Christensen, Bear River High's diving champion
November 21, 2008 | TREMONTON -- Standing at the back
of the diving board, focusing on the thin sheet of fiberglass
that separates her from the water, a million things
run through Dayna Christensen's mind.
Hitting the board just right to get the right spring,
making sure to keep her feet together while twisting
and turning through the air, and hitting the water just
right to keep her splash to a minimum are just a few
things that she thinks about as she stares out at the
crystal clear water.
"Usually, I'm just trying to think of all the things
I need to do right, or fix from the last dive I did,
just getting the right mechanics," she says.
"Or not dying," she adds, with a laugh.
But when the time comes to execute her dive, all of
those worries disappear, and Christensen jumps, flies,
flips and twists through the air, all while making it
look completely effortless. That power, grace and poise
have helped Christensen become one of the most decorated
athletes in Bear River High School history, winning
the last two 3A/4A/5A individual state diving titles
and playing a major role in three of the team's five
straight team state titles.
While reaching that level has required hours upon
hours of practice, and many sacrifices that have gone
along with that, Christensen says being a diver is who
"I just love to dive," she says. "I love meeting the
people when we go to compete, I love all the places
we go. I just love diving in general, it's what I do."
Diving has always been a big part of her life. Her
mom and current coach, Janet Christensen, was a college
diver, and older sister Lisa dove for the Bears also.
That pedigree helped her to develop a love for the sport
at an early age and a dedication to be the best.
"I wouldn't be the diver that I am without my mom,
because she pushed me a lot more than a coach who wasn't
my parent would have," she said.
Ever since Dayna joined the diving team as a freshman
in 2005, she's been setting, and subsequently breaking,
her own personal and school records with regularity.
Her latest came during this season's opening meet, where
she recorded a six-dive score of 280.1.
"It's pretty amazing to watch her," Janet said. "She's
just so focused on what she wants and she's always looking
in that direction and moving in that direction and she
just doesn't ever let up."
Christensen's talent immediately drew the attention
of a number of colleges. This past summer and fall,
she spent time either visiting or talking to representatives
from schools such as UCLA, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Kansas,
Arizona, Boston, Wisconsin and Columbia. She ultimately
made the decision to stick close to home and attend
BYU, where she felt she could find a balance with getting
the best education and diving training possible from
coach Keith Russell.
"I really think the coach there can get me to where
I want to go," Christensen said. "He's an incredible
coach. He's coached two Olympians, he went to the Olympics
himself, and he was the American judge in Beijing (at
the 2008 Summer Olympics). It's just the atmosphere
there, and he offered me a really good scholarship."
That scholarship is significant, given the fact that
those are rarities for incoming freshman who participate
in swimming and diving. Unlike sports like basketball
and football, less than half of the swimming and diving
team has a scholarship, as there are only 14.6 scholarships
available for an average 30-member team. Those are usually
taken by juniors and seniors who have been with the
program for a few years.
The fact that she was so heavily recruited and offered
a scholarship wasn't too much of a surprise for Janet,
however, as she's seen first hand how much Dayna has
progressed throughout the years.
"She's always been strong, that's always been her
best asset, but she's had more of a problem with getting
dives lined up and clean," Janet said. "She's made a
lot of progress with that over the years."
For this season, Christensen said she'll remain focused
on improving her own dives and scores and helping her
team to what she hopes will be a sixth straight state
"I want to do better every time, I want to increase
my score," she said. "You really do need the support
from your team. If you don't have the support from them,
it's really hard to progress because you don't have
people to push you to learn new dives or get better."
That positive attitude, combined with her competitive
nature to be the best at her sport, will likely carry
her to another state title, a successful college career,
and maybe beyond. According to Janet, that's totally
up to how good Dayna wants to be.
"If she decides to do something, she'll do it," Janet