Making a splash: State champ Kylie Behn shows just how far a revived DHS program has come

Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 11:56 PM
Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald - Durango High School dive team member and 3A state champion Kylie Behn pauses during practice at the aquatic center at Fort Lewis College.

A question arose earlier this month, just after the Durango High School girls swimming and diving team returned from the 3A State Championships.

The girls did well, placing 12th out of the 26 teams competing in Thornton – few of which faced a 7-hour trip to the Front Range just days after competing in a regional meet in Grand Junction.

There were notable times, and personal bests in both individual and relay events. And then there was diver Kylie Behn.

By the time she completed her final round, the junior had earned 381.35 points from a tough panel of judges. She also earned a state championship, perhaps a first for a DHS diver.

Was it? No one seems to know for sure, not the team coaches or the athletic department staff at Durango High. But is that really the question to ask? The better one seems to be, how impressive was Behn’s performance?

Consider: For five years, until the 2011-2012 season, there was no girls’ diving team at DHS. That put the whole team at a disadvantage, said diving coach Mark Fleming. “You lose out on a lot of points in your team score without divers.”

Fleming, a competitive diver in Fort Collins as a youth, was coaching gymnastics at the Mason Center when approached about reviving a girls’ dive squad at the high school. He recruited divers from the swim team, and from the gymnasts he coached (including Behn, who was just eight when he met her). As Fleming describes it, the diving effort “sort of snowballed from there,” with a club team that called for year-round practice, and summer trips to diving camps that provided intensive training for both divers and coaches. Still, at the high-school level, Durango competes against many more mature and experienced diving programs.

Consider also the difference in diving itself. A swim meet is a rowdy event; cheers and shouts echo off the tiled walls and hard ceilings that surround the pool, the sound roaring at full blast for the length of each heat in every event. Then there is a break for diving, and the decibels die. Each diver is greeted by silence. The pool stills to glass and every eye is focused on each lone diver as she waits, breathes deeply, and steps toward the end of the board.

In Thornton, Behn trailed going into the final round of three dives. She calmly nailed them all.

DHS senior Ruby Epstein – who won the Grand Junction regional the week before – joined her in the top-10 at fourth place, and senior Sadie McAliney placed 14th, another impressive finish against a field of the state’s best.

“None of us were expecting to do as well as we did,” Behn said, speaking of the entire team, swimmers and divers included. “It really worked out.”

It certainly did. And that leaves us with just one more question:

When is the – well-deserved – parade?