When Mitchell Ryan ’19 was a sophomore at East Lyme High School, he didn’t know whether his school had a pool. Six years later, Ryan has been named an All-American diver in the NCAA DIII Swimming and Diving Championships.
The diver also finished his career at Bowdoin on a high note, placing eighth in the first 3-meter event at nationals and sixth in the 1-meter dive.
Ryan, who is from Salem, Conn., joined his high school diving team on a whim after spending a gym class in the pool.
“It was a lesson of water polo, and we ended up going off the diving boards afterwards. The coach came over to my friend and I and told us to join the diving team,” said Ryan. “So we went out and joined.”
Usually, divers come from a gymnastics or trampoline background, but Ryan’s athletic history was unique.
“Throughout high school I [ran] track. I [also] played soccer and lacrosse,” said Ryan. “I [even] tried pole vaulting in high school [but] didn’t really like it too much.”
Despite his nontraditional athletic background, Ryan learned diving quickly. Come senior year, he was an official Bowdoin recruit. The College’s co-ed dive team consists of just seven members, so the recruitment standard is very high.
Diving is not without challenges, however. For Ryan, learning new dives is always a demanding process.
“Learning new dives is pretty hard because, in the pool, if you smack, it’s a pretty big impact on your mental state” Ryan said. “You obviously don’t want to do the dive again after you smack once and then smack again.”
While Ryan acknowledges he is self-motivated, he also recognizes the positive impact his teammates have had on his growth.
“We … had some strong freshmen come in that definitely pushed me to go harder this season,” Ryan said. “[This] probably helped me in the national ranking too, which is good.”
Ryan also credits his coach, Kelsey Willard, for his success.
“Coach has definitely played a big part in my career as a diver. I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am now without her,” Ryan said.
Ultimately, Ryan is grateful for the familial environment that Bowdoin’s swim and dive team fosters.
“It’s like one cohesive unit … A lot of other schools are very divided in terms of swimming and diving, but Bowdoin does a really good job of incorporating both swimming and diving and [uniting] their programs,” said Ryan. “I actually live with three other swimmers. They’re three of my best friends.”