Aimee Harrison has been named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s 2014 diver of the year — for the second season in a row.
The 19-year-old Oak Park High School graduate is currently living in Honolulu, Hawaii, attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa on a diving scholarship and working on a degree in psychology. Hawaii’s sports teams compete in the MPSF, a Division 1 conference of the National Collegiate Athletics Association in the U.S.
Harrison plunged into the world of diving in 2010. Prior to that, she’d been a nationally ranked gymnast. At the suggestion of a friend, she attended a diving summer camp and ended up enjoying herself. Still, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to commit herself to the sport. Eventually, she decided to dive with the Pan Am Diving Club for a year.
"The transition (from gymnastics to diving) was pretty easy, to be honest," Harrison said. "It’s a lot of the same movements, with the twisting and moving."
Manitoba Regional Diving Centre head coach Dallas Ludwick said although Harrison hasn’t been diving for a long time, she earned the diver of the year titles for her strength and determination.
"She is physically very strong and very powerful, so it didn’t take as long to build up the strength required to learn the difficult dives," Ludwick said. "She’s also incredibly task-focused. If I ask her to make a correction, she’ll try to improve with each attempt. That’s the difference (between her and other divers.)"
Harrison said she earned her scholarship to the University of Hawaii at Manoa by taking the initiative to approach a renowned diving coach.
"I was actually at my (Winter) senior nationals in Victoria (in December of 2011), and Mike Brown (Hawaii’s head diving coach) was there, watching and recruiting," Harrison recalled.
"I confronted him and said, ‘I don’t know if you’re interested at looking for new divers, here’s my information, send me an email after the meet if you’re interested’, and it went from there. He emailed me and we’ve been in contact ever since."
Harrison is ecstatic about being named diver of the year again, but she said the honour comes with a lot of hard work.
"It feels really good," Harrison said. "It takes a lot of commitment and hard work. I’m at the pool six days a week, and not every day’s a good day. You really have to keep pushing yourself."
During those not-so-good days, it doesn’t help that Harrison is on the other side of the world away from her friends and family.
"I get homesick all the time," Harrison said. "I miss my family and my friends and everybody so much but it’s nice to know they really support me out here."
However, there are definitely perks to living in Hawaii — especially during Winnipeg’s deep freeze.
"I can go to the beach and relax, any day, pretty much," Harrison said. "It’s just a very relaxed place. People are very happy and they’re very in touch with nature."
Harrison plans to finish school in two years. After that, she would like to return to Canada to continue diving.
In the near future, Harrison will be returning to Winnipeg to compete at the 2014 Canadian Summer Senior Nationals, May 15 to 18 at the Pan Am Pool (25 Poseidon Bay).
She will be competing for a spot to represent Team Canada at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.