Maple Grove diving coach Stacey Benjamin calls senior Lexi Tenenbaum "my little freak of nature" for Tenenbaum's mastery of difficult dives.
But Tenenbaum struggled with some of those dives during last week's Class 2A meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, chipping away at her typical high scores and allowing the competition to draw uncomfortably closer.
Facing a make-or-break final dive, Tenenbaum chose familiarity over flash. Tenenbaum went with a back 1 1/2 somersaults, 1 1/2 twists. Her score clinched the 1-meter diving title with 448.35 points. She finished seventh as a sophomore and fourth last season.
"It was kind of nail-biting coming down to that last dive," Benjamin said. "But she pulled through under pressure."
The victory capped an undefeated season during which Tenenbaum reset pool records by a diver at Anoka, Elk River, Minnetonka and at the True Team, Northwest Suburban Conference and Section 7 meets.
Tenenbuam, who committed to dive for Minnesota, spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about quitting gymnastics to focus and diving and capturing the state title.
Q Talk about your decision to leave gymnastics after last season to focus on diving.
A I was a competitive gymnast most of my life. But I started to like diving more than gymnastics. Plus, it was way less hard on my body. So I joined a diving club. I knew right away I made the right decision. I was happy to focus on diving and I had more time on my hands.
Q Which club did you join?
A It is the Minnesota Diving Academy. The coach is Wenbo Chen, who coaches at the University of Minnesota. We practiced at the U.
Q Were you more comfortable at the state meet because of all the time you spent at the Aquatic Center?
A Yeah, diving with the club gave me a lot more experience and confidence. I was used to the pool. Diving there every day this summer got me prepared for state.
Q You led after all three rounds at the state meet but coach Benjamin said it was not really a comfortable victory.
A Yeah, I started the preliminaries all right. Nothing terrible. Nothing amazing. In the finals, I did dives that I know are consistent but I didn't do them as well as I could. I was quite nervous during the finals, actually. I think it was hitting me that this was my last chance.
Q And then it came down to your final dive. What do you remember thinking?
A I saw on the scoreboard that I needed a certain amount of points. I knew that if I did dive well enough that I would win.
Q Coach Benjamin said you do dives some men won't do, dives with some of the highest degrees of difficulty in the nation. Where along the way did you develop this fearless approach?
A Being in gymnastics definitely helped. It gave me a lot of confidence that was helpful when I switched over to diving fulltime. You have to be mentally strong in both sports.