Aerial acrobat

Domonic Hutchins had just one thing in mind when the diving season started: make it to regional's.

He did that and more, however, reaching the Class 2A state finals, capturing the Class 2A-9 district championship along the way with a stellar 390.50 points.

"I started getting serious about diving when I was in 11th grade," Hutchins said. "When I was a sophomore I was just feeling my way along - I didn't really have any specific goals. But then coach (Shane) Wirries showed up and everything changed."

With Wirries' help and expertise, Hutchins was able to hone his talents. Suddenly he was challenging former Avon Park diving star Jose Rivera's records, whose records had stood since 2003.

And it all started as just a hobby.

When Hutchins was young, he would make an effort to get to the pool at Avon Park High School, which was open to the public in the summer. While splashing around in the water, Hutchins happened to see then-Red Devils standout Renee Plummer, who was performing tricks off of the diving board.

"I was about 12 when I'd go up there," Hutchins said. "And I saw Renee up there doing all these cool tricks. So I started to try it, and it eventually went from a dream to a reality."

In this year's 2A state finals, Hutchins was one of only two male divers from Highlands County to reach the state finals - the other being fellow Red Devil teammate Josh Gaidos.

At the finals in Stuart, Hutchins tallied 316.40 points on six dives to break Rivera's record.

"It was incredible," Wirries said. "He has come so far in such a short amount of time. And he made those dives in front of some of the strictest judges in the state."

"Believe me, I should know - I've been a judge myself before."

For his efforts, Hutchins has been selected as the Highlands Today 2013 All-Highlands Boys Diver of the Year.

"This is actually the first major award of my diving career," Hutchins said. "Coach Wirries really helped me in breaking a lot of barriers. When I started, these are things I never thought I would ever end up doing."

Even though his diving career is just beginning, Hutchins doesn't think he'll continue the sport in college. Instead, he plans on enlisting in the military.

"I've given some thought to it, but hopefully I'll be on a base that has a pool nearby," he said. "But if it doesn't, I'll probably have to wait until I come back home to dive."

But Hutchins hasn't given up the diving bug just yet. There are tentative plans to return to his roots and coach some of his Red Devils protégés.

"I have family still diving for Avon Park," Hutchins said. "And I haven't ruled out coaching - I've given it some thought. It's something to think about when you get older and if I ever got the chance."

The Team

Josh Gaidos, senior, Avon Park - Gaidos was the only other diver from Highlands County to make it to the Class 2A state finals. He came close to breaking the 300 point threshold at the state meet in Stuart, but hazardous diving conditions did their best to keep him down.

Still, Gaidos braved 20 to 40 mph winds to tally 292 points, which was enough for a 13th-place finish. "He's got a ton of potential," said Avon Park diving coach Shane Wirries. "He's very coordinated and he's got a ton of strength in his legs. We only had two years together, so I'm going to miss him, but it was a really big deal for him to make state. I'm really proud of him."

Honorable Mention

Jarrod Browning, freshman, Lake Placid - Browning recorded the highest total of any Lake Placid diver at the Class 1A-District 6 diving meet in October. His 270.70 points was good for sixth place.

"Jarrod brings with him a lot of enthusiasm," said Green Dragons diving coach D.J. Brouwer. "He's always excited to dive and makes everyone else on the team smile."

Walker Deloach, junior, Lake Placid - DeLoach finished 11th on the boys side in the 1A-6 diving meet, totaling a respectable 198.50 points. Coach Brouwer describes him as one of the most intense divers on the team.

"He brings fearlessness to the team," Brouwer said. "Walker is always asking what dive he can try next, and he keeps trying it until he gets it."

Garrett Main, freshman, Lake Placid - The lone freshman Green Dragon boy competing in the meet, Main amassed 244.10 points, which was good for a ninth-place finish. His positive attitude towards the sport has been much appreciated by teammates and coaches.

"Garret brings charm to this diving team," Brouwer said. "Everyone just loves him."

Coach of the Year

For sending two divers to the state finals, Avon Park's Shane Wirries has been selected as the Highlands Today 2013 All-Highlands Boys Diving Coach of the Year.