Central pair dives right into winter sport

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

After a long, physical and successful football season, Central's Jeremiah Dukes and David Hammond haven't exactly been settling into a warm Jacuzzi for the winter.

While they have been spending time in the water, they haven't been gently slipping in.

The Central seniors joined the Tiger swimming team for the first time and, as novice divers, have been taking lessons in the school of hard splashes.

What have they learned so far?

"I know if you don't land right it hurts," said Dukes, a hard-hitting all-state linebacker. "I've taken some spills that hurt worse than football."

On the other hand, it's good that water doesn't feel pain or bruise easily.

Dukes weighs in at 210 pounds, while Hammond, an offensive guard and linebacker in football, is a solid 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds.

"Muscles help you get higher, but they make the splash bigger," Hammond noted.

The pair has learned to keep their splashing to a minimum while picking up valuable points for the Tigers.

Today, they'll put their blossoming skills against Notre Dame junior John Stoverink in a dual meet at Central Municipal Pool. The Tigers will look to avenge a five-point loss suffered earlier this season to Notre Dame, whose victory over Central was a first in the program's three-year history.

Stoverink, unbeaten in his first 10 competitions before placing second to a diver from Vianney on Saturday, also looks like he could do some harm on a football field at 6-foot and 195 pounds. He's been diving since his freshman year and splits his time with swimming events.

The three share the board, water and advice at practices at the Central Pool, the home for both teams. Dukes and Hammond also share a kamikaze attitude.

"That's one of the things I've learned from these guys -- they're fearless," Stoverink said. "They'll get up there and try a dive. It's really pushed me to try harder dives because they are. They're not scared of messing up at all, so I've got to get up there and do it too."

"I guess we get that from football," Dukes said. "We just go off the board and try anything. I think that's why I've got such a high difficulty now."

Degree of difficulty multiplies a judge's score. The higher the difficulty, the bigger the multiplier and the point potential of a dive. Dukes and Hammond have pushed the difficulty of their six-dive routine to over 12.0 -- a minimum requirement for state -- while Stoverink pushed his total to 12.0 in his loss.

While wanting to better each other today, all three divers are striving to make the state-cut score of 215. Stoverink has a season-high score of 197.25, while Hammond and Dukes recently upped their bests to 183 and 161, respectively.

"I've been impressed with how quickly they've gotten a handle on things," Stoverink said. "I've never seen anyone learn so quickly, especially Hammond. He looks like he's been diving as long as I have. The fact he can pull all these high degree of difficulty, I wouldn't be surprised if I see him at state."

Stoverink smiled as his assumption and quickly amended it.

"I hope I'll see myself at state."

Hammond, whose degree of difficulty has reached as high as 13.4, smiles too at such talk. He and Dukes have been surprised by their after-football adventure.

"It was a joke at first, but I take it a lot more serious now," Hammond said. "We both wish we would have started earlier."

Tiger junior punter Clay Schermann, who swam for Central as a sophomore, takes credit for pushing Dukes into the pool. Then Dukes pulled Hammond into the pool with him.

"They've done pretty good for the first year," Schermann said. "I didn't think they'd take it this serious. I thought they'd come out and do a couple laps and that'd be about it."

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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