Blue Springs South diving coach Missy Jackson noticed something different about Bailey Carter’s routine in her second appearance at the Missouri State High School Swimming and Diving Championships earlier this year.
She was awake.
“The fact that she was awake made me think she was going to have a good day because she’s not the most morning person,” Jackson said of Carter, who had to be at the pool for warm-ups at 6 a.m for finals. “They (Carter and Delaney Jackson) were up at 5 something. Last year she didn’t wake up and Delaney left her. Delaney said, ‘I don’t know what to do. I tried to wake her up.’
“When they both came in smiling (at 6 a.m. this year), I knew it was going to be a good day.”
It wasn’t just a good day, it was a great one for the Jaguars sophomore, who, along with Jackson, competed in the state 1-meter diving event. Carter finished at the highest place of any South girls diver in history at state this year, placing second in a field of 57 divers with an 11-dive score of 390.80, 23.5 points behind first-place Ashley Yarbrough of Marquette.
Because of her success at state and during the season, Carter has been named The Examiner’s 2015-16 Swimmer/Diver of the Year.
After scoring 417.25 in 11 dives to claim the Suburban Big Six Conference title, she turned her focus on state.
After her dives at state, she was scoreboard watching in anticipation of what place she would be in and when she found out she was second, the sophomore was pleasantly surprised.
“I didn’t think I’d do that good, but I was really proud of myself,” Carter said. “I was really excited. I was watching the scores on the board and I could tell (that she would take second).”
There were many keys to success for Bailey’s memorable season. For state, it was music.
To get herself pumped before each dive, Carter listened to hip-hop artist Fetty Wap on her phone.
“I would sit and listen to music,” Carter said. “It helped get me focused.”
Doing things like that is just Bailey being Bailey, Missy Jackson said.
“Bailey is her own person,” the veteran diving coach said. “We’ve never had a diver quite like Bailey before. She is a free spirit. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks and she does her own thing. She also goes frog hunting. I don’t know anyone else who does that.”
Another reason for her big season is having a teammate like Delaney Jackson to push her in meets and in practice.
“I think two of them together are great because one of them will do something and the other will be like, ‘Oh, OK. I can do that too,” Missy Jackson said. “They are a great pairing at the pool. They make each other better. When one is in a funk, the other will make them laugh and help them get out of the funk.”
And she did it all while balancing her life between cheerleading and diving, which didn’t afford her as much time to practice as most divers due to having to leave practice early for cheerleading.
“We had to share her this season with cheer since cheer went to nationals,” Missy Jackson said. “She missed almost a week (of practice) going to Texas for nationals. So we had to make a training plan that made sense for her being gone and having shorter practice times. She bought into that.”
Added Carter: “It was stressful because I would go to cheer, then dive, then would have to go home and do homework. Then I would sleep and get up and do it all over again.”
That wasn’t the only obstacle she was able to overcome. She struggled with the full-twisting, 1 ½-turns dive a week before state and the reverse double, a dive in which she scored a zero with during a meet earlier in the season. Carter really had to work hard to refine both dives and she was able to have success with both at state.
“(The full twisting 1 1/2) didn’t look good,” Missy Jackson said. “I was like, ‘Bailey, if it doesn’t look good, we will have to pull it for state and use another dive.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry coach, I will do it right when the meet comes! Sure enough, she did.
“There was just one meet we tried (the reverse double dive), so we didn’t do it again. We didn’t use that dive at conference and didn’t use it again until state. That was in finals. We knew she had to do it because it could be a lot of points. And she said, ‘Tell me I can do it!’ I said, ‘You can do it!’ Then she gets up on the board and does great.”
Carter even exceeded swim coach Errich Oberlander’s expectations, although he knew his sophomore had the potential to place in the top 10 at state.
“We knew the potential was there,” he said. “That meet is such a hard meet because you never know who’s going to be on or who’s going to be off. You have 11 dives and every one is super important. The fifth- through 12th-place divers were so tight, they were all separated by a half a point. Bailey was able to separate herself from that pack. Bailey was very consistently good all day long.”