Diving: La Jolla High Viking Jackie Real takes fifth place in CIF Finals

By Ed Piper

Jackie Real received scores of 5 and 5.5 on a 10 scale for her forward 2½ tuck dive at the CIF Finals May 23, and was pretty pleased. A mark from 5 to 7 in the meet held at Mesa College is a solid score. It was the second of the La Jolla High junior’s six dives during a long, three-hour competition.

“I was happiest with my front 2½ tuck because it’s a fairly new dive,” said Real, “and I thought I did a good job with it.”

In executing the dive, the 5-foot-2 powerpack first bounces hard near the end of the one-meter board. She shoots straight up into the air, her arms sweeping forward and up in an acrobatic motion to lift her body high above the board. Then, coming back down on the board, her toes inches from the edge, she propels herself upward again, this time catapulting into two full somersaults and half of another. In these, she pulls her knees up to her chest and squeezes them against her body in a tight hug (the tuck) increasing her velocity during the spins. Her long reddish hair flies out on the rotations.

She uncurls just in time to straighten out and enter the water vertically with as little splash as possible.

Her physical strength, her gymnastics background, and her courage enable the 17-year-old to do what few other athletes attempt: to perform complex spins and turns in midair with potential doom awaiting if she hits the water awkwardly.

During warm-ups for the finals, when a practicing competitor badly missed a dive, the other 42 entrants would good-naturedly applaud after the sound of the belly-flop and rib the unfortunate individual. Another danger looms nearby: it is not uncommon for a diver to hit the edge of the diving board with the head, a hand, or a toe.

Real compiled 219.90 points for her six dives for fifth place in the Division II finals. There were 22 girls competing. As a result, with her alone diving for the La Jolla High School girls team, the Vikings placed sixth in the team standings.

Real, in her third year competing, was 6-1 in dual meets her freshman year. Now a junior, she has gone undefeated in dual meets since then.

She said she fuels meet day with “a good breakfast” consisting of two egg whites. Three years ago, she switched over after eight years of gymnastics and began pursuing diving under a demanding year-round training regimen that requires practice four days a week. What adds another element to the dynamic is that her father, Jon Real, is one of her three coaches with the San Diego State Diving Club. That relationship seems very positive.

Last summer, while her classmates were headed to the beach and the drive-in for dipped cones, Jackie flew to San Antonio, Texas, for three weeks of further training and competition. This summer, he dad says, it will be Atlanta for the AAU Nationals.

To learn a new dive, Jackie is strapped into a harness in “dryland” instruction, and her coaches can yank on a pulley to lift and drop her in the air as she works on the new moves. Then, introducing the dive in the water, a device in the pool creates a vast amount of bubbles to “fluff out” the water and make it softer to land in as the diver deals with the demands of the unfamiliar dive.

Accompanying Real in the CIF Finals was classmate Matt Allen, who plays water polo at La Jolla High and who just took up diving this year. Jackie has served informally as his coach, passing on what she knows, and he is also largely self-coached.

Allen had 5s and 6s on his second dive of the afternoon, a forward 1½ somersault pike, a pike requiring the legs to go straight out as the diver bends at the waist. These two students were the only divers who qualified from La Jolla, Bishop’s, and Country Day high schools for the finals.