Whether it’s by jump or backflip, the water is Adam Gefkovicz’s ultimate destination.
It is where he is at peace – and where he doesn’t have to think about the unexpected turns his senior season diving for Mount Rainier High School has taken.
A year ago, Gefkovicz and Seth Barronian, his diving partner since childhood, were preparing for the Class 4A
state diving championships. Barronian ended up placing eighth, Gefkovicz took ninth – and both anticipated doing even better as seniors
Now, Gefkovicz is alone in the pool.
Barronian, an honors student at Seattle Christian High School who competed for the Rams, sustained a near-fatal head injury in a longboarding accident in April.
Mount Rainier diving coach Todd Wollenweber said Barronian is making progress in his recovery. But these days success comes with walking, not diving.
“It just sucks,” Gefkovicz said simply. “It’s really hard to find the incentive to go dive, to get through the morning workouts without Seth ... It’s just really tough to do.”
But the determination to stand atop the state podium next month – for him and Barronian – wins out.
“I think that’s the driving passion behind it,” he said, adding with a laugh, “But I don’t think he’d care that much.”
Wollenweber said that he appreciates Gefkovicz’s perseverance in the face of adversity. He has watched his star pupil’s “natural talent” develop over the past four years.
“Typical Adam; he picked up right where he left off, and he’s won every meet so far,” he said. “It’s been sad without Seth, but they have kind of adapted.”
Gefkovicz and Barronian still hang out, but their activities have become decidedly more low-key than when they were a couple of fearless sixth graders.
Gefkovicz said they used to stack benches and chairs up to the roofs of their houses, and then flip down to the ground. They recorded their antics, added a heavy metal soundtrack – “so it would sound cool” – and put the videos on YouTube.
“We’d fall off everything,” he said with a rueful laugh. “But it was so (much) fun.”
It didn’t take long for their parents to step in to suggest a safer alternative: diving. The boys paid $50 each to join the diving team at Normandy Park’s swim club, and they were hooked.
Now, Gefkovicz still does an occasional backflip off a bench – he maintains it impresses the ladies – but saves his skills for the diving board.
“It just feels good to walk up on the board and know that you’re sore as heck, but you feel good, you look good, and you just get to dive,” he said.
Wollenweber said that Gefkovicz is a true competitor.
“When it’s judging time, his best dives come out every time,” he said. “He competes with a lot of passion.
“Last year, if he didn’t win, it was OK because Seth could win, so someone was on top for us. (This season), you can tell he’s got a reason to do well.”
It’s something Gefkovicz will miss once his diving days are over. The aspiring business administration major said he won’t have time for the sport in college. This year, his course load is centered on the International Baccalaureate program in preparation for attending the University of Washington or California. He is also Mount Rainier’s student body president.
“I just don’t sleep,” he said.
But it’s been worth it.
“When it all comes down to it, my whole diving experience wasn’t about diving at all,” he said. “It’s about my relationship with (my coaches), my ability to get up at 4:30 a.m., the friendships I’ve built – and I’ve learned to cope with things.”