High School Diving

Seven Lakes sophomore Koval a diving wonder

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 2/28/21

Not everyone can be Seven Lakes High’s Kailey Koval.

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High School Diving

Seven Lakes sophomore Koval a diving wonder

Posted

Not everyone can be Seven Lakes High’s Kailey Koval.

Not everyone can win a regional diving championship. Not everyone can qualify for the UIL state diving championships in just their second year in the sport. Not everyone can have a legitimate shot at a top-10 finish at said state meet.

Not everyone can accomplish all this as a sophomore.

“She’s fortunate enough to be, in my opinion, kind of an athletic freak,” Katy ISD diving coach Jake Kinzbach said.

Koval enters the state championships Monday, March 1, in San Antonio seeded 11th after scoring 396 points to win the Region V-6A meet on Feb. 4. But as recently as this time last year, Koval wasn’t even sure she wanted to dive.

The former gymnast and pole vaulter only tried the sport because her mom recommended it as an elective.

“I tried it and I was definitely smacking on everything,” Koval said, laughing. “It was just so different from gymnastics. In gymnastics, you land on your feet, and in diving you’re going in head-first. But things started to catch on and the sport started to spark my interest. Around regionals last year, I was sitting in fourth or fifth place, and I made up my mind then that I wanted to keep going with this.”

Now she hopes to compete in college.

“This is my passion,” Koval said.

Kinzbach credits his pupil’s rapid ascension in the sport to how much she puts into it.

“She’s just a super, super strong girl, and she works her butt off,” he said. “She comes to practice with me for two hours and then she goes to her club practice for another two hours. So, she puts a lot of time and dedication into it.”

Koval has learned to harness her strength. It’s why she went from a top-five finish at regionals last year to champion this year.

“She’s a strong, muscular individual. With her being new to diving, that can sometimes make it more difficult because you’re doing things wrong, but you’re doing those wrong things stronger and more exaggerated, if that makes sense,” Kinzbach said. “She’s started to fine-tune all those small little details a lot more, and now she’s able to jump higher, spin faster. The fact that this is only her second year diving, ever, is insane.”

Koval is enamored with the flight of diving. She also sees it as a platform for creative expression. She scoffs at the notion that many people think diving is swimming. They’re two completely different sports, and, she believes, one has more personality than the other.

“It’s the fact that it’s just so much like gymnastics, but has its own type of individuality,” Koval said of diving. “I love aerodynamics and trying to defy gravity in ridiculous ways. The way you can technically fly and do tricks if you produce enough power. You can amaze so many people and maybe even inspire others.”

Eventually, Kinzback sees Koval being able to do a “reverse 2 ½” by her senior year, which is rare and only accomplished by the best of divers because of how difficult of a position it is. A reverse 1 ½, for instance, is standard.

But Koval’s strength is remarkable, and it’s because of her physical gifts that Kinzbach thinks Koval has the potential to do things few high school divers are able to do.

And though Kinzbach believes a top-eight finish at state is attainable for Koval, it’s just as important for her to see where she stands among the best of the best and experience what will is needed to get better in the future.

“I definitely want to do my personal best, but also get in the top 10,” Koval said. “I want to know where I’m at, but I want to do my best and get in the top. I’m excited. I get to be with all these amazing athletes, and it’s like, ‘Holy moly.’ It’ll be a learning experience and I need to get to where I’m the best, too. I push myself every day to get there. Seeing that competition helps me grow as a diver, and that’s where the state meet is going to be really good for me.”

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