BIRMINGHAM, Ala. –- Colsen Heynes was just two years old when he went off a three-meter diving board.
Given his gene pool -– the pun here is absolutely intended -– that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. One of his uncles, Justin Duncan, is diving for Clarion here this week in the Division II Winter National Championships Festival.
|MEN’S DII SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMP.|
|Feature: Diving a family business for Duncan|
|Feature: Bridgeport’s international flair|
|Day 1: Recap | Results | Highlights|
|Day 2: Recap | Results | Highlights|
|Day 3: Recap |Results | Highlights|
|Day 4: Recap | Final Results | Highlights | Photo Gallery|
|More: Qualifiers | Championship Info|
Colson’s mom and Justin’s sister, Julie Heynes, also dove for Clarion from 1995 to ’99. There’s more. Another uncle, Ray Murray, was a Golden Eagle diver, too, from 2000 to ’05. Incredibly, this year’s festival is the 11th national championship event in which a member of this family has competed.
So just give Colsen a few years, and chances are he’ll be heading off the diving board for Clarion. Could he be joined by older brother and sister Caden and Callie? Who knows? But don’t bet against it, not in this family, at least.
It wasn’t exactly a given that Justin would dive. With him, it was more imitation than intimidation.
“[Diving] had to do with me wanting to be like my older siblings and stuff like that, but I was never forced to actually do it,” said Justin, who in Wednesday’s competition at the Festival became a seven-time All-American with a fifth-place finish on the three-meter board. “I was always watching them do it and saying, ‘Wow, it’d be cool to do that one day.”
He certainly wasn’t forced into the pool by his mother, Debby Duncan. Get this. Even with three children who have dedicated so much of their lives to the sport, Debby doesn’t much care to swim. Oh, she says she can do so well enough to keep from drowning, but that’s about it.
Heck, she doesn’t even like to get her hair wet. Her husband and Justin’s dad, John, was also not a diver. What both of them were, however, was completely supportive of their son following in the footsteps of his sister and brother.
“I’m not even coordinated, much less athletically inclined,” Debby admitted with a smile. “I’m athletically challenged, but I took them to the pool. I watched. I can swim, but I don’t have any form. They did this on their own. Anything they did, we went all at. They lacked for nothing when it came to support. I was their entourage.”
Julie returned home after graduating from Clarion and began coaching at South Park High School, her alma mater. There, she helped head coach John Grey guide Ray in his senior year and then Justin through all four seasons of his high school career.
Sister and coach? Really, it was never all that awkward.
“She pretty much treated everybody like family,” Justin said, before adding with a laugh, “The only difference was, when I got home, I still got the continued lectures. In the long run, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
One question seems almost inevitable. Of the family’s three divers, which one is the best?
Besides Colsen, of course?
Let’s put it this way. Julie and Ray, now a police officer in Pittsburgh, were the most competitive. Justin, on the other hand, is much more laid back. Both Julie and Debby called it the difference between Generation X and Generation Y.
“[Justin] probably had to work the least to be the best, I can put it that way,” Debby said. “I think Julie worked the absolute hardest to be the best, and Ray had a lot of natural ability, but he worked hard as well.
“There’s a very distinct difference in the way they view life. Julie and Ray were go first or go home. Justin’s like, ‘We’re goin’.’ He’s going to be there and do the best he can and be happy with what he gets. They lived and died for first place.”
Regardless of who the best diver might or might not have been, there’s a connection between them that’s undeniable. When Justin sticks a dive, it’s almost as if Julie and Ray are right there in the pool with him.
“We can empathize,” Julie began. “We’ve walked a mile in those shoes. We know how he feels. We know how he’s prepared. We know what’s gone into it. We know how long it’s taken to get here. Ray and I, when we watch the event, it is a very different feeling.”