Posted by Andrew Shi
Doug Pilawa '12 will be Skidmore's first male diver to compete in the NCAA Division III Championship when he dives into the pool at Indiana University on March 21. "It was always my goal to go to nationals," said Pilawa on the dream he formulated four years ago during his freshman year.
It was his freshman year in high school, however, when Pilawa first began diving at Notre Dame Cathedral Latin in Chardon, Ohio. "I began diving on a whim, just as something I might like," Pilawa said. That whim grew into a lifestyle as Pilawa left high school for Skidmore as a three-time district qualifier for diving.
Entering college competition, Pilawa was already proficient in the one-meter, which means diving from a board one meter from the surface of the pool. He realized, though, that whereas high school only demands diving from the one-meter, college requires proficiency in the 1, and 3-meter. "I came into my first year with a good set of dives for the 1-meter but had to spend much more time on the 3 meter," Pilawa said.
The set of dives to which Pilawa refers are variations of the five categories of diving: front, back, inward, reverse and twisting. "Twisting is the hardest to learn and there are different degrees of difficulty to twisting. I spent a lot of time working on my twisting, though and it paid off," Pilawa said. He now considers twisting his strongest category of diving. However he believes the reverse, which requires intricate flips in mid-air, is his weakest.
"I might spend a little more time on my dives that I think need work, but I generally practice two to three times for each dive of the eleven," Pilawa said. Whereas in normal college competitions, including the UNYSCSA Championships, each diver performs six dives, in the NCAA Championships , divers are required to perform eleven. "I'll spend about two and half hours each day in the pool practicing," Pilawa said. That's two and a half hours running through 66 dives.
Pilawa says that diving has defined him. During the fall, when the diving season hadn't yet fully kicked off, Pilawa was the assistant coach for the Saratoga Springs' women's swimming and diving team. After college, Pilawa hopes to continue coaching. "I really enjoy being in the pool; it's a fantastic environment and the diving community is just fantastic," Pilawa said. "It's scary to think that this will be my last competition."
However, Pilawa says that the pressure is off for this last competition, since he has finally reached his goal of attending nationals. "During the UNYSCSA Championships there was a lot of pressure, and it was very stressful. I felt I had to prove myself, but now I'm just looking to have fun," Pilawa said.
Pilawa is entering the NCAA Championship as the fourth ranked diver in the nation. Over the past season he has been the Liberty League diver of the week four times, and Liberty League co-diver of the week five times. He has gone undefeated during the season, going 16-0, and broken the Skidmore, UNYSCSA meet and association records for the 3-meter with a hefty score of 574.05 points.
"I do want to make All-American, which requires me placing at least No.16 (out of 22) in the competition," said Pilawa, already reaching for a new goal. " But I'm just honored to be the first male from the diving team, and getting Skidmore's diving program on the map."
Despite having spent the last eight years of his life competitively diving, Pilawa says he's ready for a break. "I'm going to take a nice vacation from diving — it's so mental, and incurs so much mental and emotional fatigue."
Pilawa plans on moving to Paris next year, where he spent his junior year studying French — one of his two majors, the other being English. "Afterwards I hope to attend graduate school for English, and one day become a professor," Pilawa said. That day is still a long way off, however, and for now, Pilawa just has his mind on the Championship.
The NCAA Division III Championship meet will be held March 21-24 at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.