Megan Remillard ’16 joined the Ladies swim and dive team on a whim. Without any prior diving experience, Remillard walked onto the team as a first year back in 2012. Four years later, the dive team’s tradition of walk-ons continues as the program works to solidify its place beside the record-holding swimming program.
“Almost half the team is walk-ons” Remillard said. “We contribute just as much.”
As a first year, Remillard took a lifeguarding certification class under Andy Scott, Kenyon’s new diving coach at the time. Diving had always fascinated Remillard, as she grew up a swimmer, watching the divers practice on the trampoline at her pool.
While taken by their grace, Remillard never pictured herself as a diver. “I thought it was like gymnastics where you have to start when you’re very little or just out of the womb,” Remillard said. She did not consider taking up diving until she saw Maria Zarka ’16 practicing her dives during their freshman year. “I was just like, wow, that looks awesome.”
Soon after, Remillard approached Scott about joining the team. Scott was pleased by her interest in the sport since all of his recruits but Zarka had decided not to dive. In response, Remillard recruited her hallmate, Emily Bulik-Sullivan ’16, to join them. Brandon Roman ’16, a diver since the fifth grade, quickly rounded out the team to create Kenyon’s most consistent diving program up to that point.
Now, three years later, history is repeating itself.
This fall rock climber Isaac Hager ’19 moved into Lewis, unsure of which extracurriculars he would join at Kenyon. Then, like Bulik-Sullivan before him, he met a hallmate, Ryder Sammons ’19, who convinced him to join the dive team. Sammons, who has been diving for over 10 years, saw Hager as a strong candidate for the dive team due to his past athletic experience, and Scott agreed.
Josh Yuen-Schat ’18 is the second walk-on to join the dive team this year. In fact, Zarka is the only team member back from last year. With Yuen-Schat, Sammons and Hager join Roman and Remillard, who are both back from a year abroad at Exeter University. The group also includes two new first-year divers, Madeline Carlson and Frances Anderson Bicknell.
Right on track with Scott’s goal to have between eight and 10 divers, the new team is brimming with potential. Since joining, Sammons has taken first on the 1-meter board twice, and the 3-meter board once. Additionally, Carlson, Roman and Zarka have already scored high enough to advance to the Regional Championships this February in Granville, with Sammons not far behind.
According to Scott, divers have to possess a certain edge and willingness to confront danger. “What we do is a unique sport,” Scott said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s kind of scary, too. …There’s got to be a bit of a wild side but you’ve got to have grace and power.”
The current dive team does actively searches for Kenyon students with a background in gymnastics, ballet and swimming to join their group — but potential new members also need to have a certain sort of toughness. Sometimes that toughness is pushed to its limits, as with Bulik-Sullivan, who retired her sophomore year after a concussion.
“We’ve had a lot of people come and go,” Remillard said. “Diving is a huge commitment, but it’s like there are all these lost family members wandering campus.” Members who left the team, and even those who suffered injuries from their time with the program, still come back to the dive meets as scorers and fans.
As a coach, Scott understands diving is not for everyone. “I want them to have a full experience here at college,” he said. He was the 2013 NCAA Division III women’s diving coach of the year. “They should learn how to set goals, take risks, trust one another and trust themselves.”
Scott, who has coached at the Division I, II and III levels in diving, dove at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas and was named 1-meter and 3-meter National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American diver in 1997. As a coach, he feels at home at the small-college level and believes in balance in life —Scott wants his athletes to have the same mentality he does: they should dedicate themselves to the sport, but ultimately have a life outside of it as well.
One of the team’s most successful divers, Zarka, has done just this, balancing her international diving career with Kenyon academics. Recently Zarka placed seventh in the Oceania Games in Australia, where she dove for her mother’s homeland, the Kingdom of Tonga.
Remillard is not surprised by the team’s recent success. “The team seems to be a lot more steady and a lot more stable than it has been in previous years,” Remillard said. “I have great feelings that all of the freshmen and sophomores, all the underclassmen, are going to come back next year and that’s all I really care about as a senior.”