SALT LAKE CITY — The sport of diving has done a lot for Nate Makarewicz.
It has provided the West High senior multiple opportunities to compete on the national stage of USA Diving.
It has helped pave the way for him to attend Princeton University next fall, where he will continue to dive as well as study biology.
And it has put him in a position to attempt something only a handful of other Utah divers have ever done, which is to win four straight Utah high school state championships.
It is almost funny to think that, in the beginning, Makarewicz did not even like diving very much.
“It was a little bit tough getting used to landing on my head and doing flips into the water,” he said of his first experiences with the sport. “It was a little bit scary. I ended up quitting for a year and a half.”
Makarewicz started out as a gymnast, but when his gym closed, he and his parents found what Makarewicz described as “the next best thing.”
He began to dive around age 11, took his year-and-a-half-long break, and then, just before beginning the eighth grade, tuned into the 2008 Summer Olympics. What he saw inspired him to give diving another try.
“There was one British team member named Tom Daley,” Makarewicz said. “(He) was about my age and he was competing in the Olympics. I thought that was really cool, and I wanted to try it.”
Since then, diving has filled Makarewicz’s life.
In the summer, he competes for USA Diving, which consists of 1-meter and 3-meter competition as well as a series of qualification meets at the local, regional and national levels. Makarewicz has qualified for nationals in each of the last two years.
In the winter, he represents West High during the high school diving season. In Utah, diving consists of only the 1-meter competition and is considered a non-scoring swim event. The state meet takes place the same weekend as the rest of the high school state swim meets. This year the championship meet is Feb. 7 at BYU.
Makarewicz has won each of the last three state titles and, with a firm hold at the top of the diving rankings, has positioned himself as the favorite to make it four in a row.
“Initially, it was my coaches more than me who thought that I might be able to win it freshman year,” he said. “I worked really hard freshman year and I was really happy that I did my best and won. Since then, I’ve just been getting better and doing better each year.”
The rest of Makarewicz’s time, it seems, is spent training, running or studying. He has diving practice four evenings a week with coaches Monica French and Gene McIntyre; he has been a part of the West High varsity cross country team all four years; and he is graduating high school with an International Baccalaureate diploma.
“He is very good academically. He is very high on diving talent,” McIntyre said. “He is a very focused young man.”
That focus has led to big plans for the Princeton University-bound Makarewicz.
“I plan on studying Biology, either research or pre-med, for the next four years,” he said, noting that he recently wrote a research paper on melanoma and might consider a career in cancer research.
In the meantime, however, he will have plenty of time spend on another favorite subject — visual arts — and on a new diving challenge.
“I will have the opportunity to do platform diving,” he said, referring the diving program at Princeton. “Their pool is equipped with a full set of platforms as well as 1-meters and 3-meters. I think it will be fun to try that and compete in it for the first time next year.”
Before making the move, Makarewicz has a little unfinished business to take care of at home.
“He has a chance to be a four-time state champion. That doesn’t happen very frequently. There are maybe one or two others,” McIntyre said. “He is doing some of the most difficult dives you will see.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org