While still early in his diving career, Greenbrier High School’s CJ Simmons is blazing a path for his future in the sport.
Simmons has plans to dive in college and hopefully qualify for the 2020 Olympic games. First, though, the Wolfpack sophomore has a few years to get through high school.
As a freshman, Simmons took seventh in the 1-meter at the 2013 Georgia High School Association 1-5A State Swimming and Diving Meet. He has his eyes set even higher for the 2014 competition.
“This year I want to place top five and hopefully top three, that’s where I really want to place,” said Simmons, who has taken first place in all of Greenbrier’s meets to date this year. “That’s just the mindset I’m going in with this year is at least top five.”
Simmons qualified for the state competition at the first meet of the year and is using the rest of the season to prepare.
“We’re still trying to get our state list that we want,” said Simmons of himself and teammate Ayanna Woods. “We want to have really hard dives for state and we compete them and practice them a lot.”
Jim Tingen, who has been coaching Simmons since eighth grade, has seen him grow into the sport.
“He’s a hard worker and he does things that I never would have done at his age,” said Tingen. “He has a lot ahead of him, he has a lot of talent and I think he’s going to carry a long way.”
He dove in Amateur Athletic Union events during the school year but stepped into a different arena last summer.
He qualified for the USA Diving Age Group National Championships 14-15 boys 3-meter. That experience in Minneapolis, Minn. was beneficial for different reasons, including the way meets are scored locally and at the state competition.
“If you get really high scores here (local meets) and then you get to state – I’m already used to it because I compete USA and they score super-hard,” Simmons said. “You kind of get used to it, the scoring difference, but it’s a big difference.”
Simmons didn’t start diving until eighth grade, shortly after curtailing a longtime dedication to gymnastics. The former was immediately integrated into the latter.
“I learned when I was in gymnastics the body positions, how to be in control in the air and stuff,” said Simmons. “It really helped coming into diving because you’re flipping in the air and you have to come out and know where you’re at, and that’s one of the things you learn in gymnastics.”
Tingen was glad Simmons had the gymnastics background.
“It was obvious from the first day he came here that he had body control,” Tingen said.
Simmons had a favorite part in his journey to Minneapolis.
“It was being able to meet kids from all over the country who are going to be in the next Olympics,” said Simmons. “It’s kind of cool to be able to meet them and see where they come from, how good they are. They’re really good.”
Seeing the competition gave him a look at what he has to do to reach his goals.
“It’s going to take a lot of work,” he said. “I just want to go to trials in 2016, but I really want to go for the team in 2020.”