome is getting over the injury she suffered last week, which kept her out of practice.

“I dive in pain. I dive in tears,” Bartlett said to Decker. “I am going to the meet.”



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