By the end of his college career this spring, Peter Gibbons ’13 had broken every Cougars diving record. He was the top diver in the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association for the last three years, was named the CCSA’s Diver of the Week 15 times and in March became the first Cougar to compete in a regional NCAA diving championship meet.
And, to think, Gibbons wasn’t even planning on joining the College’s swimming and diving team when he enrolled as a freshman.
Gibbons had been diving since he was 8 years old. Back then, his smallness made him unsuitable for other sports but a nimble and efficient acrobat above the water. As he aged, however, Gibbons got big, at least for a diver, growing to 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds. Still, he completed an outstanding high school diving career in Virginia before heading off to the College, where a conversation with swimming and diving coach Bruce Zimmerman convinced Gibbons to join the team. It was a wise decision, as Gibbons soon established new records in the 1- and 3-meter dives.
Those accomplishments did not come easy. Gibbons earned them, practicing for 20 hours a week, whether in the water, in the gym or on the track. Then, when it came time to perform at a competition, he’d steel his nerves as he walked out on the diving board, launch himself into the air and nail the dive.
“You do your best to find a happy place and relax,” he says of handling the pressure.
His senior year counted among his best, as Gibbons obtained his highest scores from judges and earned a trip to a regional NCAA Zone Diving Championship, which is the qualifying event for the national championship.
“Every year, I’ve known that there is always room for improvement,” Gibbons says. “This year was all about getting a higher score and breaking that 300 mark. A score of 300 is kind of the coveted goal for all divers to break, and I did it at South Carolina in the fall. Obviously, getting a score high enough to qualify for zones was the next goal, and I was excited to be able to accomplish that, too.”
He placed 32nd at the zone competition to finish his collegiate diving career. Now the biology major and former ROTC cadet, who was commissioned in May as a second lieutenant in the S.C. Army National Guard, plans to apply to schools to become a physician assistant. Later in life, he hopes to return to the sport of diving as a coach. In the meantime, he’s got some great memories of the pool.
“After four years of college diving, I wouldn’t change a thing,” says Gibbons. “I think it was the best decision of my life to dive at the College.”