Gymnasts nail landing in their new sport

February 1, 2014 Updated: February 1, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Diver Emma Plentl gives thanks every day for the opportunity a shattered ankle, eight screws and a metal plate gave her.

"I would have never known about diving if I hadn't got this," said Plentl, pointing to her faded scar.

The opportunity barely seemed like a footnote at first. After suffering the gruesome injury in club gymnastics her freshman year, Plentl had to be convinced to give high school swimming, and later high school diving a chance.

But things changed. And three years later, on a wintry Saturday, the Discovery Canyon senior continued her successful high school diving career with a winning score of 358.05 in the Lewis-Palmer Diving Invite at the Monument Hill Country Club.

Out of 16 divers, Plentl was followed in the standings by Pine Creek's Abigail Smith (341.15) and Mackenzie Blomquist (341.10), another pair of former club gymnasts who were cast perfectly for diving after gymnastic injuries of their own.

No, it's no fluke their backgrounds are similar. Former club gymnasts, marred by injuries, seem to dominate this sport, they all say.

"As gymnasts, we have all the flipping and twirling down so we're good there," said Smith, who suffered a dislocated disc in her back in club gymnastics when she was 14. "We just have to add the impact of water with it, and that can be difficult."

For Plentl, however, the transition has seemed as seamless as her silky-smooth trademark dive, the "front 1? in the pike position."

It started in the weeks after her devastating injury, when the girl built by and trained in gymnastics was approached by her freshman health teacher, Thunder swim coach Lisa Garrelts, who told her she'd be a great fit for the recently started girls' swim program at Discovery Canyon High School.

"When she asked me before I broke my ankle I was like 'no way, I'm a gymnast,'" Plentl said. "But when she came up and asked me after, I was like, well 'why not? I guess it could be fun.'"

It was. And by her sophomore year she'd become the team's premier diver.

Saturday, in preparation for state, Plentl performed 11 dives and punctuated her meet victory with two of the invite's top individual-dive scores (38 and 39).

"This gets me a little more ready for state," said Plentl, who finished 10th at the Class 4A state last season. "I get shaky and freak out a little bit at bigger meets, so a meet that is all about diving like this kind of gets me ready for that spotlight. And I felt pretty good today."

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