Cameron Thatcher (shown here competing in the FINA World Junior Diving Championships in Penza, Russia last September) blew away the field and broke the three state records while capturing his first diving title.

Photo by Andrey Denim

On April 2, 1998, doctors informed Paul and Kristin Thatcher their son Cameron had been born with a congenital heart defect and probably would never be active in athletics.

  “The doctors told my parents to look into buying a piano,” Cameron Thatcher said with a laugh. “They thought they may have to do an aortic valve replacement and there was a good chance I’d never play any sports.”
  Seventeen years later, the Olentangy Liberty High School junior still can’t play the piano but enjoys proving those doctors wrong. Thatcher shattered three state records as he captured the Division I state 1-meter diving title Feb. 28 in Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium. Currently Thatcher is gearing up to compete in the USA National Synchronized Diving Meet April 9-12 in Greensboro, N.C.
  Thatcher comes into the April meet after eradicating the state record, the state meet record and the Branin Natatorium record by scoring 630.9 points at the state meet. North Canton Hoover’s David Waszak (524.6), the runner up, finished 106.3 points behind Thatcher. That’s the widest margin of victory since at least 1971 when OHSAA started posting first and second place finishers at the state meet.
  Thatcher left a smoking trail of broken records in his wake. He topped his own state record of 615.7, set at a diving invitational at Columbus School for Girls Feb. 7. Thatcher also rewrote the previous state meet record of 574.6, set by Worthington Kilbourne’s Landon Marzullo in 2006 and the Branin pool record of 608.7, previously held by Oakland (Mich.) University’s Darin Di Fazio.
  “Our plan for the season was to accomplish the state record, the state meet record and the pool record at the state meet,” Thatcher said. “Hitting (the state record) early in the season took some of the weight off my shoulders. The state meet record was quite a bit lower than the state record so that gave me some confidence.”
  At Canton, Thatcher nailed his eighth dive, an inward 2 1/2, to move toward the top of the pack. The dive was a last minute addition after he performed it well in warmups the day before the finals.
  “My eighth dive is usually the last one I have to worry about,” Thatcher said. “If I can hit the eighth dive, I know I can hit nine and 10.”
  With his place at the top of the podium secured, Thatcher scored 69 points on his final dive, a front 3 1/2 tuck, to put the exclamation mark on his state meet performance.
  “After I came out of the water, there was a glitch in the (scoring) computer. It took a couple of extra seconds longer than it normally does (to post the score),” Thatcher said. “I was a little worried and then it came up. It was just a sense of relief. All the hard work and all the goals we had been dreaming of had finally come true.”

Setback leads to a spring forward

  Thatcher’s journey to the top began when he finished second at the state meet a year ago. Macedonia Nordonia’s Stephen Romanik won his second consecutive state title with a 565.1, edging Thatcher (558.55) by 2.55 points.
  “That was probably the thing that drove me the most,” said Thatcher, who had been the top seed for the 2014 state meet after scoring a 558.85 at the Central District meet. “Steve and I are pretty close and I was happy he won it again. But I was definitely motivated to come back this year.”
  To get ready for the season, Thatcher began working with personal trainer Charles Gersham at 6 a.m. three times a week. The training increased his leg strength, which helped him to do some of the bigger dives.
  Thatcher began to see the results of the extra training long before the high school season began. In August, Thatcher teamed up with Jordan Windle of Morrisville, N.C. to win the 3-meter synchronized diving championship with 304.95 points at the U.S.A. Diving Junior national championships in Knoxville.
  Twenty-four hours prior to the meet, Thatcher didn’t know who his partner was going to be. Thatcher had been training with Grayson Campbell of Vienna, Va. The day before the meet, Campbell tore his meniscus in practice and was unable to compete.
 “The night (before the championship) I was looking around for a different partner,” Thatcher said. “Windle and I ended up winning the national championship with barely any practice.”
  The two qualified to compete in the FINA World Junior Diving Championships in Penza, Russia where they placed fifth (293.88). They just missed making the top three by 12 points, finishing behind medalists Mexico’s Rodrigo Diego and Adan Zuniga (329.61), Russia’s Nikita Nikolaev and Ilia Molchanov (307.8) and Britain’s Sam Thornton and James Heatly (305.88).
  With Russia’s conflict with Ukraine looming, Team USA considered pulling out of the event. Thatcher said the friendships he made during the trip made all the struggles worth it.
  “The first couple of days, all the athletes stuck with the people who could speak their language,” Thatcher said. “By the end of the two weeks, everyone was cheering for everyone. You develop friendships with these people in just a short period of time.”


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