Sacred Heart eighth-grader moving up the diving ranks

Nicholas Cassell, in less than two years, has advanced to the national level of competition in his sport

By Dan McWilliams

Sacred Heart Cathedral School eighth-grader Nicholas Cassell practices diving five days a week year-round.

Sacred Heart Cathedral School eighth-grader Nicholas Cassell has moved up the diving ranks quickly despite having taken up the sport less than two years ago.

Nicholas, 14, practices five days a week at the Tennessee Diving Club (TDC) and said it is hard to practice so often.

“Yes, because sometimes you might want a day off, but it’s just good to go to practice and get your work done so you can get better,” he said.

Nicholas has won several meets but has found the competition tougher as he has moved up from more local meets to Junior Olympics national-level events.

“For my first year, we had little competitions out of town. I won a lot of them,” he said, “but then I got to USA Diving, which was my first real big experience, and that kind of took a big turn from easily winning the meets because you had a lot of good competition.”

Nicholas said he enjoys working with TDC head coach Michael Wright. Mr. Wright praised Nicholas for having a “strong, humbling personality that makes every practice more enjoyable. He gives nothing but his best effort every day of practice and pushes his teammates to hold the same standard. . . . He is the true definition of inspiring.”

Nicholas took the compliments in stride.

“I just try and do the best I can do because I want to get better and better.”

In a recent meet at Clemson, Nicholas placed second, although he improved his score over his mark at last year’s Junior Olympics nationals in Orlando.

“I got second, but I was against a really good Junior Olympic diver. My score was a lot better than my score at nationals, so I’ve improved a lot more since then,” he said.

Nicholas is the son of Don and Sarah Cassell.

“He’s only been diving on this level for about a year and a half,” Mr. Cassell said. “He started and has just gone straight up the ladder. When he first started he was in the novice division and quickly became the next level, and now he’s Junior Olympic level, and he’s done that in shall we say record time.”

Practice is a big part of Nicholas’ life, his father said.

“He practices five days a week in the summer every morning Monday through Friday, and during the school year he practices five days a week, 5 to 7:30 after school every day.

“It’s a lot of time in the water,” he added with a laugh.

Mr. Cassell said he is proud of his son.

“I’m a proud papa, yes I am, and mama’s proud, too,” he said. ■

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