Dorien Simon has been doing flips and spins through the air since he was in elementary school. A former gymnast, Simon broke Lakes High School’s diving record this season, earning 400.7 points to win the 3A district title.
The previous record, Roy Little’s 365 points, had stood since 1977.
On Friday and Saturday, Simon will have the chance to make more history as he aims to win a state title.
He’ll be the lone Lancer competing at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, but the junior is a favorite to win having placed fourth in the event last season with three then-seniors ahead of him.
Simon didn’t even start diving until his freshman year. His main focus was track and field — where he’s really fast.
Simon ran a 10.60-second 100-meter dash last spring, which was the fastest time of any runner in Class 3A. He placed third in the state championships.
But Preston Bocchi, a former Lancers standout who now swims for Monmouth College, knew of Simon’s gymnastics background and encouraged Simon to join the diving team.
And he got the moms got involved. Bocchi’s mom encouraged Simon’s mom to get Dorien to try out.
“I did a lot of feet-first entries (freshman year) and I was way far out from the board,” Simon said. “I didn’t look like the ideal diver, but I was able to do some difficult dives.”
Madelyn Tallon, who is in her fourth year coaching the Lancers, said Simon has always had a lot of power and strength with his dives.
Also, because of his gymnastics background, he was able to flip and spin fast. So the challenge for Simon was learning how to harness the power and speed with technique.
“(Tallon has) helped me address a lot of my bad habits that I kept from gymnastics,” Simon said. “My favorite event in gymnastics was the floor and all of your tumbling passes are going to be where you land on your feet. So it’s been hard for me to transition from learning always to flip on to my feet to trying to do these head-first entries and making sure my body isn’t arched.”
By his sophomore season, Simon began to figure it out. Now he is one of the premiere divers in the state, wowing onlookers with the speed and power he brings to the board. Every time he goes off he soars three to four meters into the air, flipping and spinning before plunging back down.
“I think we’ve just gotten used to it,” Tallon said. “But then whenever someone else comes in they are always like, ‘Wow!”
Tallon’s husband, Mitch, who is the assistant swim coach, said Simon helps lead the culture of the swim and dive team with his quiet confidence.
“He’s not the kid who’s out there leading the cheer, but he is kind to everyone. He includes everyone,” Mitch said. “He’s humble. He’s just out there to do what he’s going to do and he’s not impacted by what other people are thinking or expecting of him.”
Outside the pool Simon has big goals. He is a 4.0 student and is aiming to go to Stanford. He wants to major in biomedical engineering or physics and win a Nobel prize. He plays tenor saxophone and bass clarinet.
“I’ve always had a passion for science,” Simon said. “In fact I’m planning on attending this conference at UC Berkley this summer. A biotechnology camp. I’m really into learning about the human body, about technology.”
According to Tallon, Simon has helped revitalize the Lancers diving program.
“When I took over here the programs had kind of fallen to the wayside,” Tallon said. “The boys swim team had 12 kids my first year as head coach. The boys water polo team was non-existent, same with girls programs; they weren’t at their strongest.”
Lakes used to be known for its strong swimming and diving programs, when Mike Stauffer coached the Lancers in the 1970s and early 80s.
“It’s our goal to have programs like Mike Stauffer had in the ’70s, like that we hear about all the time.” Tallon said. “We could walk anywhere and we hear, ‘Oh I swam for Mike Stauffer back in the ’70s. Go Lakes! Go Lancers! I heard they have a new pool.’
“We have this incredible fast pool and we would have 10 kids here for practice. So it was really our goal to start building programs and taking down those records.”
And Tallon said the number of kids diving has doubled each year Simon has been involved.
“Anytime you’ve got a kid breaking records at the school I think it helps build programs and encourages people to come out,” Tallon said. “We’re really trying to build a strong aquatics program at Lakes High School again and kids like Dorien are that starting point.”