Michaela Sliney is not the kind of athlete who wants to wait for her turn.
As a freshman, the Haverhill High diver is already thinking big.
“I want to beat the varsity (diving) record and I want to place at state,” said Sliney. “I think they’re both possible if I stay consistent.”
Sliney has certainly gotten off to a good start in achieving her goals, placing first in four of her first five meets, including at the MVC Diving Meet. In her first dual meet she defeated defending Division 1 state champ Deborah Daly of Andover.
Her high point total of 247.5 from last week is already close to the school record of 252 set by Monica Hubbard.
“She’ll do it,” insists Haverhill diving coach Becky Driscoll, “She loves to compete, she has a great competitive spirit and she does what she needs to do to be successful.”
Driscoll, who has been a diving coach for more than 25 years, certainly knows the 5-foot-7 Sliney well. She has been coaching her since she was 7-years-old, first at the Bradford Swim Club and recently for Solo Aquatics.
Competing for Solo last year, Sliney finished first in all but one meet and placed at nationals in her age group, both in 1-meter and 3-meter competition.
“She’s very strong, very advanced for a freshman,” said Driscoll. “She works at it and she’s very athletic, which helps.”
Indeed, Sliney has quite a varied athletic background. She has played a lot of basketball as well as volleyball, track and lacrosse. She also competed in gymnastics for five years, which probably helped sharpen her diving skills, and last year she ran for the Bradford Huskies cross country team.
Although she prefers diving, Sliney has also become a valuable team member for the Hillies in swimming events. She’s a strong relay contributor and has already qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke.
“I love sports and I love competing so I don’t mind swimming (races),” said Sliney. “I like being part of the team and it keeps my mind off diving. I don’t get nervous that way.”
In general, perhaps because of her prolific sports background, Sliney rarely gets nervous which, she feels, is a positive for anyone who wants to become a successful diver.
“When I learn new dives, I get a little nervous, but it doesn’t last and that’s about the only time,” said Sliney. “I know Becky wouldn’t let me do it if I wasn’t ready.
“To be a good diver, you can’t be afraid, you need to work hard at it, you need leg and ab strength and you need to have fun with it.”
Sliney is definitely having fun thus far, starting with her defeat of Daly even if she knows that will mean nothing when they meet again.
“I was really nervous facing her, but I wanted to do well,” said Sliney, who specializes on inward and back dives. “We both had bad meets, so it was hard to tell a lot, but it still meant a lot for me to beat her.”
It was, she hopes, the springboard for a great high school career and even greater accomplishments beyond that.
“I would love to be in the Olympics,” said Sliney, whose mother competed as a fencer in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. “She said it was one of the most amazing experiences. The fact that she did it and did it so well makes me want to experience it.”
Sliney’s mother, the former Molly Sullivan, has given numerous motivational speeches over the years in which she encourages students to pursue dreams through goal setting, hard work and motivation.
That message has apparently gotten through to her daughter loud and clear.
Olympic background Michaela Sliney's mother, Molly (Sullivan) Sliney is a two-time Olympic fencer who won two NCAA gold medals at Notre Dame, where she was named the school's Female Athlete of the Decade for the 1980s and won two gold medals at the Pan American Games. Her father, Keith, works for the Boston Celtics as Creative Director.