By Janee Law
With her brown hair tied back into a low bun, 14-year-old Camille Roberts smiles widely to her coach before approaching the diving board. Once she reaches the board, where she’s spent most of the last five years of her life perfecting her craft, her smile turns to a look of determination.
The slim-figured athlete is focused on the mechanics of her performance, on patience, reach and body alignment. She walks up the steps, down to the front of the diving board and reaches up with her arms, which curve out at the elbows. Her body stretches and brown eyes widen before she makes the jump, shooting in the air and into a dive.
This has been recurring part of Camille’s life, ever since she began diving as a 9-year-old in Switzerland, progressing in the sport ever since.
And she’s gotten pretty good at it.
Last week, Camille became the first female Cold Spring Harbor High School student to win a Nassau County diving championship. As a freshman.
On Nov. 20, she’ll add another “first” to her Seahawks résumé when she competes in her first New York state diving championships at Ithaca College. She’ll be one of two Nassau County representatives.
“I still remember the moment,” said Deborah Roberts, Camille’s mother, recalling when her daughter first discovered a love for diving. Roberts, 46, said it came after a swimming lesson six years ago.
“She was 8 years old and, in the swimming lessons, they taught you how to dive, just dive off to start your strokes, and that same day…she spent the whole afternoon diving.”
Roberts thought to herself, “‘Well, maybe she would like to do diving as a sport.”
Camille took that idea to heart.
“I learned how to dive off the block and I got really excited and wanted to start diving,” said Camille, who lives in Laurel Hollow.
Back in Lausanne, Switzerland, Camille began diving for a local club before her family moved to Ohio in 2009. Camille continued developing her skills there. In August, the family moved to Laurel Hollow.
Her mother, father Matthew, twin brother Noah and 9-year-old brother Gabriel have supported Camille throughout her diving career, she said.
“I started off with just lessons, simple dives and eventually I got less scared,” Camille said, adding that her coaches soon moved her up to tougher dives.
Camille’s current coach is George Taylor III, who has worked with her since she joined Cold Spring Harbor High School. The pair has focused on Camille’s board presence and spatial orientation, while ensuring she is “riding the board” in order to get better jumps into her dives.
“I knew that proper mechanics, good board work [and] her mental state of mind would all play a part in this,” Taylor said. And so does her love for the sport, he added.
“In practice, with each dive, she smiles.”
Coming into the 2015-2016 season, Taylor said he and Camille focused on her “mechanics, body alignment, and techniques that would get her to adjust to high school competition.”
But, as her skills quickly developed throughout the season, Taylor said the goal changed from that of perfecting fundamentals to competing for a state championship.
Aware of how difficult that would be, the duo had to work fast but take it one step at a time, Taylor said. Camille made every practice and trained very hard.
“He’s actually given her a lot of personal attention,” Camille’s mother said. “[She’s] perfected some dives she didn’t have just a few months ago, so he’s really, in a short amount of time, made a big difference.”
At the state competition next Friday, Camille will dive a total of 11 times. There are five categories of dives, including inwards, backs, reverses, fronts and twisters, and athletes have to complete two dives for four of the categories and triple up on one, Camille said.
Judges base scores on the jump, rip and form of the dive and, when a dive is executed, less splash is better.
Camille will go to reached the state competition after claiming a Nassau championship Nov. 4 at Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow. There, Camille broke two school records with a score of 289.70 on her sixth dive and 449.85 on her 11th dive. Camille ended up winning the county title by 14 points.
“To have an athlete compete at such a high level, with such poise and confidence is wonderful to be a part of,” said Michael Bongino, Cold Spring Harbor’s athletic director. “Camille is one of those athletes with unlimited potential.”