Luke Annan, Adam LeCompte and Ryan Morris were the top three finishers at the Mercer County Diving Championships.

If it wasn’t for Adam LeCompte, Lawrence Township may not be Mercer County’s Mecca of High School Diving this winter.

“He encouraged me to try diving,” said Hun School sophomore Victoria Shay. “I was terrified of the board. You’re at the end of the board, you look down, the water is so clear and the floor looks even deeper. You’re terrified, you’re like ‘Oh man, what am I doing?’ Now I’m jumping off the high dive and all this stuff.”

She has LeCompte to thank for that.

“I just know that whenever one of us is scared of the dive we have coming up, and we’re not in the zone, we work together to get through it and face our fears,” LeCompte said.

Between his ability to dive and his ability to coax others to dive, LeCompte has helped make it a big winter off the board in Lawrence.

Shay, a Lawrence resident, won her second consecutive Mercer County Diving Championship title at Montgomery on Jan. 28. LeCompte spearheaded a 1-2-3 finish for the Cardinals at the boys’ meet, as he took first, Luke Annand was second and Ryan Morris took third. All three are freshmen.

Shay was competing as an individual for the girls, while Lawrence was competing as a team for the first time in years thanks to the efforts of LeCompte, whose goal was to bring a diving team back to Lawrence.

Shay could not have been happier to be a champion along with her friend, who has been her teammate on both the Lawrence Swimming Association team in the Princeton Area Swimming & Diving Association, and the highly competitive Blue Dolphin team at The College of New Jersey.

“When we win, we represent our schools and we represent our township,” she said. “He actually got me interested in diving at LSA. We would hang out there and swim and jump off the boards and he got me interested in it and we decided to join the team. We got into diving competitively and got very close.”

LeCompte said the two enjoyed the win.

“It’s fun diving with her at those meets since we practice all the time together,” he said. “It kind of makes it more comfortable at meets when we’re together. It makes it seem more normal.”

The two not only dive together, they coach together. LeCompte’s father, Kirk LeCompte, is the LSA diving coach, and his son and Shay serve as assistant coaches.

“I’m hoping to leave it to them one day and they can take over as co-coaches,” Kirk LeCompte said.

And although Morris and Annand dive for Ben Franklin in PASDA and the Masters Diving Program at TCNJ, Kirk LeCompte is familiar with both as he coaches them in soccer. He and his son both coaxed them into helping LHS have an official diving team.

“Luke and Ryan are outstanding athletes in many sports, they only dive in the summer,” Kirk LeCompte said. “This is their first time diving out of season.”

For LeCompte and Shay, though, their foray into the sport of diving could not have been more different.

LeCompte grew up in Lawrence and has been diving since first grade. Shay, on the other hand, lived in Singapore for the first 10 years of her life, as her dad was transferred there for work.

While in Asia, Shay discovered gymnastics. She tried it at her school as a child and kept up with it.

Her best event was the beam, ironically, since it was kind of like being on the very diving board that frightened her as a youth.

“I loved it,” she said. “I just loved being up high and it was mentally challenging. So you had to be very focused, the same as diving.”

The Shays moved back to Lawrence in 2009, when Shay was in fifth grade. By that point she had wearied of gymnastics and was just discovering diving.

“I was getting too many injuries,” she said. “I had a broken arm, ankle injuries, and I was young so I knew if I kept on competing in gymnastics that I’d be getting a lot more injuries. I think I was getting tired of it and I wasn’t becoming enthralled with the sport anymore.”

Shay tried diving, and she fell in love.

“There are so many different heights and challenges and it’s always keeping you on your toes,” she said.

Shortly after starting with LSA, she went over to The College of New Jersey to swim for the Blue Dolphins’ Candace Gottlieb, who has gained legendary status as a New Jersey diving coach. Shay began to hone her craft even more, using her former sport to help out.

“They’re both very mentally challenging,” she said. “You have to focus and be determined, which is all within the sport, but sometimes gymnastics and diving have the similar motions, so they are similar. It’s an easy transition. It’s usual for gymnasts to go into diving.”

She certainly has come a long way from her early fears.

“When I’m on the board I feel so in control and I just love the whole feeling and the motion when you’re in the air and you’re just flying,” she said. “And as soon as you hit the water and you slice through that water, you realize that feeling you get when you nail a dive. It just makes me so happy.”

She has been really happy at the Mercer meet for the past two years. After winning the MCTs as a freshman with a score of 179.60, she had a huge improvement in her score with a winning time of 220.00. That placed her slightly ahead of West Windsor-Plainsboro High North senior Christina Hayduchok (191.75). The county scores are based on six dives, with the best and worst scores being thrown out.

Following that, Shay attended the TCNJ High School Invitational and won that with a career best high school score of 424 on 11 dives.

While Shay was doing all that, LeCompte was following suit. Prior to the MCT, he qualified for the NJSIAA state meet with a score of 375.65 at the Cougar 11-Dive Invitational at Montgomery.

He then posted a score of 236.80 to win the MCT competition, and he followed that with his personal best score of 411.55 at the TCNJ Invitational. That mark also broke a 40-year old school record set by John Tomenchak in 1975, and LeCompte also owns the school’s six-dive record score of 249.15.

“That was very exciting,” LeCompte said of winning the county meet. “I knew for a long time I was going to try to get a team together for Lawrence or at least dive for them, and to win Mercer County was a really big goal I set for myself and, luckily, I got it. I felt good going in. I practiced a lot, worked hard. I was practicing the 1-meter so I was comfortable with the 1-meter.”

Not only did he win, but he led a Lawrence top-three sweep as Annand scored a 148.95 and Morris had a 116.15.

“I did think we were all going to dive the best we can, and we definitely did that,” LeCompte said. “We all performed well at that meet, and taking first, second and third was really exciting.”

Morris said that due to the shortness of the PASDA season, it becomes tough to learn new dives with high degrees of difficulty. But he wasn’t going to let that stop him once the ball started rolling.

“When Adam mentioned to me that we should form an LHS sponsored team I was all for it,” Morris said. “I am also a member of the Lawrence swim team so I was grateful my swimming coaches supported my decision to dive in between my swim meets.

Lawrence athletic director Alyson Fischer played a role in encouraging Morris to participate, he added.

“She was also very helpful and instrumental in getting us registered for the meets,” he said.

Asked what made him decide to try diving in high school, Annand’s answer was a bit more concise: his mother.

“To be honest, I was very nervous going into the Mercer meet, mostly because I did not know what to expect,” said Morris, whose score was 116.15. “It was my first high school dive competition and currently we do not have a coach or even a diving board at the school. The meet involved performing more dives on a higher level than I am comfortable doing or had mastered at this point, so I was not expecting to place in the top three for sure.”

He knew he and his teammates would face some tough competition.

“I went into the meet thinking I would just have fun, enjoy the experience and hopefully improve my chances for next year,” Morris said. “I thought I dove the best I could considering the amount of practice time I had beforehand. I enjoyed watching and learning from others in the surrounding area that were diving, and especially had a great time making new friends from other schools.”

Annand, whose score was 148.95, had fairly low-key hopes entering the tournament.

“I didn’t know what the competition would be,” he added. “It turned out to be in our favor. I thought my diving was satisfactory.”

Asked what it meant to finish 1-2-3, Annand left nothing to the imagination.

“Lawrence diving team is back, boys!” he said.

Morris agreed.

“The fact we went from not having a dive team for years and then earned first, second and third places was unbelievably exciting,” Morris said. “We could not have finished any better, so I was very proud to be part of the Lawrence team. Hopefully we will attract more divers to join in next year. A lot of my friends have been asking about the dive meets already, so if nothing else we generated some positive buzz in the school.”