When Alex Blake, just three years ago, informed his family he would be joining the Andover High swim team as a diver, the then-freshman’s parents were more than shocked.
“When I came home and told my mom I was joining the diving team she thought I was joking,” he said. “She had no idea where that was coming from.”
With no diving experience at any level heading into high school, Blake decided to attempt a sport that seemed like “fun” despite the level of danger.
Now a senior for the Golden Warriors, Blake has emerged as one of the top divers in the state, placing second at last week’s Merrimack Valley Conference meet to help Andover take the team title, while also emerging as a go-to leader.
“Alex has really done a tremendous job,” said Andover coach Mark Taffe. “He has come along so much as a diver in the last four seasons, and now he is doing so much to help young members of the team to learn and brought them to a high level.”
Growing up a hockey player, Blake learned to swim for recreational purposes, but had never considering competing until he arrived at Andover High.
“My freshman year one of my friends really wanted me to join the swimming team,” he said. “I didn’t want to swim, but I heard there was a diving team, and I thought that seemed pretty cool. A lot of divers have gymnastics training, but I didn’t. It just seemed fun and different.”
But the realities of a very difficult, very dangerous sport were quickly evident to the newcomer.
“Diving is very, very nerve-wracking for beginners,” he said. “Learning new dives is really scary because if you do something wrong, you can get really, really hurt. But the coaches were great teaching me the fundamentals, and a good base helps a lot.”