Pearsall dives back into NCAA records

Port Allegany native Logan Pearsall, now a senior at Clarion, earned his second consecutive Diver of the Year award at the recent 2011 NCAA Division II national championships in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Clarion University.)

 

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
March 31, 2011

When his feet hit the springboard for the final time on the last three-meter dive of his college career, a front two-and-a-half with a twist, Logan Pearsall thought he was in trouble.

“I was just trying to think of what my coach had said: to have a good hurdle, a good takeoff, get my head up, things like that. I started walking on the board, and when I did my hurdle I stepped back, like, four inches from the end of the board. The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘oh, crap,’ because I was so far back on the end of the board,” the Port Allegany grad and Clarion senior recalled.

“Luckily, during practice I’ll do three of six dives from that far back, so I was used to doing it from there. So I just threw really hard for the dive; when I hit the water, it felt like a really good entry, but I wasn’t sure because I was so far back. So when I hit the water, I was pretty unsure of myself.

“After every dive I look at my coach, and depending on his reaction, I know if it was good or not. I looked over, and he’s jumping up and down with his hands in the air, so I knew that it was a really good dive.”

Good enough to win a fourth national championship with 565.15 points, outclassing his nearest competitor by a double-digit margin and obliterating his own NCAA record along the way at the recent 2011 Division II nationals in San Antonio, Texas.

“It was a hold-your-breath moment. But he’s talented enough to compensate for a bad takeoff and ended up going in straight up and down, scoring enough points to win the title and set the record,” Golden Eagles coach Dave Hrovat said. “If you have a bad takeoff and you’re out of balance, you’ve still got to be able to do the trick up and down. That’s something we stress as part of our training regimen … and obviously, it paid off.”

Pearsall would add a second-place finish in the one-meter event two days later, ending his glittering Clarion career as a six-time All-American and earning his second consecutive Division II Diver of the Year award.

*

Not bad for someone from a town that doesn’t even have an indoor pool, much less a high school diving team. Fortunately for Pearsall, there were other options in the area, beginning with the local swim team and extending to the Southern Tier Diving Club headed by then-St. Bonaventure coach Allison Manion.

“I started as a swimmer for the Port summer program. Then Pam Payne, who was the diving coach at the time, asked me if I wanted to try diving, so I did. I did decent with it, then when I started diving club at St. Bonaventure, that’s when I started making leaps and bounds,” he explained.

By the time he decided he wanted to seriously pursue the sport, Tony Edgell had taken over as the coach in Port. Edgell happened to be working on his master’s degree at SBU, so Pearsall and two other young divers rode to Olean with him, then worked out with Manion – a three-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year – while he was in class.

“Logan’s always been a very smooth diver, not mechanical. He was very good even back then,” Edgell recalled. “And he was determined – he saw the potential that he had and wanted to do as good as he could. Judy Bodamer and I were his summer coaches, and we saw how good he was, and we wanted him to do better. So he started going up to Bonaventure, and I was able to take him back and forth most of the time until he was old enough to drive.”

Competing as an ‘unattached’ diver, Pearsall dominated the District 9 high school meets he entered – “I think he beat the nearest competition at districts by 100 points, which is unheard of in diving,” Edgell said – then went on to place sixth as a junior and third as a senior at the PIAA state championships.

The move to college would bring new opportunities, but also an additional challenge. Pennsylvania divers only compete on the one-meter springboard at the high school level, so the higher three-meter board took some getting used to.

“The next time I see him I’m going to have to get after him, because when I took him up to Bonaventure, he didn’t like three-meter. He just wanted to do one-meter, and the Bonaventure coach said, ‘You have to do three-meter, too,’ and he said, ‘I don’t want to.’ So I found it really funny that he won the three-meter national title … So when I see him this summer, I’m going to have to give him a hard time about that,” Edgell joked.

Pearsall chose Salem State College, just outside Boston, Mass., to continue his career, but his stay there was cut short when the program was discontinued. He moved on to Rhode Island, where he finished sixth in the A-10 championships as a freshman before state budget cutbacks took their toll and the Rams also dropped their men’s swim team. By then, though, he was already looking for a better alternative.

“My program was cut at Salem State before the season, so I went back to St. Bonaventure and I was asking my coach, ‘What do you think about the Rhode Island coach?’ She told me that she was a younger coach and that I would be better suited somewhere else; well, I went against that, and I went to Rhode Island. Our program was cut after the season, but I was leaving before then anyway, because I just wasn’t reaching what I knew I was capable of,” he explained.

“So in December of my sophomore year, I went again to my coach, and I said, ‘All right, I’m going to listen to you this time. Where you say I go, I’m going.’ She said either Clarion or Penn State, so I went to Clarion, and that’s where it all happened.”

Hrovat wasn’t sure what he was getting with Pearsall, who he’d seen as a talented but raw diver in high school.

“I told him, ‘What I want you to do is come to my summer camp and work as a counselor, and train the summer and let me see where you’re at, and we’ll go from there,’” the 21-time NCAA Division II Coach of the Year said. “When he came in and he worked his butt off that summer, that’s when I started getting excited. … I’m not sure what clicked and what made the difference in it, but when he came back after that year away, you could just see it in his eyes: the drive, the wanting-to-go-get-it type of attitude.”

Still, even Pearsall couldn’t have imagined his meteoric rise to the top of the NCAA medal platform.

“No way,” he said. “I started that summer training with (Hrovat) and got a lot better, but going into nationals my first year we discussed it and he told me, ‘I want you to just focus on getting top eight, because that’s realistic.’ So we were just trying to get in the top eight, and then I won the prelims and he was very surprised with how I dove under pressure. We got into the finals, and I upset the kid who had won the previous year and almost broke the national record. Ever since then, we’ve known what I’m capable of at big meets, and I’ve always done better when there’s better competition. So it was definitely not seen at the beginning; after nationals my first year was when we realized that I could do something big.”

Three consecutive national titles on the three-meter board, plus another sandwiched between two second-place finishes at the one-meter height, qualifies as big.

“Since 1964, there have been five Division II divers across the country to win four national titles, and Logan’s one of them,” said Hrovat, noting that Pearsall is one of three Clarion divers on an extremely short list. “That pretty much sums it up.”

*

So what’s next for Pearsall, who just celebrated his 23rd birthday on Sunday? After juggling his sport, classes, and work to graduate in December, he’s studying toward a master’s degree in rehabilitation sciences at Clarion, with several options on the table.

“I’m going to go to nursing school next year and take a break from my master’s, and then I’m going to try to get into college coaching,” he said. “Nursing school first – I’m going to try and work with cancer patients – and then try to get into the D-1 level.”

Is continuing to compete – perhaps even taking a shot at qualifying for the Olympic trials – anywhere on that list? While Hrovat cautioned that such a step would mean an entirely different level of training and time commitment, Pearsall admitted the thought has crossed his mind.

“I’ve talked about it with the University at Buffalo coach, who actually just had a girl qualify about two months ago for the Olympic trials,” he said. “She’s very technique-oriented, so I discussed with her about taking some time off, going back and hopefully forgetting the bad things about my diving – bad techniques, bad routines. Just starting over very fresh and seeing how far we can go from there.

“I still don’t think that I’ve reached my max potential because of injuries and certain other things that have happened. Nursing school’s only going to take me a year and a half. The last semester, I might start to get back into diving. After that, if I can find a job in between home and Buffalo, it’s still a possibility.”

Speaking with the same confidence that pushed him to become one of the most decorated divers in NCAA Division II history, he concluded, “I don’t rule anything out.”

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