Perfect plunge: Austin’s Kennedy is rising in the diving world

Published 3:32 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Austin senior Alayna Kennedy still has to pinch herself sometimes.

After winning the Class A state diving title last fall, Kennedy has qualified for the biggest meet of her life and she has selected her future at a Division I school.

Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind nine months for Kennedy and the next step for her is to compete with the AAU Junior National Team in Rome, Italy on July 20-27.

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“I always take high school meets seriously and everybody is a competitor and a friend. It helps me gain a lot of confidence for club season, where it’s significantly harder, because I’m competing against divers from across the nation,” Kennedy said. “I came in with a different mentality this summer. I didn’t come in with the automatic defeat that I used to go in with, because I would get really intimidated by some of those girls (in the past).”

Kennedy has the opportunity to dive in the one-meter, three-meter, and five-meter platform dive in Rome, Italy on July 20-27. She will compete on July 24-26.

Kennedy qualified for the National Team at a recent AAU qualifying meet in Midland, Texas where she won the one-meter dive and took third on the three-meter beam and third in five-meter the platform, despite only having been on a platform in practice for less than eight hours total before the competition.

“I still can’t get this into proper words or emotions,” Kennedy said. “When I saw the top three in Texas go to Rome, I said that’s good incentive, ha ha. It was never a joke, but it was never serious (about going there). The fact that I got top three in all three events, that was really good.”

After qualifying for the meet in Rome, Kennedy’s family had to raise funds for the trip and before Kennedy knew it, community members, friends and extended family had all stepped up financially and verbally to offer the support she needed.

“None of this would be possible without the overwhelming support from the community,” Kennedy said. “There have been a lot of words of encouragement and donations and it’s amazing to see how much they really care. It happened really quick and that’s absolutely crazy. It really makes this seem more real. To have the funds needed to make this happen means I’m really going. I’m actually getting on that plane.”

Along with her big summer performance Kennedy has also verbally committed to Division I Boston University with plans of being on their diving team in the fall of 2025. She began thinking about the possibility of diving in college a year ago and ever since Kennedy began emailing schools on June 15 of 2023, the interest began to grow throughout the last 12 months.

“This opens so many doors. If you put in enough work and enough time with strength training and stretching, while still having fun, then anything is possible,” Kennedy said. “I can do this. It’s really easy to allow yourself to think you’re not as good as others and this will never happen, but if you focus on your own personal best, it can happen.”

Climbing the ladder into elite meets has introduced Kennedy into a whole new world of diving. She’s now watching the Olympic Trials with knowledge of some of the competitors and she’s keeping in touch with the top high school divers in the nation through social media.

“Seeing some of these girls in person and knowing that we’re going to Rome together, it makes a friendship out of it. We’re really a team and we all cheer each other on at meets and on social media,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been working on new dives for the meet and my goal is to get a personal best and stay positive.”

In 2023, Kennedy won a Class A state diving championship for the Austin Packers with a score of 432.45 and she was later named a finalist for the Minnesota Swimming and Diving athlete of the year award.

Kennedy competes for the Rochester Diving Club in the summer and her coach is Jeremiah Jackson.

Any donations for Kennedy’s diving journey may be sent to P.O. Box 7796, Rochester, MN 55903.