(Dale Ryan, 62, dives as Eastern Washington University Aquatic Center Manager Greg Schmidt looks on during practice with EWU’s Aquatic Club on Tuesday in Cheney. SR Photo: Tyler Tjomsland)
Springboard diver Dale Ryan keeps his skills up with Eastern Washington University’s newly formed Aquatic Club – even though at 62, the other divers are a fraction of his age.
A retired 1974 EWU graduate, Ryan started diving when he was 16 on a challenge from a friend’s little brother. Technique and style were unimportant to him in those days.
All these years later, after some difficulty finding a pool with diving boards, he heard about EWU’s facility.
“I went one time and thought to myself, ‘I can still do it.’ I participate with the idea that this can be a lifetime activity. It’s exercise and you can still have fun,” Ryan said. He paused and added, “I do wonder how long I will be able to do this.”
The club has helped him with technique and safety. “Through the club I have guidance on proper approach and momentum to get away from the board; then you have less likelihood of getting injured,” he said.
Aquatic Center manager Greg Schmidt, a certified U.S. diving coach, teaches Ryan and other club members. Schmidt hopes to hold a diving exhibition this winter.
“The age range for divers is probably 18 to ‘Dale’ (62),” Schmidt said. “Most people don’t dive at Dale’s age. You have to stay with it at that age.”
Ryan practices on a regular basis. “Now his approach is way more consistent than it was before,” Schmidt said. “I think that is one reason he keeps coming, because he is so encouraged by how much better he is now. There are some dives he can do that he couldn’t do before, such as a ‘51-11,’ a forward dive with a half twist in straight position – he was really excited about that.”
The club started with diving and now also offers masters swimming, triathlon training, synchronized swimming and water polo. There are about two dozen members.
Practices are at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students, staff, faculty, alumni and their spouses are welcome.
Student Ben Salsbury joined the club for masters swimming.
“I wanted the swim side. I was interested in the past but found out EWU didn’t have a swim team,” Salsbury said.
Salsbury, along with students Erin Pulley and Gabby Villarreal, were instrumental in the club’s start-up. They discussed a lack of knowledge on campus about the Aquatic Center and ways, like social media, to spread the word. They also hope to participate in swim competitions through the club.
Schmidt kicked off the season with coaches lined up for each of the five aquatic sports. “I think the club will help people know there is an Aquatic Center and where it is. We’ve worked really hard trying to increase awareness and diversify opportunities at the pool,” he said.
One of his goals is to add some Running Start students attending EWU through Cheney High School. “It would benefit the CHS Swim Team,” he said. “Hardly anybody has divers for the diving events at high school swim meets.”
EWU recently upgraded its 1-meter-tall low dive and 3-meter-tall high dive, both of which are Olympic-quality. A new 3-meter-high pedestal is being powder-coated and will be installed soon.
“The thing that is cool about this facility is that it’s really tailor-made for any aquatic sport: it’s deep and it’s big. If you’re a ‘synchro’ person or a ‘polo’ person, this is the ideal pool. You’d (normally) have to go to a place that’s huge to have this kind of depth for twenty-five yards. This facility is 25 yards for six lanes; and 25 meters for eight lanes,” Schmidt said. The pool also features an 18-foot-deep diving tank.
Ryan spreads the word about the club in the community. Recently he was at a county commission meeting and made an announcement about it during the public forum.
One commissioner was an interested alum but raised concern about being seen in a Speedo.
“Wear whatever you feel comfortable wearing,” Ryan assured him.
For Ryan, the focus is “having fun and trying to have proper technique.”