Freshman diver Taylor Jackson No. 4 in state

Kate Ferraro
Mountain Range freshman diver Taylor Jackson.

Taylor Jackson has only been diving for 2 ½ years. A former gymnast, she has little experience in the sport. But that doesn’t matter, because what she’s learned in just those few years has her ranked in the top 5 in high school diving. Jackson is a freshman and is No. 4 in the state.

After an eight-year stint with gymnastics, Jackson, a freshman at Mountain Range who lives in Thornton, decided to try something different. She began swimming, but didn’t like it so she tried out diving instead.

She started diving with SageBrush, a diving team coached by Kevin Sage which practices out of multiple locations in Colorado including Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.

Diving didn’t come natural to Jackson, but Coach Sage noticed something unusual and also unique in the 14-year-old.

“It was obvious she had something special as far as the ability,” Sage said. “She really took into the sport. While she doesn’t like smacking the water so much, she learned quickly how to avoid that and make proper adjustments. She has progressed early and consistently without any breaks.”

Jackson said it took her a while to pick it up, but she got used to it and eventually was training five days a week. Jackson said she simply has fun doing it.

In her first few years of diving with Sagebrush, she was already scoring in the high 190s to low 200s, which is the average score for 1-meter or six dives. Her highest score with SageBrush so far has come from the 2013 USA Diving Summer Junior Region 6 Championships with a score of 300 in 3-meter or 11 dives. Jackson was averaging a 224 in her first two years of diving with SageBrush.

In her first meet with Mountain Range Dec. 5 against Greeley West, she scored a 244, one point shy of tying the pool record set by Northglenn’s Molly Quintana back in 1999.

Jackson hasn’t gone below 224 all season. Jackson broke Quintana’s record Jan. 28 against Fairview with a 248 score.

“She comes to us with a little bit of background experience and obviously a lot of promise so we look forward to seeing her compete at state as a freshman,” Adams 12 diving head coach DJ Hummel said. “We’re hopeful she’ll get in top five at state and as the years progress, bump up from there. Hopefully we’re looking a future state champion.”

Jackson is ranked No. 4 in the state right now for 1-meter diving. It’s something she never thought she’d be as a young as she is.

“It feels great,” Jackson said, who turns 15 on Feb. 8. “It took a while to get there. As a freshman, getting fourth, I’m fine with that.”

Sage compares Jackson to one of the divers he used to coach a long time ago, and who still holds the 3-meter dive record since 2000 with 517 points at the VMAC, Linda Wagner. Sage said Jackson has a lot of Wagner’s ability.

“Taylor has a lot of those intangibles that I think Linda struggled with way back then,” Sage said. “Linda had this raw power, and Taylor is on her way. She’s young and tiny and as she continues to get stronger, she’s going to be pretty amazing. I’m just so happy with what she’s done so far.”

After this season, Jackson said she wants to continue diving for both Mountain Range and SageBrush. Even though Jackson has accomplished so much as freshman, she still believes there’s room for development.

“Definitely there’s room for improvement,” Jackson said. “If you set your mind to something, obviously you’ll end up doing better in life. I just have to keep on training, trying hard, learning new stuff, pushing myself and I’ll improve.”

Jackson will dive at the Front Range League Championships Feb. 7 and 8 at Mountain View and then at the State Championships Feb. 14 and 15 at the VMAC. Hummel said Jackson finishing in the top 5 is more an expectation rather than a goal, however both Hummel and Jackson said the experience is what they want Jackson to get out of state the most.

“I hope that I have a lot of fun with it,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to stress out over it. Hopefully, I have fun and hope I do OK. I wish the other people good luck too.”

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