Double trouble: Darien divers Stevens, Schmidt take top two spots in Class L
About eight years ago, on the same day in 2010 in fact, Darien’s Owen Stevens and Wiley Schmidt joined the Whirlwind Diving team and began a friendly, and competitive, rivalry.
For the past four years, the Darien Blue Wave has been reaping the benefits.
Now seniors, Stevens and Schmidt were the toast of the town last Friday as they finished as the top two divers in the CIAC Class L championships at Middletown High School. Stevens earned the gold medal with a score of 500.25, while Schmidt took the silver medal with a score of 489.30.
The Blue Wave’s dynamic diving duo was calm and collected throughout the meet, and finished more than 50 points ahead of the rest of the field. New Canaan’s James Ragusa, a sophomore, had a solid meet and was third with a score of 431.10.
“I felt really good,” Stevens said. “All of my diving since 2010 was leading up to this moment, especially in my high school career. It was my last Class L championships as a senior, so it felt really good to crack the 500, and that’s a goal I’ve been trying to meet for a long time.”
“It was definitely a culminating moment for me,” Schmidty said. “All the training over the past couple of years have been leading up to this final at states. Although I didn’t break 500 at states, I’m hoping to get there at the Opens next week. That would be awesome.”
The state meets, which feature 11 dives and, in this case, 23 divers, are long competitions, but head coach Adam Vance said the two Blue Wave athletes had a great approach.
“They both had a great meet,” Vance said. “They were confident going into the meet and they were really consistent, which is something mentally we had work on — knowing it was an 11-dive meet, knowing who the competitors were, and knowing what dives other competitors were going to be doing.”
In Stevens’ case, Vance said the lineup was designed to build confidence as the meet went along, and the plan worked perfectly.
“We switched around Owen’s list a little bit, so he could be a little more confident in the first five dives,” Vance said. “Just to help him ease into it a little better, and I think that helped him. He was very consistent.”
For his part, Stevens wasn’t paying attention to the score, but focused on each dive as it came.
“I didn’t really think about it that much — I tried more to focus on the actual dives and being consistent,” Stevens said. “It was really something that was in my mind, it was just I’m going to do the best I can and whatever the outcome is, that’s what it is. But it was definitely rewarding to get over 500.”
Schmidt and Stevens have been part of the highly-successful Whirlwind Diving team for nearly eight years, and having each other on that team, as well as the Blue Wave roster, has helped them push on to greater heights.
“That’s a huge component for them,” Vance said. “Their competition level just raises up that much more. At the state class meet, they also had some of the New Canaan divers pushing them so they would stay ahead.”
“It’s really nice having a good friendly competition because we’ve been diving with each other for six or seven years now, side by side,” Schmidt said. “The competition pretty much goes back and forth and it’s always friendly.
“We both started on the same day in 2010 and we’ve been diving together ever since — same coaches, same team, both in high school and club,” Stevens said. “It’s always been great to have a competitor like that with you because he pushes me to do the best I can every meet and I think I do the same for him. It’s really good competition, we’re really good friends and I’m really thankful that he’s been here throughout the years.”
The performance of Stevens and Schmidt goes beyond the diving boards as they’ve delivered a lot of points to the Wave’s swimming and diving team, which is in good position to win the Class L championship on Wednesday night at Wesleyan University.
If Darien is able to nail down the state title, it will be the team’s first CIAC championship since the Wave won Class S in 2001.
“That’s been our teams goal since I was a freshman — win the state Class L championship,” Stevens said. “This year, I think we have our best chance yet. Wiley and I finished strong in diving and under our new swim coach, Liz Blau, the swimmers have been working really hard every single day. I don’t think we’ve ever been in better shape before.”
On Thursday, Stevens and Schmidt will represent the Blue Wave one final time, as they compete at the State Open at Bulkeley High School.
“I’m excited to compete again,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to compete against people we didn’t compete against in Class L, like Greenwich and Norwalk and those are powerful diving schools too. We’re going to get to see them and I’m excited to compete against those kinds of divers. We’ll do the best we can.”
After that, the two Wave stars will look forward to continuing their careers in college, as Stevens joins the Yale Bulldogs, and Wiley will dive at Florida Atlantic University.
“It’s nice to see all their high school hard work pay off, and they’re both going off to college next year and to me, as a coach, that’s the biggest thing for them,” Vance said. “The diving helped them get into the colleges of their dreams. It’s really fun as a coach to see them want to continue on with their diving after they’ve been so successful here in Fairfield County.”