LH diver captures state championship
PEARCY — Winning a state championship is no easy task in any sport.
Winning state in swim and dive is no exception, but to win state in swim and dive when you do not have your own pool is exceptional.
Lake Hamilton’s Coby Qualls captured the Class 5A state diving championship Feb. 24.
“It is an issue that a lot of the other schools we compete against in swim and dive have the luxury of their own pool,” Lake Hamilton dive coach Karen Smith said. “Having their own pool available so that they can swim and dive on a regular basis.”
For diving, the Water Wolves must travel to Henderson State University and use the Reddies’ facility to practice.
“We have to drive there every Wednesday,” Smith said. “It’s what we have done for the past two years now. We practice on Wednesdays because most of our meets are on Thursdays. At least we will get a good dive in before we go compete.”
Lake Hamilton is in its second season having a diving team.
“You can tell our kids look like lake divers,” Smith joked. “They all push off the board instead of jump off the board. They are all used to doing flips and stuff off decks and boats on the lakes. When we first started we had to learn how to jump off a springboard because they are lake divers. They are used to something solid.”
Qualls was a conference champion and state runner-up last season.
“In our first year with one day a week to practice,” Smith said, “a lot of people are shocked when I tell them that.”
In the meet, divers are required to perform six different dives. The competition amps up for state meets. The number of dives shoots up to 11.
“There are five different types of dives,” Smith said. “There is forward flips, backward flips, twist and other different ones. When you go to state you have to do two of the forward flips, two somersaults and they have to be different.”
Qualls made school history, becoming the first diving state champ for the Water Wolves.
“He dove really well,” Smith said. “It was really fun. Coby is a young man who is really committed to what he is doing. The best way I can sum up Coby and his work ethic is when he got his state championship this year, it just brought him to tears. I think he was so surprised, even though he should not have been that we actually got first place. He kept saying, ‘We did it.’”
Qualls also won the 5A-South conference championship for the second year in a row.
Lake Hamilton freshman diver Haddie Heard finished fourth in the 5A state championship. Heard won the 5A-South conference championship.
“This was her first year,” Smith said. “She was addicted after she learned how to do her dives. She really likes it and I expect for her to do well. I think at state she was just nervous as a freshman competing against all of those ladies. She has three years left and she can dive. She is a beautiful diver.”
Mac Hurley is in his fourth year as the head coach for the Lake Hamilton swim team. Lake Hamilton, Lakeside and Hot Springs all share the pool at the YMCA in Hot Springs for their swim practices.
“On the swim team there were 24 swimmers,” Hurley said, “boys and girls combined.”
The Water Wolves won third place overall honors at the state tournament Feb. 25.
“We got third behind Batesville who won state and Russellville got second,” Hurley said. “It was close. Batesville scored 319, Russellville scored 259 and we scored 238. That is the swimming scores for the meet.
“The relays are team, and there are individual events, but you try to score points depending on where you place. They take the top 16 finishers and they score them 20 points and lower. In relays the points are doubled, so the winners would get 40 points.”
In the men’s 200 medley relay, the Water Wolves snagged a third place finish with a personal record of 1:50.96. Coby Qualls, Aidan Qualls, Colten Barentine and Hunter Maron teamed up.
“Everybody as a whole did well,” Hurley said. “Hunter was our last leg, which is usually your fastest swimmer. Getting third there was big. Hunter has tons of potential and he has been a pleasant surprise.”
Coby and Aidan Qualls are cousins with a knack for water sports.
Aidan Qualls finished second in the men’s 500 freestyle, posting a 5:18.38 time.
“Aidan would be one that could swim in college,” Hurley said. “He is going to the University of Arkansas and is going to just enjoy his college life.”
There are 24 total events at the state swim and dive meet.
“We have been pretty competitive,” Hurley said. “We do not have the number of kids that we need. If we had another 10 kids we would be one of the best with Batesville and Russellville. We have few kids but we have quality. I am just proud to death for our kids, and they compete so well with these larger schools.”