WALKERSVILLE — Being a diver, Linganore junior Jessica Buntman’s workday ended early at swim meets, where the first event is always the diving competition.
The rest of the night, she sat around cheering on teammates as they did various strokes in the pool.
But this year, Buntman figured she’d try competitive swimming for the first time, competing in the 200 relay and 50 freestyle.
“I had to stay for the rest of the meet anyway, and it looked kind of fun,” she said. “Might as well help the team out.”
In other words, don’t expect Buntman to set any records or win any titles. Besides, she already does those things as a diver.
Buntman won her second straight girls title at Thursday’s Frederick County Public Schools diving championships at Walkersville High School, the latest accomplishment for someone who also holds her team’s girls diving record.
Oakdale senior Nathan Murphy, who didn’t begin diving for the Bears until last year, won the boys title.
Like Buntman, Murphy does some swimming for Oakdale, something he began toward the end of last season. He plans to swim the 50 and 100 freestyles during the county swimming championships on Saturday at Walkersville.
Both divers seemed open to trying new things. And at some point, diving was that new thing.
Take Buntman. Like many strong divers, her gateway to the sport was gymnastics, which she began dabbling in around the age of 3. Eventually, she gravitated to acrobatic gymnastics.
She liked working with others, doing pairs and trios. But her particular role in acrobatic gymnastics was relatively short-lived.
“I got too big to be flyer, and I wanted to keep on flipping and doing tricks,” Buntman said. “So I joined diving.”
Her gymnastics skills translated well into this new venture. Granted, there were differences, like getting used to hitting the water head-first.
“It’s kind of like a learning curve, and once you get that, you’re good,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do diving once I found out that gymnastics wasn’t working out, and you have so much more opportunities in diving, like in college.”
By the time Buntman joined the Lancers last year, she was already a seasoned diver, thanks to her experience with her club team.
She won the county title, placed second in the 3A-2A-1A West regional and sixth in the state meet. She defended her county title Thursday by getting a score of 245.15 to top Thomas Johnson’s Lucy Sokoloff, who had a 201.05.
Buntman has added new dives, such as the 1½ pike. And now she swims. In fact, she recently won the 50 free and was on the Lancers’ winning 200 relay team.
Not bad for someone who had no experience in the sport before December.
“I had never been to a practice before. The first 50 I did was in the meet,” said Buntman, whose progress was helped by support from her teammates. “It’s a lot of work. It drains you out. But it’s cool to learn something new.”
Not so long ago, diving was something new for Murphy. Last year, he joined Oakdale’s team and made a promising debut, placing fourth at the county meet, second in the 3A-2A-1A West regional and ninth in the state meet.
“I wasn’t too bad,” he said. “But I definitely improved a lot this year.”
With defending county champ Joshua Crocker of Tuscarora injured, this year’s county boys title was up for grabs. Murphy grabbed it by beating second-place Brian Tu of Oakdale 181.75-155.
That was the best score yet for Murphy, who felt he’s been getting better as the season progressed in a sport that has now firmly taken hold of him.
“It feels amazing going off the board and going really high and flipping in the air,” he said. “It’s a surreal feeling.”