Kentucky’s Becca Hamperian stands 32 feet above the ground looking down into the water from the 10-meter diving platform.
Lancaster Aquatic Center suddenly goes silent. Becca breathes, concentrates, as she walks to the end of the platform.
She takes one more breath, and suddenly, she’s in the air. As her hands hit the water, the crowd erupts in cheers and Becca comes up from the water smiling from ear to ear.
“I’m terrified up there,” Hamperian said. “I just have to count to three and not think and get myself off the platform. I know once I am in the air everything will be fine.”
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For Hamperian, and for most collegiate divers, the nervous feeling of standing on the platform moments before they dive into the water, is quite familiar. But for the Lafayette High School graduate, the diving platforms at the University of Kentucky’s Lancaster Aquatic Center are where she grew up.
“I grew up training with the college coach, and he passed away when I was young,” Hamperian said. “I knew I just wanted to stay here and keep diving with the college team.”
Mike Lyden was the head coach at Kentucky from 1993 until he lost his battle with cancer in 2008. Before Kentucky, Lyden coached diving at LSU from 1989 to 1993.
I’m terrified up there. I just have to count to three and not think and get myself off the platform. I know once I am in the air everything will be fine.
During Lyden’s time at Kentucky, 12 Wildcats earned 51 All-American selections. In 1996, Lyden was named the NCAA Women’s Diving Coach of the Year. He was named Southeastern Conference’s diving coach of the year nine times.
It is Lyden’s spirit that keeps Hamperian diving.
“I definitely keep diving for him, and I know he’s always looking down on me and laughing at me when I mess up,” Hamperian said. “I know he’s up there watching.”
Hamperian has given her former coach quite the show to watch. Last year as a sophomore, Hamperian became a two-time first-team All-American. She was also named the SEC’s female diver of the year. In 2013, she was named to the All-SEC freshman team before redshirting in 2014 because of an injury.
But for Hamperian, the journey is far from over as she aims for another season of All-American honors.
“I definitely want to go to NCAA and the finals and be an All-American again,” Hamperian said.
Hamperian started this season on a high note as she was named the SEC’s diver of the week on Dec. 8 after she was the top collegiate finisher in the platform, and the second collegiate finisher in the 1-meter and 3-meter dives at the Miami Open.
UK’s swimming and diving team travels to Louisville to compete Saturday. The SEC Championships are Feb. 16-20 in Columbia, Mo.
Kentucky at Louisville
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Ralph Wright Natatorium