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Looking down is looking up for Granite Bay platform diver

McKenna Long wins gold at World Masters Championships in Italy
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Walking, simply putting the left front in front of the right, seems to take McKenna Long to new heights.

Having left behind Granite Bay High School and four years of diving in 2002, she was walking by the pool at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo one day when she heard the rattle of springboards. Long walked in, introduced herself to the coach and spent the next three years on the team.

Having returned home after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture, Long dropped by the pool at Oakmont one night about three years ago while Mike Brown, diving coach to one and all in Roseville, was running his high school teams through a practice.

Brown brought on Long as an assistant coach, introduced her to masters diving and the platform, and in June, Long won a gold medal at the 14th annual FINA World Masters Championships in Riccione, Italy.

Representing Brown’s Dos Rios Divers, Long also earned a bronze medal in the 3-meter springboard and finished fifth in the 1-meter springboard in the women’s 25-29 age group.

Long, 28, described platform diving as “a little nerve-racking,” but she likes it. Doing an arm stand at the edge of a platform 5, 7½ or 10 meters up could be a bit chilling, yes.

“It’s scary because you can see down through your hands, the water below,” Long said. “I’m still learning a lot.”

And that, Brown said, is the key with Long — always has been. There was nothing exciting about practice Monday night. It was all drills. Long performed jumps and front and back head-first entries and never missed a beat.

“That’s something you gotta say about this kid: She works constantly at practice, when she’s diving,” Brown said. “She has always been an extremely coachable person. By that, I mean she listens; she understands what you’re saying.”

Brown remains Long’s coach, though Brown said teaching also helps her.
“When you are teaching something, that’s the way to learn,” he said. “She’s just done an excellent job.”

The Dos Rios Divers travel to Stanford once a month to practice on the platform. They also have a small gym in Roseville that includes platforms which Long said aren’t nearly as high. Divers are hooked to a belt and, with Brown holding them, they dive into a mat.

“Platform is a different animal than springboard,” Brown said. “It takes many of the same skills, but what you do to jump to get away from the platform is different. The springboard is designed to throw you away. In platform, you have to generate your height and distance. It comes from your legs.”

Said Long, “Platform is just that extra jump up. You fall a lot faster and harder.”

In her first trip to the World Masters, Long performed a front 1½, a front arm-stand somersault, an inward, a back twister 1½ and back arm stand. She totaled 172.35 points, 1.45 better than Viola Tecchi of Italy.

The experience was as rewarding as her medals. Long said she met a woman in her 80s who was still diving. Others pick up the sport because their kids are diving.

“It was a blast,” Long said. “It’s a really fun atmosphere.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.