By TAYLOR GRAFFT
She may only be 10 years old, but Tarrin Gilliland has already proven she has what it takes to be a champion diver.
Fresh off her sweep of the three events she dominated at the United States Diving Junior Nationals, Gilliland is confident that she can have success again at the Pan American Games, which are held every other year, in September in Tucson, Ariz.
This will mark the first time the competition will be held in the United States since 2005.
Gilliland is excited that she will have a crowd of pro-American fans cheering her on at the competition because it will be easier on her mentally.
Many swimmers and divers have a routine they do or say to get them psyched for the event. Before every event Gilliland says a verse to prepare.
“I can do all things through Christ’s strength and being,” Gilliland said. “I say that when I’m scared and it calms me down.”
Gilliland is one of 24 divers that who was selected to represent the United States at the Junior Pan American Games. She will be the only diver in her age class of 11-and-under girls.
The games will be held on Sept. 26-29 and will feature an estimated 150 divers from 10 countries.
“It’s a little scary competing against people from other countries,” Gilliland said.
Gilliland recently won three gold medals in the 1-meter, platform, and 3-meter dives.
In the platform, she scored 262.90 points and was the only diver to score more than 200 points. In international competitions there is a number called the FOF score. The FOF score for 11-and-under girls is 212, but Gilliland blew that score out of the water and barely missed the FOF score for the next age group above—and the age group above Gilliland has one extra dive.
Gilliland says that the platform is her favorite event because, “the higher up you go the easier it is win.” And Gilliland said her favorite dive to perform is the front one-half.
In the 1-meter dive she finished with 248.90 points. And she won the 3-meter title with 265.50 points to complete the sweep.
The United States roster for the Pan American Games was chosen based off performance at the United States Diving Junior Nationals held August 4-10 in Minneapolis, Minn.
Gilliland is most excited about getting the cool perks that come with representing the USA. The towels, the bags, the jackets, etc.
Before every event Gilliland also prepares by visualizing her dives. And she has a Sammy towel in the shape of a pterodactyl. That’s how Gilliland got her nickname—pterodactyl.
“There’s a girl called Genie and she started calling me that,” Gilliland said. “She’s the one that made the Sammy and she didn’t know that pterodactyl was spelled with a ‘p’.”
Gilliland dives for Longhorn Aquatics, which will be sending four girls to the competition and their head coach.
At practice Gilliland says they focus on working on the basics and their form, but once competitions get closer, they focus on their specific dives.
Gilliland will be flying by herself for the first time to the Pan American Games. The parents won’t be with the divers, but the head coach and her teammates will be with her.
“I’m a little nervous about flying by myself for the first time,” Gilliland said.
Gilliland started diving when she was swimming in her pool and noticed a diving board. It really got her excited and interested in the sport. She started doing tricks and flips off the diving board and the excitement stuck.
Gilliland also had success this year by winning West Nationals and winning her first senior platform. She’s also won 16 gold medals this year.
After the Pan American Games, Gilliland is looking forward to the Jingle Bell Classic that is held the second weekend in December in Houston, Texas.
It will be the first time she will compete at 7-meters and the first time she will compete against 14-and-up girls consistently.