Diving no longer ‘secondary thing’ for Hampton’s Carslaw

Saturday, February 27, 2021 | 9:01 AM

When Koda Carslaw took up diving last season, he admits it was “more of a secondary thing.”

Carslaw was, after all, a longtime gymnast and a qualifier in trampoline for the USA Gymnastics national championships in 2018 and ‘19.

“One of my friends was like, ‘Hey, come dive with me,’ ” the Hampton sophomore said. “Then my mom also (agreed) because I have a background in flipping. I said I’d give it a try, and I guess I was pretty good at it.”

About 16 months later, the Hampton sophomore is a lot better than pretty good.

Carslaw has broken the school record twice and will be the top-seeded Class AA diver heading into the WPIAL championships Friday at North Allegheny. He is a consistent scorer for the Talbots, who are one of the top contenders for the WPIAL Class AA team title.

“I can tell you this,” Hampton diving coach Keith Hart said. “I’ve been coaching since 1984, he is the most talented and fun kid to coach that I’ve had.”

Carslaw’s background in gymnastics — his parents also were gymnasts — has translated onto the diving board, but it has taken some work. Hart said at the beginning of the year, Carslaw was falling off the board “nine times out of 12” without a good front approach, or hurdle. They made a few adjustments, and the results were dramatic.

“I have a new hurdle this year,” said Carslaw, who uses a “hop” hurdle. “It changes dives substantially, and you can really see it through my scores. The dives come a lot easier because I am going higher and twisting faster.”

Hart said many gymnasts are unable to make a smooth transition to diving, despite experience doing flips and twists.

“If you think about gymnastics, they are always landing on their feet,” Hart said. “To get them to turn things to their head is something a little different. Gymnasts can do tricks, but they are dangerous because they just whip all the stuff off the board. Koda is different.”

As a raw freshman, Carslaw last season placed ninth in the WPIAL Class AAA. With Hampton now in Class AA, Carslaw earned the top seed with a school-record 287.10 on Jan. 21 at Gateway. Bolstered by a pristine two-and-a-half tuck, he shattered his own school record (252.5) set last season.

Carslaw was set to perform an 11-dive routine at WPIALs. Only one Class AA diver, the district champion, advances to the covid-trimmed field at the PIAA championships March 13 at Cumberland Valley.

Regardless, the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Carslaw will have at least two more years to reach states. He is giving up competitive trampoline to focus on diving.

“When I went into diving, it was more of a secondary thing,” he said. “As I progressed, (I realized) this could very well be a thing I do throughout my future. It was between diving and trampoline, and I chose diving.”

The decision was difficult. He was Level 10 in trampoline 18 months ago, and gymnastics runs deep in his pedigree. His grandmother, Elaine Jewart, owns Jewart’s Gymnastics in Wildwood. His father, Scott, was a gymnast at Pitt and competed on “American Ninja Warrior” in 2016. His mom, Lainy, coaches at Jewart’s, not to mention his countless cousins, nephews and nieces who are part of the sport.

But Carslaw’s heart belongs to diving, and it shows in his passion.

When the pandemic shuttered local pools last spring, Carslaw practiced with the Pitt diving team at Butler Country Club. When the weather cooled, he went to West Virginia University every Saturday to practice with the Mountaineers diving team. He also did trampoline work and weight training.

“Even though we weren’t able to be in a pool a lot,” he said, “we were still getting the work in that we needed.”

Meanwhile, Hart said he considered not coaching this season because of covid concerns. But the prospects of working with his gifted sophomore prompted his return.

“You’ve got to remember he’s still young,” Hart said. “The sky is the limit for him.”


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