Riley Clark, Woodland’s award-winning diver, is used to earning medals. When Clark was in middle school he won two gold medals in the Nutmeg State Games. He also won three consecutive Naugatuck Valley League diving championships and placed fourth in Class S for two years. He holds both the six- and 11-dive records at Woodland.
Clark has been diving for just over seven years. The story behind his diving origins involves a cliff and 50 bucks.
“My father showed me cliff diving and I thought it was really cool, so he found a program at CCSU and started there,” Clark said. “I didn’t dive competitively until my mom said if I dove in a meet she would give me $50, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Clark participates in theater as well as diving, and he thrives in that as well. His most vivid memory from diving is being announced the winner of NVLs his sophomore year — a competition he didn’t expect to win.
“(The) dream that was too unreasonable actually came true,” Clark recalled.
Tough coaches make the team win. Practices were tough for Clark since he was the only diver until his senior year. He practically got no rest and pretty much had no one to talk to during practice unless the swimmers were near him.
“Coaches were harsh and always yelled but we still had a good laugh every now and then,” Clark said.
Any competition is scary and nerve racking, and Clark agrees. Before diving, he remained silent and serious — while diving he feels as if someone is pushing down on his shoulders.
“I can feel and control every muscle in my body,” Clark said. “It’s like a controlled adrenaline.”
Clark noted how he always tries his hardest and does not like letting his team down, and if he does so, his next goal is to do better than he did in the previous meet.
Clark wishes to pursue diving in his future when he attends college and hopes to turn the sport into a career.
“I’m definitely diving in college but after that I don’t know,” Clark said. “I never really thought about it maybe as a hobby, but probably not seriously.”
Clark participates in relays as well as diving, but diving is his go-to event.
“Diving is such a feeling of accomplishment,” Clark said,” After every single dive, if you did well, you feel amazing. In other sports, for example, soccer, you only feel accomplished if you take the ball in a game or score a goal, but in diving, even in practice, if you nail a hard dive you’ve been trying to learn, it’s the best feeling ever.”
Woodlands team was like a big family, according to Clark. The Hawks set numerous team records this season and finished third at the NVL championships.
“I wanted to be the senior and captain that a freshman could walk up to and talk to me like I’m their best friend and not be scared of me,” Clark said, “And that’s what all us seniors accomplished. We all goof off together and the only difference between seniors and freshman are the age differences.”