By Katherine Harris
Women’s diver Katie Hetherington ’15 could have never anticipated the immediate success she would have when she first stepped into Arthur D. Kinney Jr. Natatorium this fall.
“I think I had a really great season and I accomplished a lot more than I expected to,” Hetherington said. “My only real expectation was to make it to Patriots.”
Because Hetherington was already a successful diver in high school before she arrived on campus, especially in the three-meter board, coaches knew that she was going to make a big impact on the diving program. Even they didn’t anticipate exactly how much of a splash she was going to make in the competitive waters.
“I knew she was going to be good, but I had no idea she was as good as she is,” diving coach Errol Carter said. “I knew she would be our next team record holder but had no idea it would all happen in her first semester.”
While it is often difficult for first-years to come into a program and succeed right away, standing out was not an issue for Hetherington, whose success in the pool was immediate. In fact, she was already breaking records in her first-ever collegiate meet this fall.
In the meet on Oct. 1, Hetherington outperformed not only the divers from opposing UMBC, but also a very talented group of teammates, diving her way into the school record books. Her score of 264.68 broke the one-meter board record for the Bison, and also created what she cites as one of her most memorable performances of the season.
“I was very nervous at the beginning of the meet because I expected a lot of myself, as I do every meet. Honestly, the possibility of breaking a record never crossed my mind. I was just hoping to not mess up too badly,” Hetherington said. “When I was told I broke the one-meter record, I was ecstatic. I would not have been more excited.”
And the success didn’t stop there by a long shot as Hetherington continued her first collegiate season. On Nov. 18, she broke the three-meter board school record at the Bucknell Invitational with a score of 285.05.
“[Hetherington] was in second or third place after the prelims and her score was within a couple of points of the record. I recall her saying, ‘I want to break that record.’ That night during finals, she shattered the record and qualified for the NCAA Zone Diving Meet, the second [Bison] to do so in my time [13 seasons] as coach here,” Carter said.
By the end of the season, Hetherington had won both boards on five different occasions for a total of 13 overall wins. At the Patriot League Championships, a third-place finish in the 1m and a second in the 3m rounded out her impressive in-conference season.
Part of what has made Hetherington so successful in her career already is her willingness to learn and listen to what her coaches have to say to her. She has also supported her teammates in a sport where individual competition is very intense to say the least.
“She is not only a great athlete, but a great teammate as well. She is so humble, and she brings an energy to practice that is completely unique from everyone else on the team,” teammate Tara Boyle ’15 said. “It is way too hard to pick a best performance of hers from this season because she was so consistently successful all year.”
Hetherington’s scores also qualified her for the NCAA Zone “A” Diving Meet, a competition where the top four divers qualify for seeds in the NCAA Championships. The first-year represented the Bison as their solo competitor at the event, placing 41st on the 1m board and 36th on the 3m board with scores of 192.75 and 204.85 in the respective preliminaries.
“Katie’s such a strong competitor because she never lets herself get psyched out mentally. She always keeps it positive and has so much fun in practice and at meets, making her not only a better diver but also an influential contributor to the team dynamic,” teammate Liz Porcellio ’13 said.
Even with all of this success as a first-year, Hetherington is far from satisfied. She has already set her sights on her goals for next year and hopes to take her impressive performances to new heights in her sophomore season.
“Next year my goal would be to qualify to Zones again and hopefully perform better there. I would also like to learn some harder dives to increase the difficulty of my list,” Hetherington said.
The first-year’s coaches are also excited at the prospect of her improving even more in the years to come. In the off-season, she will be working with them constantly to keep herself ahead of the competition, especially many of her own teammates who are working very hard to reach her level of success as well.
“I feel that if Katie gets over her hangups that many divers have, and starts to believe how good she can be, the sky is the limit,” Carter said. “She already has the dives and skill; we need to fine-tune some of those skills and get her tough dives consistently good. If her next few years are anything like this one, I see the records getting higher and higher and her doing better and better at the NCAA Zone meet and potentially getting close to Nationals.”