BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Holli Torok remembers when she switched from swimming to diving.
“I was 7. All I wanted to do was go on the blocks,” she said, referring to the diving platforms. “I liked the adrenaline. It was more dangerous than other sports. It was more fun that way.”
In the 10 years since, the Anthony Wayne High School senior has earned plenty of awards. In 2023 alone, she broke the high school’s six-dive record, placed second at districts and took eighth place in the Division I state championships. Torok has qualified for states every year, and she’s qualified and placed nationally for Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and USA Diving nationals.
Earlier this month, Torok learned that she received the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA) All America Diving award. She was chosen based on a video compilation made from her 1-meter dives – those made off a 3.3-foot high board – during the February 2023 state competition.
“You have to be the correct distance from the board and have good form,” she said of those dives. “It just has to look nice.”
While it was the 1-meter dives that earned her the All America title, Torok said she prefers the 7-meter and 10-meter platforms. Her favorite dive is a handstand off the 7-meter.
“You kick into a handstand, fall, pike and go hands first,” she said of the dive.
The reverse one-and-a-half is also a favorite, starting forward and flipping backward. Acing this more challenging dive has helped with her ranking.
Trying new dives can be scary, she admits. Divers can practice their technique with a diving board and a thick mat, or do lead-up moves before making more difficult dives in the water, but there’s really no preparation like jumping in.
“You just have to hope and trust yourself. Trying new dives can be scary, but usually it’s pretty fun,” she said. “With a reverse dive, you just have to go for it.”
Having a background in gymnastics certainly helped Torok in diving.
“It’s good for air awareness and getting over mental blocks of certain things,” she said.
As she teaches kids ages 6 to 11 how to dive, Torok recalls her own first attempts at diving. Plus, her mom, Karen, has it all on video.
“I did not see potential in those videos,” she laughed. “As I got older, I saw myself progress and have more of a passion for the sport and not just a thing I did for fun.”
Without a nearby pool suitable for diving practice, Torok traveled to the University of Michigan as a member of the Wolverine Diving Club. During the high school season, she would practice from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Napoleon High School and then head to club practice until 9:00 p.m.
Torok and Gillian Yoder are the only divers on the high school team. They practice separately but come together with the rest of the team for meets.
This summer, Torok decided to take a break from club diving in order to go to Alaska with her family and just relax before her senior year. It also gave her hair and skin, which can get dried out from all the chlorine, a nice rest as well.
With the season starting at the end of October, Torok plans to join another club soon and enjoy her final season as a member of the high school team.
“Diving is a big part of my life and I prioritize it over a lot of other things, like hanging out with friends or going to football games, but I also know that I need to have a balance in my life,” she said.
Her schedule is pretty packed even without diving. She takes two classes at the high school every morning – architectural drafting and design and French 5 – then heads to Bowling Green State University, where she’s taking afternoon classes in architecture and physics. She also participates in a few youth groups during the week.
Torok plans to study architecture in college, but she hasn’t decided whether she will participate in diving at the collegiate level.
“I need to decide if that commitment is right for me or if I should take some time to breathe in college. If I don’t do college diving, I will do club diving. It’s not getting dropped off the face of the earth,” she said.
No matter what her decision is, Torok’s diving career will be remembered at Anthony Wayne High School, where she’ll have a plaque on the wall for her record.