Let's Roll Magazine Student Athlete: Gabriel Vega

Monterey diver soars to new heights en route to UIL state meet, all-American recognition

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It took a time and a lot of effort for Gabriel Vega to make a splash in the world of prep diving.

But now, the Monterey senior has soared to new heights, finishing fourth at the UIL state meet and collecting all-America honors along the way.

“I’ve always loved the water,” he said. “My mom would call us water babies because we spent so much time swimming every summer.”

Vega qualified for state as a sophomore and finished 11th. While he has always enjoyed the water, he got serious about diving in middle school.

“I didn’t want to do regular CA (competitive athletics),” he said with a smile. “I wanted to go with the kids swimming and diving, so I tried out for both. I have a background in gymnastics, so that was helpful in this sport. I like the team dynamic of diving. I like the mechanics involved in it. It’s something I love doing.”
Indeed, Vega has come a long way in a short amount of time.

“When he tried out in seventh grade, he couldn’t dive and landed on his stomach. He did it twice,” recalled LISD diving coach Penny DiPomazio. “I put him on the team. The next day his dad came up to me and said he didn’t understand how someone could land on their stomach twice and make the diving team. I said, ‘Because he did it twice.’ That’s what it takes, people not afraid to try and make a mistake.”

In the ensuing years, Vega has served as a co-captain of the diving team, and he likes the responsibilities that come with that role.

“You help create goals for the team, like the number of divers we want to go to state,” he said. “That’s the team dynamic, and you do everything you can to inspire your teammates to be their best.”

The diving team is made up of about 20 athletes from across the district.

“Being a co-captain is voted on specifically by the athletes,” DiPomazio said. “He has been a captain for the last three years. It’s a lot of responsibility, not just a title. I expect them to make sure they talk to underclassmen if they are doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing and take care of that. If we have a school delay or information to get out, the captains are the ones who contact everyone.”

High school divers compete from a 1-meter board. Typically, each competitor performs 11 dives, each dive with its own degree of difficulty and which is scored by a group of judges. Each dive is different. Usually, each diver completes eight dives the first day in the prelims before the field is narrowed to the top 24, who each complete three more dives.

In addition to the strong showing at state, Vega also was named a diving all-American by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.
DiPomazio said, “It’s a big deal,” she said. “There are only 100 in the nation, and he was one of them this year.”

To attain all-America status, competitors must achieve a certain degree of difficulty level and score so many points in competition.

“If you do those two requirements and hen hopefully have it on video and send that in to the national selection committee, they look at your DVD,” she said. “I have been on that committee. I know what they do. It’s set up just like a meet and you judge 300 or 400 videos, and then you draw a line after the top 100, and they make all-American.”
Vega said he’s looking forward to his senior year of competition and hopes to continue his diving career in college.

“I’ve talked to some coaches and looked at some schools so far,” he said. “Some have shown some interest, which is a great honor. Hopefully, I can get a scholarship and continue to compete.”

By Doug Hensley
For Let’s Roll Magazine
Categories: Social, People