GREENSBORO, N.C. – Henry Swett was still around the diving well, but it just wasn’t the same.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 diving champion as both a freshman and sophomore, Swett seemed to have everything going for him. But then, as a junior, he came up against Jake Burris in the state meet, and it was Burris who came away with the title.
Losing out on the title was tough enough, but then, there was a coaching change at his high school and that was that. Rather than dive again as a senior last year, he instead played basketball.
It was difficult, at best, being away from the sport he loved so much.
“I would get on the boards every once in a while to still keep it fun for me, but I didn’t really compete that much,” Swett said. “I didn’t compete in high school.
“I didn’t compete over the summer at all. I just got on the boards for fun. What I missed most, probably was the sport being fun. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Enter the Burris family … again.
Jake Burris’ dad, Eric, was his diving coach in high school and had just taken the same job at Albion College. They knew each other, mostly by reputation. One thing led to another, and Swett signed on.
“I dove against his divers, and I knew he was a great coach,” said Swett, who finished 19th in the three-meter diving board Wednesday. He competes again on the one-meter board Friday. “I talked to him, and he seemed like a great guy. I met up with the coaches a few times, and it seemed like a really great school, so I decided to give it another shot.”
The truth be told, it took a bit of coaxing to convince Swett to come on board.
“Yes and no,” said Albion head coach Jake Tabor. “He’s a pretty calculated kid. He’s pretty even keeled all the time. He’s not the type that you can pump a bunch of energy into and give him a hard sell. No matter what, he was going to be the type who was going to take his visits, take everything in, go home, digest it, process everything and have some conversations with his mom.”
The key was to play to the knowns at Albion and the consistency of what his experience as a student-athlete would be. He knew Tabor. He knew assistant coach Mary Ann Egnatuk. And he knew of the Burrises.
He would know even more of them when he and Jake started rooming together as the school year got under way. Back in high school, Swett had basically been the benchmark against which Eric coached and Jake dove.
“We were pretty familiar each other, but we weren’t really close friends or anything or talk that much,” Swett said. “We ended up rooming together and becoming really good friends, and really good training partners as well. That was a really cool experience.”
Eric, though, had to laugh as he drove back home from dropping Jake off at school that first day. Both of them tend to be on the quiet, if not outright shy, side.
“Moving Jake in the first day, we actually texted him later in the day and said, ‘Have you and Henry talked at all?” the elder Burris said with a chuckle. “They’re both real shy and quiet guys. Now … they just feed off the goofiness of each other. Henry’s really starting to come out of his shell around us, and has a lot of fun.”
There’s something to be said for a young man who qualifies for the national championships, after taking an entire year off from competition. He's back, and enjoying the sport once more.
“I love it,” Swett said. “It’s fun again. I was a little rusty at first, of course. Once the rust wore off, it started getting fun again. I started competing against people. It ended up being a pretty good year.”
It’s fun again due in no small part to Jake, who finished 24th in Wednesday’s three-meter board competition. He’ll also have another shot Friday on the one-meter springboard.
“It didn’t take long,” Jake said. “We were probably in our room for at least a day, probably, just starting to feel each other out and getting to know each other, how each other got on with their day. By the next day, we were just real close.”