Sports

Former Panther diver making a big splash at Pepperdine

Kristin Scribner is making herself at home on the Pepperdine University dive team. - Photo courtesy  Elena Scribner
Kristin Scribner is making herself at home on the Pepperdine University dive team.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Elena Scribner

Kristin Scribner’s life as a diver has the twist and turns of a double pike.

A gymnast for Bonney Lake High, the 5-foot-2 Scribner was nursing a back injury and running cross country in the offseason when she realized all that pounding the pavement was aggravating her back. In her junior year with the Panthers, a coach steered her toward the pool.

“I couldn’t even jump in the pool without plugging my nose,” Scribner said.

Her gymnastics background made her a diving natural. She set Bonney Lake’s 11-dive, 1-meter record at the state and district meets. She also left the Panthers holding all its gymnastic event records. She was Bonney Lake’s first state gymnastics champion and won the state gymnastics title on the balance beam her junior year.

Scribner said she always planned to go to college, but her destination changed when her success in diving started to pick up.

She turned to an Internet search and found Pepperdine University in sunny Malibu, Calif.

Pepperdine was a perfect fit – a small, Christian, private school – and of course, Scribner said, the location, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, was nice.

“I knew it was a very long shot with my lack of experience,” she said.

It turned out Scribner is what Pepperdine wants in a student and an athlete.

“We look for a special kind of kid and Kristin is that kind of kid,” Waves coach Nick Rodionoff said, describing the smaller school and its 3,000 student body. “She has good values and good character.

“Plus she has a lot of talent. She’s a very good student in diving. She continues to improve. I think she’s going to be terrific.”

“I love this team,” Scribner said. She’s one of six divers who are part of the swim team. “The team is really great and I love my coach Nick.”

Scribner couldn’t ask for a better mentor.

Rodinoff is one of the best. In 2008, Pepperdine had its best finish under Rodionoff and tied the best finish in school history with a second-place result. The Waves have finished in third place four times under Rodionoff, including 2002, when he was named Pacific Coach Swim Championship Coach of the Year. He first came to Pepperdine in 1974 to coach the men’s diving team and in 1987 established the women’s program. Prior to coming to Malibu, Rodionoff served as the diving coach to nearby UCLA.

In addition to being named to the International Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame in 1974, Rodionoff was inducted into the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004. He is one of only two swimming coaches to have received the honor. Rodionoff is the only coach in the United States to have coached national champions in both swimming and diving and also guided the women’s national relay team to a 200 freestyle record.

Rodionoff credits much of Scribner’s success to her ability to learn quickly, her spirit, her hard work and her dedication.

“At first I called her a two-year project,” he said. “Now I call her a 90-day wonder.”

“I’m surprised to do as well as I have,” Scribner said. “I feel I’ve been blessed.”

Pepperdine diving claimed the top five spots in a combined 1- and 3-meter competition Oct. 25 at the Malibu Invitational (each diver recorded three attempts off both springboards). Scribner posted the highest score with 209.05 points. Later in the season at the University of California-Irvine’s Anteater Shootout she finished with two of her top scores of the season.

The learning curve for Scribner has been the 3-meter board.

“It was a real challenge right off the bat,” she said. “Nick and my teammates have been really encouraging.”

She’s adjusting to the height, and slowly it’s becoming her favorite.

“I’m actually starting to like 3-meter,” she said, noting the extra couple meters give her more time to put her gymnastics prowess to use.

“It’s the first time in 10 years I’ve never done gymnastics,” she said.

“To do as well as I have turned into a blessing,” she said.

Scribner is keeping the experience in perspective. She’s putting her best effort on the board every day and seeing how far her ability will take her, but she has set a goal. “Being a freshman, I’d like to make conferences.” Those are slated for late February.

Perhaps harder than mastering the 3-meter board has been being away from home.

Scribner said she misses her family. Most of the Waves’ meets are in California. Scribner said her mother, who was a regular fixture at meets during high school, hasn’t been able to make it.

But Scribner will be home for the holidays.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s supported me,” she said. She’ll be back to say “thanks” in person to those family members, friends and mentors at Bonney Lake High during the holiday break, but she’ll have to hustle back – she competes Saturday.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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