At San Luis Obispo High School, two senior divers will enter CIF state with a chance to make history for the school. However, both will enter with very different experience levels in the sport.
Julia Bellardo just picked up the sport this season and has quickly caught on winning league and placing second at the CIF Central Section meet May 6 at Clovis West High School.
“I was talking to her recently and she talked about leaving the country to go to school and I asked her why she decided to do that and she said because I like being pushed out of my comfort zone," SLO High's Springboard Dive Coach Jerry Damron said of an exchange they had earlier in the season. "That's why we're such a good match.”
Luckily for Bellardo, her background is in gymnastics and acrobatics which as one could imagine, greatly helped with the transition to diving.
“I came in knowing like how to flip and knowing where my body was in the air," Bellardo explained. "I had a much easier time getting the dives coming from my gymnastics background than if I had just started with no gymnastics background.”
Justin Dolezal on the other hand is a one of a kind talent that coach Jerry Damron knew to be special back when he coached Cal Poly’s Dive team.
“When I was at Cal Poly, he was the first person I recruited, brought in on scholarship,” Damron said. "He is just amazing."
With a light-hearted, silly nature in his approach to the springboard, Dolezal is one of the most talented kids in the area and with first place finishes in league and the Central Section there is no mistaking just how dialed in he is ahead of his final high school meet.
“I don't worry about the competition," Dolezal said honestly. "I just focus on jumping big and flipping.”
Ahead of state, for Bellardo, her only regret is that she didn’t take up the sport earlier.
“The only regret is not starting sooner because I would have had so much fun being able to do this last year. I think this year I'd be even better.”
For Dolezal, it’s a chance to revel in the hard work it took to get to this point.
“So it's really just awesome that we can make it and it just means all the hard work paid off.”
For Coach Damron, he just wants it to be a memorable experience for his divers regardless of the outcome.
“I'm not necessarily coaching these kids to win and bring home championships and podium places but to have fun. They're going to remember this experience and the fun that they had along the way, way longer than they're going to remember the scores of the meet’s.”
While Dolezal will dive for Cal Poly next year, Bellardo will travel across the pond and study computer science at Oxford.