The Ohio University swimming and diving team recently made a splash by hosting its first-ever cannonball contest.
On Wednesday night, roughly 15-20 contestants made their way to the OU aquatic center in hopes of taking home the grand prize by simply having the best cannonball.
“It's just a way for us to promote our swimming and diving team here at Ohio University,” said Niko Koufidakis, a graduate assistant for marketing and ticket sales with Ohio University athletics. “It's a cool event, good community outreach for us.”
OU Athletics and marketing have always promoted the swim and dive teams through posters, but wanted to be more creative in marketing the team and their upcoming meets this year.
“It was something out of the box, something we never really tried before as a department,” Koufidakis said. “So we're just trying to push the envelope and find creative ways to market the team.”
Sedric Granger, a junior studying journalism, was the emcee for the first-ever competition. Granger shared advice right before the first cannonball.
“It's cool to have a cannonball,” Granger said. “But if you have a way of like doing a flip while doing it, or maybe a spin, just add a little razzle dazzle, that can be something that can separate you from the rest of the competition.”
It was as clear as the pool water that contestants were working to win. Bill “The Hound Dog” Miller, a freshman studying marketing, has worked at a pool previously. It is because of that factor Miller believed he was prepared for the challenge.
“I actually did not know about this competition until about 24 hours ago, but I've been training for this my whole life,” Miller said. “I feel like every summer I worked at that pool, every summer I've been in a pool, I've been dedicating myself to this very moment. This is my Super Bowl right here.”
Despite the fierce competition for the first place prize of an Ohio Bobcats backpack stuffed with merchandise, a $50 College Bookstore gift card and a $20 Union Street Diner gift card, some contestants were simply “cannonballing” for a fun time.
“I don't plan to win,” said Hannah Nolte, a freshman studying nursing. “I'm not opposed to not winning, of course. I'd love the top prize, but I am fine with just walking away with the chips and salsa coupon.”
As participants climbed the ladder to the 3-meter diving board, everyone had a different strategy they implemented. From classic belly-flops to front-flip cannonball hybrids, creativity was evident in each splash.
“My strategy is to just condense myself into a little ball as possible and just let gravity do all the work.” Nolte said.
The judges, which included Rufus the Bobcat, gave each participant a score of up to 10. All contestants jumped twice, but only a select few were chosen to partake in the final, third jump.
The audience included both families and members from the swim and dive team who saw the unique personalities each contestant exhibited as they stepped onto the board. From throwing hats to hyping up the crowd, there was no shortage of creativity.
“This is a great event for us just to get students out to the Aquatic Center, and get people to show their personality a little bit on the board, see what you get from a big splash or something like that,” said Mason Norman, the head coach of the swimming and diving team.
As the finalists made their third and final splash, the judges were faced with the tough challenge of not only figuring out the third and second-place finishers but most importantly, crowning a grand winner.
Despite not having the main goal of taking home the gold, it was ultimately Nolte who won the first-ever cannonball contest. As the event concluded, all contestants left feeling satisfied and as warm as the aquatic center air.
“I'm really happy with it, especially for it being the first time Ohio students always show up and hopefully they can come out to the meet on Saturday against Miami,” said Sarina Dirrig, an assistant coordinator of sales and marketing for Ohio University athletics.
For more aquatic expertise, the Ohio University swim and dive team will take on the Miami Redhawks this Saturday at 11 a.m. at the aquatic center.
See all the cannonballs in the full video below!