American River divers James Kent and Zach Yokoyama hope to leave their mark on the state championships.
Competing for a championship is an improbable task for most athletes. Discipline and repetition are not agents of control, but tools to mitigate the unpredictable. However, for the American River College diving team, elite performance is not something that’s hoped for, it’s something that’s counted upon.
“It’s definitely a weight on my shoulders. People expect me to go to state,” said James Kent, a member of the men’s diving team. “ I think I will, but it’s just that added pressure when I go to NorCal’s and [while] I’m competing against other people, I have it in the back of my mind that I have to get to state.”
The elevated expectations are not exclusive to competition. Although the divers perform individually, there is a strong chemistry among the team that requires its top performers to assume leadership mentoring roles. These roles have kept both Kent and his teammate Zach Yokoyama accountable to their results.
“I’m kind of nervous because everyone’s expecting me to make states,” Yokoyama said. “I just don’t want to let them down.”
Kent feels a similar dynamic with his teammates and is very conscious of how it affects his kinship with the other divers.
“We don’t have captains in diving, but we’re definitely two of the bigger presences,” Kent said.
Though the added pressure may seem like a burden, Kent and Yokoyama have used it as a muse.
“It makes me work as hard as I can to improve and show [that the expectations are reasonable] in state,” Yokoyama said.
Yokoyama has proven himself among the elite for several years now. During his high school career, he was selected by ARC head diving coach Dede Crayne to compete on a Junior Olympic team. The two have developed a rapport to which Yokoyama attributes much of his success.
“I’ve been with Dede since my freshman year in high school,” Yokoyama said. “I started off as a beginner, and I’ve gotten better increasingly working with her. Her coaching is tremendous.”
Crayne has seen a lot of effort from Yokoyama and is impressed by his steady improvement.
“Zach has really stuck with it over the years,” Crayne said. “In diving, you’re gonna plateau and then have seasons of improvement. He’s maintaining that improvement and I’ll expect some more upswing as he keeps sticking with it.”
State competition is scheduled to begin on Thursday, April 25, at East LA College. Crayne is not surprised by her diver’s strong chances of being there.
“They’re pretty much just doing what I expected,” Crayne said. “I was thinking [before the season] that Zach could be a state champion.”