Diving standout Tara Hyer helps Academy of the Holy Names hold on to its winning attitude.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2002
TAMPA -- As a freshman, Tara Hyer became part of a winning program at Academy of the Holy Names. Now a junior, Hyer never experienced the bad seasons the Jaguars went through for more than two decades.
Making the changeover in the program was former Plant state champion and Florida State scholarship swimmer, Mara Toole. Although Toole turned the program around, Hyer has been one of the athletes to help implement the winning attitude and she doesn't even swim.
Hyer, 17, is a diver and high school All-American as a freshman and sophomore. Last year she placed third in the Class A, state meet.
"My older brothers started me in diving in New York when I was 8," Hyer said. "We moved to Tampa when I was 11 and I have continued in the sport."
Hyer trains for two hours, six days a week. She trained two years with Joe Greenwell, coach of the Jetstream Dive Team in Brandon and two years with Barry Thomas in Tampa, both top diving coaches in the state.
Now, she's back with the Jetstream.
Although Toole has no experience diving, she recognizes and respects Hyer's exceptional talent.
"Tara is a valuable member of our team," Toole said. "Not only is she very talented, she is one of our most consistent point-makers.
"The fact that she is an All-American gets the attention of new students at the school and attracts more swimmers. People are amazed how she nails even the most difficult dives. The team is proud of her All-American status."
In addition to her skills on the diving board, Toole says Hyer is an excellent scholar.
While training with the Jetstream, Hyer says diving is serious and hard work. Her hard work paid off last summer with several gold medals in big meets, plus a qualification to the Senior National Championships in California.
She says she didn't place in the top 10 at the senior nationals, but is working to achieve that next summer.
High school diving competition is limited to the 1-meter springboard, but Hyer does better in national competition on the 3- and 10-meter boards.
Hyer says she is motivated by the attitude of her team.
"We are still a young team with only four seniors, but we have a lot of talented swimmers," she said. "We won the City Relays the last two years and were district champs last year.
"This year we want to win district again and get a lot of swimmers to the state meet. We want to do well when we get there."