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Brinkman goes state, nation, now world

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 7/13/23

FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High diving state champion Ava Brinkman made her big splash as a highly touted freshman with a record setting district title, but missed her shot to flash the cash at …

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Brinkman goes state, nation, now world


FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High diving state champion Ava Brinkman made her big splash as a highly touted freshman with a record setting district title, but missed her shot to flash the cash at region and state with an unfortunate diving mishap that left her bruised and unable to continue.

“Just a freak accident, but enough to concern me a little,” said Brinkman, now a junior to be and a sophomore district, region and state champion for the Golden Eagles swim team. “There was some anxiousness along the way, but I knew I just had to get back out there and dive.”

Brinkman’s storming-of-the-castle state title last year pushed her street cred to the highest level and, with a USA national championship meet coming up in Mission Viejo, California, a national title to add to her state awards is imminent.

Thus, with all the state accolade, Brinkman has been named a NISCA (National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association of America, INC) All American (Top 100 in USA) All American, according to a NISCA press release.

Brinkman is one of just four Florida divers on the list which includes Ava Anderson of Fort Lauderdale, a senior at Pine Crest School; Antonina Harned, a 4A state champion senior at Windermere High Scbool, and Juliet Radich, a freshman at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale.

“I’ve competed this summer in regionals in Columbus, OH, then Zones in Cleveland to qualify for the national meet,” said Brinkman. “I got second in platform in regions, and top 10 in zones. Top 10 goes to Nationals.”

Brinkman qualified in the AAU Nationals in Orlando for a trip to Scotland to compete at the international level in the Scottish National and Open Championships, including the British National Diving Cup, in Edinburgh on Dec. 14-17.

“I won platform in Orlando to qualify for Scotland,” said Brinkman. “That will be my first international meet and very exciting.”

One diver who has attacked the international scene in the past was former Orange Park High state champion Melisa Moses, now 51, and an area coach working with the University of North Florida. Moses was a springboard diving fourth place finisher in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by less than two points and also a US National Champion in 1994-95 and a 1995 Pan American silver medalist in 1995.

“I have worked with Ava and she is such a smart athlete and a student of the sport,” said Moses. “The journey into international competition is a matter of fine tuning every little detail of the dive from start to finish.”

Moses commented that her fourth place finish in Atlanta, by a score of 509.64 to Canada’s Annie Pelletier for third to 507.99 for Moses for fourth when asked if she could have done anything in her dives to better her finish said a simple toe flex could have swayed the judges. Fifth place was equally close with a 507.27 score.

“When people ask me that, I say I could have flexed my toes a little bit more to finish my entry into the water,” said Moses. “It’s funny, but that little piece of the dive is what the judges see last. I was within two points of third and just .72 points ahead of fifth with the silver medal at 512.19.”

For Brinkman, ironically, who acknowledged and concurred with Moses that the physical training of bettering her diving is important, but it truly is the little fine points of the dive.

“I’m going up against older, more experienced divers that have been subject to the judges nationally and internationally that see those little pieces of the dive,” said Brinkman. “It’s funny, but a perfectly executed dive in the air and heading to the water relies on the position of my feet and toes at the end of the dive to not negate the beautiful work in the air. The toes are the last thing they see. Loosely flexed toes or feet separated can become a major deduction.”