Last year’s state experience for Ryan Cady was a whirlwind experience.
And by the end, it was a surprise.
The Manhattan High senior diver took eighth in diving at the Class 6A state swimming meet last year, much higher than he expected to finish.
But it helped drive him to be better, and he practiced over the summer to improve, notably on his twist dives.
MHS diving coach Al Days said much of the credit for how good Cady has been this year belongs to the senior for the time he put in during the offseason.
“He did a lot on his own in the summers to get where he is now on the boards,” Days said. “He did pick up some bad habits in the summer that we’ve been working to fix, but he was a terrible twister last year, and he spent a lot more time working on it. Now they are one of his better dives, and he has been motivated and has worked really hard.”
Cady will again compete in the state meet this year, with the diving competition opening on Thursday at the Capital Federal Natatorium in Topeka and ending on Friday.
The senior earned his qualification score early in the season, and spent the rest of the year with many ups, and a few downs to this point.
One down moment occurred just last week during the Centennial League diving competition at Kansas State. Cady went in a favorite to win, but admitted his own lapse of focus played into him finishing second.
He said he knows what he needs to do to avoid that this week.
“I was lacking a bit of focus and not really thinking about my dives, which was weird,” Cady said. “I just got to think about my dives and keep my mind on the pool.”
Days said Cady should have been more disciplined as a senior in that situation, but said those kind of things can and will happen in the sport of diving.
Cady said he was going to use practice this week to get better, and use the continued guidance from Days to improve his dives. The senior said he feels at an advantage having Days as a coach.
“He gets and sees the things that I wouldn’t in the dives,” Cady said. “He has been very helpful, he just knows more. He knows what he is talking about and he makes it make sense.”
Along with Cady, the Indians will be sending another diver in sophomore Evan Olson. Olson qualified for state in the same meet that saw the MHS senior falter on his confidence.
Cady said Olson has learned a lot from him over the past two years, and he relishes the opportunity to be a teacher to the younger diver.
Days said Cady has played a big part of the improvement of Olson.
“I think he taught diving lessons last summer, and that got him some teaching experience, and now he is kind of Evan’s mentor,” he said. “He helps him a lot with things that I don’t even see.”
Cady said he plans to join the Coast Guard after he graduates, and take college classes on the side.
He said the Guard offers him a chance to keep doing the things he enjoys.
“I want to be a rescue swimmer and they jump out of helicopters, which incorporates two of the things that I really like,” he said. “I want to fly at some point after the Coast Guard, but I like the Coast Guard because I like swimming and helping people.”
Days said he isn’t surprised to see Cady lean towards joining the Coast Guard, or to hear what he wants to do in the Guard either.
“I just hope he doesn’t dive unassisted, because he would probably want to,” he joked. “He is so adventurous, and diving is a mental sport that can be scary, and he has overcome a lot of fears.”
The swimming part of the state meet will open on Friday and the finals will be held on Saturday.