Renner was traveling around the country to diving competitions, making her way to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., San Antonio and Minneapolis. She will travel to Minneapolis again this week for the USA Diving Junior Nationals.
Renner’s mother, Angela, said the travel was quite unexpected. Rachel has only been diving for a short time, and her parents didn’t expect success to come so quickly.
“We are adjusting to it,” Angela Renner said. “I guess we are embracing it because she is having fun and doing so well at it.”
At competitions this summer, Rachel Renner qualified for the USA Diving Age Group Nationals on the 1-meter board and the USA Diving Speedo Junior Nationals on the 3-meter board. She also competed at AAU Nationals.
At the Age Group Nationals last week, Renner was 15th in the 12-13 1-meter division. Her score of 205.35 was just five points shy of putting her in the finals.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said of the competitions. “I did a lot better than I
thought I would. It was a good experience.”
Through competition, Renner has learned that many of the girls she competes against have been participating in the sport for much longer. At first, it was a bit intimidating, but soon, she found she was just as skilled.
“I was a little worried,” Renner said, “but I guess it turned out fine. I was really surprised I did so well.”
Renner has won several competitions, including her age division at the Tennessee Diving Spring Break Invitational and The Carolina Big Dive AAU Invitational. The dives that score her the most points are the forward 2½-somersault tuck from 3 meters and the forward 1½-somersault, one twist from 3 meters.
While Renner dives from both the 1- and 3-meter boards, she prefers the higher one.
“I used to be terrified of 3 (meters), but now I like it better,” she said. “I don’t know why.”
Perhaps what makes Renner’s accomplishments most impressive is that she has only been diving for about a year. Prior to that, she was a gymnast for eight years — leaving the sport when she suffered an ankle injury.
“Last summer, I went to a diving camp and I decided that I liked it,” Renner said. “My (gymnastics) coach had been telling me for a while that I would make a good diver.”
As a good tumbler in gymnastics, and a part of a swim team during the summer, making the move to diving wasn’t too difficult. Renner said the hardest part was learning about how to move her feet on the board.
“When you are a gymnast, you usually lunge into everything,” Renner said. “Instead, you have to press up and wait on the board and everything. That is totally opposite of gymnastics. You have to muscle up and use all your force. It’s really different.”
Still, she doesn’t think that all gymnasts would make good divers.
“A lot of my gymnast friends were afraid to jump into the water without plugging their nose,” Renner said. “You have to be comfortable with doing a lot of poses and having to dive into the water without plugging your nose.”
Renner is coached by Bill Humber, one of the top diving coaches in the nation, who typically works with just a dozen divers at a time. She practices at the Central Aquatic Center in Marietta, with the Metro Atlanta Diving program.
Renner hopes to join the Sequoyah swimming and diving program in the fall of 2014. Her brother, Kyle, is entering his sophomore season as a swimmer at the school. Currently, Sequoyah doesn’t have any divers on its team, as there aren’t facilities in the county to practice diving.
Even if she isn’t able to compete for Sequoyah, Renner doesn’t plan on giving up on her new sport any time soon.
“I like it because you get to do all these flips and stuff,” she said.
Renner has set other goals for herself, too. They include diving in college and, more immediately, making the USA Diving Junior Nationals next week.
“I just want to get my board work better so that I can get better scores,” she said.
Angela Renner said she and her daughter are looking toward the future and planning for more competitions.
“Next time, they won’t catch us by surprise,” she said.