By Sean Begin
Walking into the Jack Suydam Natatorium, the expected-but-still-pungent chlorine smell hits first, followed by a pressing humidity that settles in slowly.
At the other end of the 50 meter pool, Jessica Goldman is jumping on a gymnastics style trampoline, strapped into a belt that’s attached by guide ropes to a 30-foot tall blue metal frame.
After a few bounces to gain some height, she twists and spins, landing feet first and restarting her bounce, practicing the move a few more times. She unstraps herself and heads to the diving board where she attempts the same twist and spin move during her dive.
“It’s like a simulation of what you’re going to do in the pool,” says Goldman of the trampoline work. “I was trying to learn something new – how to twist – today.”
For Goldman, trampoline work is not new territory. In fact, neither is the spinning and flipping inherent in the world of diving.
As a kid, Goldman spent eight years in gymnastics before stopping in the eighth grade due to the sports stress on her body. Still looking to stay active, she tried several other sports before settling with diving.
“Because I had such a strong background [in gymnastics], it really came natural to me,’ said Goldman of her decision to start diving. “Everything that I did in gymnastics I basically just found a way to apply it to diving.”
Goldman, who grew up in nearby Newington, competed as a diver during all four of her years at Newington High School. During this time she attended diving camps around the country, including at Indiana University which she calls “a really amazing place to dive,” as well as participating on club teams both at Central and at Trinity College.
When the time came for Goldman to decide where to attend school, her original choices did not even include Central. “It wasn’t even on my list at first,” she says. But after looking and visiting multiple schools, nothing seemed like a good fit for her.
“I came to Central, really late in the game. I met with [diving coach] Michael [Trueworthy] and did a tour of the school. And it was like, that’s the school I was missing and it was kind of right in front of my face this entire time.”
Ironically, Goldman’s high school diving coach and Trueworthy had been members together on the UConn diving team. “It’s such a small world,” says Goldman.
For Goldman, the decision to dive collegiately was a last minute one, “but I’m so happy I did it,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
That last minute decision has seen Goldman meet great success in her freshman year as well as so far this year, her second on the team. In the NEC Championships last season, Goldman took first place in both the 1-meter and 3-meter events.
And she has started this season off by winning NEC Diver of the Week in each of the first three weeks, culminating with a win at the Blue Devil Diving Invitational last Saturday.
“She’s a totally different diver now than she was just a year ago. The scores reflect it,” said Trueworthy.
Goldman has put in a lot of time not only in the pool but in her work outside it, spending time in both the weight room and on dry land, running circuits of the campus to keep up her endurance.
“You wouldn’t think you have to because it’s just taking a few steps off a board but doing that for two hours in a row you need to have endurance,” she said.
For Goldman, all the hard work and the 6 a.m. practices and long weeks are worth it when she competes successfully. For her the goal is to not only once again compete and win at the NECs, but score high enough to earn a spot to what’s called zones, a tournament following the NECs featuring the best NCAA swimmers and divers in the region.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure but I hope that she’ll qualify for zones. She’s not too far away right now. So it’s within the realm of possibilities,” said Trueworthy.
The minimum score for zones, according to Goldman and Trueworthy, is a 260. In her win at the Blue Devil Invitational, Goldman scored a 247 on the 1-meter dive.
“I’m confident that I have a lot of potential and I see places for myself in the future and that definitely motivates me,” she said.
Goldman returns to the pool next Saturday when Vermont and Merrimack come visit Central.