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HUNTERSVILLE – The best young divers in America will converge in Huntersville this week, vying for national championships.
About 500 competitors, ages 9-18, are expected to compete in the AAU Diving National Championships from July 25-30 at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics. The center has added four diving boards for the event and, at times, will have divers going off 10 boards and two platforms simultaneously.
"It's the first event we've had of this magnitude here in 10 years," Aaron Hintz, Carolina Diving Academy's coach, said. "We're excited to add more equipment so we're more on par with the newer pools being built across the country. We're excited to show off our city and facility to the country, but also excited for our community and the impact this meet will have on them."
Carolina Diving Academy, whose home is at HFFA, will have about 30 divers competing, Hintz said. The exact number isn't known because qualifying events will continue until Thursday, July 19.
Two local divers who will compete are national champions – Jocelyn Porter, 13, of Cornelius and Harrison Mitchell, 16, of Davidson.
"I think it's really exciting," Porter, a rising eighth-grader at SouthLake Christian Academy, said. "It's a huge privilege to compete in this meet, and I'm hopefully going to go for the gold (medal) again."
Porter said having the meet at her home pool will be an advantage. She's accustomed to the surroundings and the boards. Visitors can begin practicing on HFFA's boards on Saturday, July 21, which gives them a few days to acclimate before the meet begins.
Mitchell, a rising junior at Hough High, won the N.C. 4A high school diving championship in February. Last summer, he was AAU champion on the 3-meter springboard. He likes the home-pool advantage.
"I think it definitely will help," Mitchell said. "(Diving) boards are different, and it takes time to get used to them."
Divers also routinely have to adjust to different shades of paint at the bottom of the pool, and the height and color of the ceiling, which can affect depth perception.
"You have to stay calm," Mitchell said. "I've been in big meets before where I'd dive and be angry. But you can't do that. Now we dive so often it's just muscle memory. You can't dwell on a dive, you need to move on to the next one and then the one after that."
HFFA recently added two 1-meter springboards and two 3-meter springboards for the national meet. Hintz said the center, which is 12 years old, remains among the best in the country. But there are more facilities and cities vying for prestigious meets, which makes it more difficult to snag one.
According to HFFA officials, the event is expected to draw more than 1,000 visitors to the Lake Norman area, and generate more than $500,000 in revenue.
And the diving, Hintz said, will be top-notch. These are the best in the country.
"I can say with confidence that within the championships that take place here, there will be divers who compete in the (Olympic) trials for Rio de Janeiro in 2016," he said. "Hopefully, it will be one of ours."