The contraption set up next to the diving well at IUPUI’s Natatorium looks awkwardly out of place.
However, in the eyes of Center Grove senior Maddie Gordon, and other divers who train here, a trampoline on which to further grasp the intricacies of midair technique makes all the sense in the world.
Gordon, wearing black shorts and a sleeveless blue Kentucky Wildcats T-shirt, lifts her 5-foot-3 frame onto the trampoline’s surface and begins to bounce.
Slowly at first. In time the bounces become more pronounced as Gordon eventually begins elevating for a series of flips and twists before stopping to collect her breath and focus.
A few moments later the sequence begins anew.
“The trampoline helps you practice your flips and your come-outs to all your dives so that once you get in the water you can do them right,” said Gordon, who in November signed a national letter of intent to dive for coach Ted Hautau’s program at the University of Kentucky.
“I prefer platform (diving). At Kentucky I will do 10-meter (platform) and 1-meter springboard and 3-meter springboard.”
What Gordon won’t do this winter is compete for Center Grove, a preference that has raised some eyebrows around Johnson County. After all, this is the diver who placed seventh at the State Finals as a freshman and fifth each of the past two seasons.
“I’m choosing to just train for college and set aside all competitions,” Gordon explained. “Everyone has been pretty supportive. It was my plan basically all through high school.”
Gordon’s frenetic schedule has her making the drive to IUPUI five or six days a week to train. Five of those originate from the Center Grove parking lot as she departs campus at 1:30 p.m. and won’t return home until about 7:30 p.m.
Only then can Gordon, a 3.5 grade-point average student who plans to major in psychology at Kentucky, turn her attention to schoolwork.
On the Saturdays Gordon trains at the Natatorium from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., meaning she devotes anywhere from 24 to 28.5 hours training there weekly and no less than five hours driving to and from.
“Maddie is very talented, but it’s basically because she works at it,” said Center Grove diving coach Fred Hill, who instructed Gordon from seventh-grade through her junior season. “In a sport like diving, if you’re not working harder than the next person you’re not going to beat them.”
Inserted into tumbling classes as a toddler, Gordon made the natural progression into gymnastics before opting to concentrate on diving at age 13. Gymnastics benefited Gordon in terms of her athleticism, coordination, stamina and overall body awareness.
“(Diving) is a lot like gymnastics, and I did gymnastics for 11 years,” Gordon said. “It’s a lot more thrilling, like jumping off 10 meters and doing so many flips.”
Your typical weekday afternoon at the Natatorium includes an assortment of divers at or around Gordon’s age putting in the hours to become better.
Some attend schools in the Indianapolis Metropolitan area. Others are home-schooled.
“We spend so much time practicing that we’re like a family. You get to know each other, and that’s basically who you spend your whole life with,” Gordon said. “The technique part of diving is with your coach, but the courage to do new dives comes within the team.”
Sean McCarthy is executive director of the Indiana International School of Diving, which trains about 200 divers throughout the state.
Gordon is one of 12 divers McCarthy works with at the Natatorium.
“Maddie has explosive quickness and a full range of motion where another kid might struggle with those movements,” McCarthy said. “What she’s doing now is going into a construction zone where she builds her body. When spring thaws, our goal is for Maddie to have her three-and-a-half somersaults in each direction.”
In other words, be better equipped for the challenges of collegiate completion at the Division I level.
Gordon fielded scholarship offers from two other prominent women’s diving programs in Ohio State and Virginia Tech. She felt most comfortable with Kentucky, a member of the Southeastern Conference, which has produced 12 of the past 16 NCAA women’s championship teams (six for Georgia, five for Auburn and one for Florida).
The 2014-2015 Kentucky women’s swimming and diving team includes 31 athletes from 15 states and another from Sweden.
Soon on the platform will be Gordon, who is feeling mighty blue these days – in a good way.
“We are excited to have Maddie joining our team. She is an up-and-coming talent in diving and we believe she has a great upside being fairly new to the sport and having progressed far already,” said Hautau, who took over as the Wildcats’ men’s and women’s dive coach in 2009.
“She is adept at both springboard and platform and will be a scorer in the SEC in all three diving events. Most importantly, Maddie is humble and desires to learn.”
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THE GORDON FILE
Name: Maddie Gordon
Family: Parents, Gary and Colleen; sister, Katie, 20
Favorite TV show: “Criminal Minds”
Favorite food: Mexican
Favorite movie: “Bridesmaids”
Favorite athlete: David Boudia
Favorite team: Indiana Pacers