MOULTRIE – Those Moss Farms Diving Tigers could stop right now and relish how much happened over the last 12 months, from earning new status to traveling through Europe to winning AAU titles.
But the best achievements to gain are still out there. Next week, it's the 2019 USA Diving Junior Nationals, and eight members of the Diving Tigers squad qualified for the trip to Knoxville, Tenn.
Some Tigers have been there before going back to three years ago when the Moose Moss Aquatic Center staged this major event.
Some are already semifinalists based on their Zone B qualifying performances in Atlanta. Others are about to experience this level of competition for the first time ever.
Some not only have first-place on their minds but what that gold-medal standing would mean for their immediate diving future.
One major diving event of national proportions only recently concluded, that being the AAU Nationals in Riverside, Calif. There, Sky Geovanni won all three disciplines for Group A Boys, and the USA Diving Nationals represents his final Junior event as a member of the Diving Tigers.
He will move on to the college ranks at the University of Louisville.
His brother Jet also dove at AAU Nationals and will be diving in Tennessee.
Also with that dual distinction is young Anabelle Brooks, who is one of those first-time USA Diving National qualifiers in the 1-meter springboard.
“I’m really excited for her," said Moss Farms head coach John Fox.
“She’s starting to figure some things out in the pool. She worked pretty hard through the summer, and I'm hoping she gets some good fruit from that.
“It’s going to be one of those moments where she walks in and is like, ‘Wow, ronment.’ It will be interesting to see how she responds to that."
The other female first-time qualifier is Shannon Icard. She got her first taste of national-level diving at the AAU Red White and Blue meet held in Florida back in May. Icard was a winner there, and Fox said she's put up the scores that would indicate potential for a strong showing in Knoxville.
"It depends on what her mindset is, how she walks in there," said Fox, again referencing first-time jitters. "If she's awestruck by what's going on, she probably won't do so well. But if she has a reasonable expectation of what she's going to see, which I've tried to deliver to her, I think she can actually do well."
Icard will be in the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards, and Fox said it would be big for her to advance past the preliminary round into the semifinals, maybe even strive for the final round that determines the national champion.
As stated above, some divers are already semifinalists before they even leave Moultrie Saturday. Ruth Anne McCranie is one of those also referenced as having reached a new status in diving, that of High Performance. With that, she was diving for the first time as a member of Team USA in Europe earlier this year.
McCranie is in the semifinals of all three events (1-meter, 3-meter and platform) for USA Diving Nationals. Last year, when the meet was held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, she was in the preliminaries for 1-meter.
"She's strongest on the 3-meter," said Fox. "She's very competitive on the other two, but is strongest on the 3-meter. I'm really looking forward to coaching that event with her.
"Ruth Anne has aged up. Last year she was a Group C girl (12-13). Now she's a Group B girl (14-15), and she's the young age of that 14-15 group. I have a pretty high expectation for what she's going to be doing. I really want to see her put together a good list. She put together a very good list at the Zone B meet. I think if she puts together that list again, we're going to be really happy with what happens."
And the coach said McCranie wants to win this time around.
That's three girls from the Diving Tigers. There are five boys led by another new High Performance diver who placed third in 3-meters last season.
But first, the Geovanni brothers. Jet reached one USA Diving National semifinal in platform, but also is in the preliminary field for the springboards.
"He's best up on platform," said Fox. "It would be great to see him in the final on platform. It's going to be tough to get there. Those boys are pretty good. But he might be able to pull it out."
Older brother Sky will be in the preliminaries for all three events.
"I think Sky is the caliber diver to make it through on platform for certain," said Fox. "His goal is to make it through to the semifinals on all three. He has to have a really good day on 1-meter and 3-meter, but I think he can do it. I would like to see him in the finals on platform.
"Sky really wants to see his brother do well. He is going to set his brother up well. He really tries to lead his brother well. They want to have a good showing."
Bo Bridges is also no stranger to the USA Diving National scene. Having aged up this year like McCranie, he is already in the semifinals for 3-meter and platform but will also do 1-meter in preliminaries.
"Bo has really come into his own," said Fox. "He's a completely different diver than he was last year. The competition is pretty thick. I want him to go personal bests at nationals. If he does that on platform, he'll make it on to the final. If he goes personal best on 3-meter he might make the final. 1-meter is pretty tough. He's 13 competing against those 15-year-olds, and that's a big difference."
Nolan Lewis has YMCA national championships on is docket as well as a win at AAU Red White and Blue. He is in the semis on platform for Knoxville and preliminaries on springboards.
"I think he can final on platform if he has a good day," said Fox. "We've been training really hard on platform. It would be phenomenal for him."
That brings the story to Carson Tyler, High Performance diver and top 3 3-meter of a year ago. He wanted to win, but he was the first Diving Tiger on that podium since Ryan Helms in 2007.
"He has a lot of expectations on himself," said Fox. "He knows he can win. He's anxious about that. If he does his job, I think he'll do it. He's a competitor to win the gold. He has to get to the point where he's mature enough to keep his head. That's what we're working on."
Fox said if Tyler and McCranie win in Knoxville, they can make the USA Pan-American team. That meet is in Chile, and he said they want to go.
"And they want to keep their status as High Performance divers," said Fox. "You have to continue to perform well to stay on the USA Diving squad. Ruth Anne and Carson have set that standard for the rest of the team. Bo wants to be High Performance this year. He has to meet a certain score."
The University of Tennessee is host for USA Diving Nationals, and Fox raved on about this facility.
"It's a lot like Georgia," he said. "It's a dark bottom pool which makes it easy for the athletes to spot. It's one of my favorites in the country. It's a separate well, so it's not shared with the swimming team.
“It's pretty secluded and has great boards. It's one of the top indoor facilities in the country. Our kids are going to be set up to have a great meet."