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Tom Gimm, Ohio's new head diving coach, poses for a portrait as Ireland Littlejohn and Olivia Dillon dive in the background at the Aquatic Center on Jan. 26, 2017.

Diving team showing improvements under new coach

This season hasn't gone as planned, a new coach meant new standards and expectations.

But then someone got hurt; then someone else. 

Soon, first-year diving coach Tom Gimm had to improvise: Olivia Dillon and Nicole Hughes were his only options. 

"We've had to battle some injuries," Gimm said. 

For Elise Katz, a freshman, stress fractures in a foot have kept her out of the pool entirely; for Ireland Littlejohn, a freshman, she missed four meets and is trying to catch up. 

And then there are Dillon and Hughes, who are both sophomores. For them, it's about catching up, which has led to a learning curve. 

“My sophomores have only been here a year so they really are kind of new to this program,” Gimm said. “The freshman coming in obviously are brand new to this program and I’m brand new to this program so we’re all new trying to figure each other out still.”

Gimm's time in Athens has been brief, but comes with experience. Previously he was the diving coach at Transylvania University from 2011-2015, along with being a volunteer assistant diving coach for the University of Kentucky.

The four divers on his team, though, lack experience. Entering this season, Ohio had a combined college experience of five meets — all from Dillion.

Dillon, a sophomore, has proven talent. Last year, she made NCAA Zone C Championships, taking 16th place in the platform dive. Already climbing the Ohio record books, her 285.08 in the 1-meter against Denison on Jan. 7 put her into sixth-place in Ohio history.

“It would be cool to break records one day," she said. "Knowing that I am within reach, it's only my second season as well, so that’s kind of cool."

Hughes' scenario is different.

After transferring from Cincinnati last year, Hughes had to sit on the pool deck.

“Nicole brings an incredible work ethic to this team," Gimm said. "She's gotten very good, very quickly and seen a lot of improvements that I didn't think she expected to have."

In the first meet, Hughes produced a 172.5 score in the 1-meter against Youngstown State. By the Denison meet, she had already improved to a 245.3. 

Now Gimm needs Littlejohn to improve quickly, too.

Littlejohn competed in the first meet of the year against Youngstown State in October but then was out with an injury for the rest of 2016. In her first two meets back, Littlejohn set personal bests.

“She's just as good as she was when she first started in September,” Gimm said. “That's a pretty big thing to have in an athlete if they're through that adversity and if they could be resilient and bounce back from those things.”

Now it's just a matter of sustaining improvement — even if it's a route Gimm didn't initially expect. 

“I'm hoping after the entire year underneath their belt they'll be a little bit more comfortable,” Gimm said. “We will see a little bit more of that progress come a year, two, three years on the road is the hope.” 


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