Athlete of the Week: Lodi’s Liu springs, tucks and flips her way to state

Lodi's Madison Liu shows off her medal after winning the Sac-Joaquin Section diving championship on Saturday at McClatchy High in Sacramento.

Accomplishment: Madison Liu joined the Lodi High swim team as a diver her freshman year, almost on a whim.

Four years later, Liu is the Sac-Joaquin Section champion after she scored 445.80 points at Saturday’s diving finals. As a junior she placed third.

“The dive that secured my championship at Section was my inward double,” Liu said. “That’s probably the most fun dive I do, the one with the highest degree of difficulty, 2.8 which is pretty high. It’s a lot of fun to flip that much.”

That’s part of what got her into the sport when she was a freshman. She had competed in tumbling in middle school, and that helped the transition.

“I didn’t really start diving until spring of my freshman year,” she said. “I thought it would be fun to do a sport that had flipping and water, and I fell in love.”

It hasn’t been easy to work her way to the top, with just a few months of the high school season each year. But she has Delta Valley Diving to thank for part of her success.

“The high school season is so short, there’s a lot of things you have to learn right off the bat,” she said. “My technique coming into the club level was not that great, but I’ve been diving year-round since sophomore year, and I’ve definitely cleaned things up.”

Liu battled with Vista del Lago’s Karina Kolakowski going into the final dive on Saturday, and finished with her inward double tuck. The 56.4 points from that dive put her on top by a 20-point margin.

The top four of the boys and the girls move on to the state tournament. This will be Liu’s second trip to the state diving championships — she placed 16th last spring.

Elliot High sophomore Collin Brownell, who placed second in the boys diving competition, will also compete at the state championship for the second year in a row. He placed four last spring.

“It’s a pretty amazing atmosphere, just diving in general,” Liu said about the Clovis West venue in Fresno. “The girls cheer for each other, but the girls are definitely focused on that meet.”

With the atmosphere surrounding the state championships and the pressure on each dive, Liu said it can be tough to focus on the dive itself.

“It’s pretty tricky,” she said. “But my coach does mental training with us, so we focus on visualizing the dives, and doing the dives in our heads before getting out there.”

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