Prep diving: West diver Nathan Makarewicz chases fourth state crown
Whether it's at 1 or 3 meters, the climb to the edge of the diving platform always seems long for Nathan Makarewicz. With each deliberate step, he reviews every rotation, flip and motion of the coming dive.
He knows all eyes are on him as he stands on the platform with the crystal blue water awaiting his precision entry.
But Makarewicz is in a mindset, and a class, of his own.
"All I'm thinking about is my set-up, getting on the board, swinging my arms all the way through," he said. "If you think about the rest, it's too much, so you just focus on the little things."
That focus already has resulted in big things for the West High senior.
Like many divers, Makarewicz gained his tumbling skills as a gymnast. But when his gym abruptly closed, he turned to diving to get his fill of twists and turns.
He caught on quickly, and just before his freshman year, he set a bold goal to win four consecutive state titles.
Three state meets later, he's ready to turn his lofty goal into a legacy.
"The state title is in his hands," his coach, Monica French, said. "His goal needs to be to give the best state performance he ever has."
While his talent is undeniable, it's taken much more to earn his dominant status.
Like most Utah schools, West High does not have a pool on campus. So Makarewicz heads to the HPER pool at the University of Utah twice a week to join other high-school divers from West, Highland and East.
On meet days, they're competitors. During the week, the small group works together, encouraging each other as they work to perfect their dive sets. He heads up Parleys Canyon to work on his dives with a different coach, Gene McIntyre, at least one other day per week.
He's maintained the schedule for the past three years, all while compiling better than a 4.0 grade-point average and competing on the West High cross-country team for his father, coach Barry Makarewicz.
"It takes a brave soul and a lot of commitment to keep going without a huge peer group," French said. "[Nathan] is just one of those intrinsically motivated kids. That's the remarkable part about him."
His dedication to the often forgotten sport has paid off. In a state not known for its diving prowess, Makarewicz has made a name for himself, and for Utah, on the national stage.
Makarewicz has won numerous regional meets and placed well at the national junior level in his still-young career. He earned All-America honors last year after winning a regional meet in Wisconsin, taking fifth place at two USA Diving zone meets and qualifying for Junior Nationals in North Carolina. He gave his commitment to the Princeton diving team after the breakthrough year.
The future is bright for Makarewicz, but first things first.
"I've got to accomplish the goal [of four state titles] I set for myself," he said.
The road to his fourth state title may be the easiest yet.
Until this season, Utah has held to the traditional competition format of 11 dives. But in an effort to encourage participation and accommodate the hectic schedule of many high-school athletes, the UHSAA switched the meet to a six-dive format.
For the state's few elite divers, the new format limits their ability to showcase their full range of skills. To compete at the national level, divers must perform a series of 11 dives. So while only six dives will be scored, the UHSAA will allow the state's few elite divers to complete their full 11-dive set at the state meet.
"It definitely takes some of the rigor out of the sport, and that's the part a lot of divers love," French said. "But it's a good compromise."
To Makarewicz, it's all the same.
"I'm going to prepare my best six dives and keep working toward my other goals," he said. "I've not yet felt like I've done my absolute best."
Meet Nathan Makarewicz
West diver Nathan Makarewicz has won three consecutive state titles. He'll compete for his fourth title under a new six-dive format Feb. 7.
Last year was a breakthrough season for Makarewicz. He earned All-America honors after winning a regional meet in Wisconsin, placing fifth at two USA Diving zone meets and qualifying for Junior Nationals in North Carolina. He also committed to the Princeton diving team.
Makarewicz practices with a group of divers from around the district at the pool at the University of Utah. He also competes on the West cross-country team, which is coached by his father, Barry Makarewicz.