By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Pete Turnham’s diving story began at Samford Pool, a mile and a half away from Auburn’s James E. Martin Aquatics Center.
“I got into the sport on my own,” Turnham said. “I’d go to the city pool because I found myself bored over the summer, so I’d just flip around and hurl myself off the board.”
Like many, Turnham grew up playing football and baseball. In middle school, he joined Auburn diving coach Jeff Shaffer’s club program.
“He left baseball and came into diving,” Shaffer said. “Each year, he’s developed a higher level of skill.”
Turnham, a junior, is one of five Auburn divers competing in this week’s Zone B Championships, with the Southeast’s top divers trying to earn spots in the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
“As far as being a hometown kid in your hometown pool, it’s something surreal,” Turnham said.
Both coach and diver say the home-pool advantage is significant.
“There are a lot of things you have to take into account when you’re diving,” Turnham said. “The surrounding areas when you’re flipping through the air, knowing what to look at.”
“The meet being in our home pool should take some of that pressure off,” Shaffer said. “If he can step up and dive and have fun, he’ll be very successful.”
Turnham says his strength – physical and mental – helps him, especially when he’s staring from the platform into the water 10 meters below.
“I’m not afraid to do it,” Turnham said. “Diving, to me, is a huge mental game. It’s one of the biggest parts.”
Without a gymnastics background, Turnham invested the practice time required to compensate for his relatively late start in the sport.
“I work so hard just to catch up with everybody,” he said. “Even people on my team, I’m still trying to catch up to some of them.
“I think what’s kept me in it is that thrill, that adrenaline rush, and then Jeff pushing me to that standard of excellence that he knows everybody can reach. That’s one of the main things that keeps me going is knowing that I can do better.”
Shaffer, who says Turnham’s athletic ability allows him to handle difficult dives, seeks consistency this week from his longtime pupil.
“The key to diving, especially at the zone meet, you don’t have to be outstanding,” Shaffer said. “You have to minimize mistakes. When you minimize mistakes, you maximize your opportunity to advance. And that’s what we are looking to do.”
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) March 6, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer