A brand new twist

GREENFIELD — She was just having some fun.

Shyanne Milne was standing near the pool at Greenfield-Central, talking with some friends, when she decided to give diving a whirl.

She climbed the steps, walked across the platform, sprung off the board, corkscrewed through the air and descended gracefully into the water.

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She had barely emerged from the pool before a voice shouted, “Do that again!”

The words belonged to Emily Logan, the Greenfield-Central physical education teacher and girls swimming coach.

Milne complied, but this time Logan made sure she would not be the only one to see what the veteran coach could hardly believe.

As the slender then-15-year-old approached the diving board again, Logan pulled out her phone and recorded Milne’s second plunge into the pool.

She saved the recording and immediately sent it to Duane Knecht, the Cougars’ diving coach.

“Who was that?” Knecht responded to Logan.

“That was the new diver I’m about to recruit,” she said.

Fast-forward almost two years, and Milne, now a sophomore and the school-record holder for 11 dives in the 1-meter event (403.6), is on the threshold of competing in her first diving state championship. And it almost didn’t happen.

Despite her eye-catching performance during the summer prior to her freshman year, and Logan’s strong pitch about joining the team, Milne was a no-show on the first day of practice.

“I was a gymnast,” said Milne, who finished fourth at the diving regional Tuesday to qualify for the state finals, Saturday at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI in downtown Indianapolis. “I thought it was nice of her to ask me, but I wasn’t that interested, and I didn’t think she was serious.”

Wrong. Logan tracked the freshman down one day during school and again implored Milne to join her team.

This time, Milne seriously considered the offer.

Diving, she thought, would present an acrobatic alternative to gymnastics, which was beginning to take its toll on her.

Throughout her 13-year gymnastics career, Milne had dealt with several injuries, including a broken foot and a hyper-extended elbow that caused her to have to wear a brace over it 24/7.

Milne decided the best course of action would be to protect her increasingly aching body. She was going to give up gymnastics.

It was an emotional decision for her. Withdrawing from the sport she had dedicated her life to was not easy. But it was what needed to be done.

“I wanted to do what was easier for my body. I didn’t want to be in that much pain all of the time,” said Milne. “(Diving) might not have been what I wanted to do. When I first started, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.”

It took a few weeks after Logan approached her in the hall, but Milne eventually began attending Cougars practices.

Since then, she has flourished. In less than two full seasons, she went from not knowing “how to jump in the water without holding my nose” to one of the top divers in the state.

The quick transition can be attributed, Milne said, to her gymnastics background.

“I already had the ability to fly through the air and know where I’m at,” said Milne. “When you dive you have to know where you’re at, no matter what dive you’re doing. I also did a lot of twisting and somersaulting in gymnastics … and doing that is a lot easier off the board because I have the (3 feet), instead of doing it off the flat ground.”

Knecht, who dove at Ball State and has been teaching the sport for 15 years, explained that much of the macro and even some of the micro aspects of gymnastics lend themselves to diving.

Most gymnasts, including Milne, he said, are more graceful than the average person. She was a fast learner, because she had come from a disciplined background of somersaulting, twisting, toe-pointing and balance.

It did not all come easy, though. Milne’s gymnastics background provided advantages, but it also presented the biggest hurdle of her short diving career: the reverse dive.

A reverse dive — a plunge in which the competitor enters the water head first — is not something a gymnast would naturally know how to do.

“I was terrified I would come back and land on the board,” Milne said. “I worked on those for weeks, but I still wouldn’t do them. … I had to skip competitions last year because I wouldn’t do them. It frustrated (Knecht).”

It took at least two months, Milne said, but eventually she was able to push the fear out of her mind and complete the dive.

Funny enough, since then, fearlessness has become Milne’s greatest strength.

“She’s a completely different diver than she was last year,” Knecht said. “She’ll try anything now. That’s kind of her way of leading. When I say, ‘Hey let’s do this dive or that one,’ she’s usually the first one to do it.”

That fearlessness also shapes the way she competes. She is not afraid to lose.

When speaking of the state finals Saturday, Milne was appreciative.

“People need to understand, sports are not just about winning,” she said. “It’s about the people you meet and the opportunity you have to compete. There are people out there who can’t do things like this, and they wish they could. Just having the privilege to be able to do a sport is really, really great.

“So I don’t have big expectations for Saturday. I’m just excited that I’m a sophomore, and I get to go to the state meet and have that experience. That’s all I want, just the experience. I could finish in last and still be happy.”

Shyanne Milne

Name: Shyanne Milne

School: Greenfield-Central

Hometown: Greenfield

Age: 16

Grade: Sophomore

Favorite dive: “My favorite dives are my back dives. They are not really hard, but they are not really easy. Technique means a lot in it.”

Girls Swimming and Diving State Finals

The 2014-15 Swimming and Diving State Finals

When: 6 p.m. today (swimming prelims); 9 a.m. Saturday (diving prelims and semis), 1 p.m. Saturday (consolations and finals for all events).

Where: Indiana University Natatorium ay IUPUI

Local competitors (including alternates): Greenfield-Central’s Krista Zornes, Kortney Hodnett, Shyanne Milne; Mt. Vernon’s Lydia Tierney, Gloria Gonzales, Samantha Case, Samantha Gawrys, Anne Marie Keeler, Riley Chambers, Haley Moore, Jennah Ruddick and Laura Tyndall.

Webstream: Saturday’s championship and consolation finals will be streamed live at IHSAAtv.org beginning at 1 p.m.

Advancement: The top 16 in each swimming event during today’s prelims will return for competition Saturday, with the top eight individuals vying for state championship honors. Those finishing nine through 16 today will make up the competitors in the consolation heats. All diving will take place Saturday, with the top 20 of 32 competitors advancing from the prelims to the semis after five dives each. After three dives each in the semis, the top 16 will advance to the final round for another three dives each.