MOULTRIE -- In his invocation before the ribbon-cutting officially opening the Moss Farms Aquatic Center's dryland training center on Monday, the Rev. Hugh Ward prayed that the facility would become an "academy of the extraordinary."

Already one of the finest facilities of its kind in the country, the home of the Moss Farms Diving Tigers has improved its ability to train young divers with the addition of a $385,000, 6,000-square-foot building just steps from its springboards and tower.

In fact, Moss Farms coach Ron Piemonte told those gathered to witness Janie Moss and Camila McLean cut the ceremonial ribbon that the addition has given Moultrie "one of the best, if not the best, diving facility in the world."

Moss Farms Diving president Bobby Blank called the building just the latest addition "to the vision Moose Moss had for keeping Moultrie in the spotlight of national and international competition."

The Moss Farms program was started in the 1960s by Colquitt County farmer Robert "Moose" Moss, who trained his children and other youngsters to become national champion divers at the pool next to his Poplar Arbor home.

In the mid-1980s, Moss was able to convince Jay Lerew to come to Moultrie to coach the team with a promise of building a diving well.

The diving well itself was dedicated in 1993 and over the last decade has played host to a number of U.S. Diving and other meets and was used by teams from a number of countries as they prepared for the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta.

Moss Farms has developed some 30 divers who have earned college scholarships. College and university coaches have traveled to the facility in rural southwest Georgia to recruit divers for their programs and Moss Farms alumni have dived for Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida State, Miami, Texas the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard.

Moss Farms divers have won national, international and SEC championships and three of its divers -- Lane Bassham, Lauryn McCalley and Clayton Moss - are expected to take part in the 2004 Olympic Team Trials to be held June 7-13 in St. Peters, Mo.

Several years ago, then-coach Wenbo Chen advised Moss Farms Diving to consider building the dryland facility, which allows to divers to train year-round indoors.

Rep. Richard Royal was able to secure $100,000 from the state and large contributions from the Vereen Foundation and Southwest Georgia Bank started the fund-raising.

Camila McLean, whose four daughters have been Moss Farms divers and who has been a driving force behind the program, was the architect on both the diving well and the dryland facility.

The two-story building has a number of training apparatus, including a board over afoam pit, trampolines, a weight-training, storage and an office and classroom-meeting room that has also been used when the district and state swim meets where held here earlier this year.

"This is really a life-saver," said Moss Farms assistant coach and former Diving Tiger Todd Murphy. "We can do every optional dive right in here."

Piemonte said, "You can get the same workout here as you can in the pool. That's why it is so good."

And the new facility will be on display for much of the rest of the country's diving programs next year when Moss Farms plays host to both the Winter Junior East Nationals and the summer National Junior Diving Championships.

"We have built it, the world has come and they are amazed," McLean said.

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