There have been many challenging decisions that have stemmed back to this pandemic, and diver Samantha VandePol has found herself having to deal with one during what should have been a happy experience.
This isn’t the first time VandePol, a Loy Norrix diver, has made it to state competition. This will be her third year to make it to states, but the only difference this year is that state competition was during a global pandemic where practices and meets were uncertain.
This year, states were held at Hudsonville High School instead of a university like in previous years. There were 36 divers, as usual, who competed and because of COVID, there were dots on the deck that signified the 6 feet of social distancing. Masks were not enforced.
VandePol has been a diver ever since the 8th grade, and she was a competitive gymnast for 7 years prior to that. Once she got to high school, VandePol said that “everyone had already decided for me that I was going to do it in high school and I’m glad that they did because I love it.”
“Diving before the pandemic was much simpler,” said VandePol. “I knew that when I showed up to practice, I would see my teammates.”
Making it to states is a high honor. VandePol got first place in her “Mock Conference” this year to advance onto regionals, which took place over one day instead of two like it has previously.. Then at regionals, she competed with over 40 divers with only the top 14 making the cut. VandePol knocked it out of the park by placing 9th while securing herself a spot at states this year. Then a turn for the worse came as her regular season was coming to an end.
“I was able to practice throughout my whole season up until the shutdown near the end of November,” VandePol explained.
With two months of practice out the window, and states approaching fast, VandePol had to ask herself a very important and disheartening question: Were states still worth going to this year?
“The main reason I chose not to dive at states after the shutdown was because of work. I felt bad that I was constantly changing my availability,” VandePol said. “I also knew I would be practicing by myself because none of my diver teammates qualified with me.”
While weighing the pros and cons in her head, VandePol realized that the cons outweighed the pros. Her decision was now made. She was not going to dive at states for her last year diving.
“I haven’t had any doubts or regrets about not going to states,” VandePol explained. “The thought of going gave me a lot of stress and anxiety, and I felt better immediately after consulting with my coaches about not attending.”
While this decision was a hard one to make, and it might not have been what she would have wanted, VandePol believes that her decision was the best path she could have taken.
“I made this decision for myself and I am very happy I did. No one had any objections and it took a huge weight off my chest.”