Carmel diver overcomes inexperience, vertigo to try to become one of state’s best
By Abby Walton
Laura Rokop’s life has literally been full of twists and turns.
“I trained for about 14 years as a gymnast,” she said.
But when it came time for Rokop to enter high school, she decided it was time to give the balance beam a break.
“Carmel cut the gymnastics program before I got to high school, so I knew that wasn’t an option. I also wanted to be involved in more clubs and try a different sport,” she said.
As a former gymnast, Rokop said there were only three sports where her skills on the mat would transfer over.
“I could either become a cheerleader, a pole vaulter or a diver,” she said. “I had a friend who was going to be on the boys’ diving team that year, and he convinced me to go to try out.”
‘A gut feeling about her’
Chad Trenshaw, Carmel High School diving coach, remembers what Rokop was like early on.
“She almost didn’t make the cut,” he said.
In order to help them try to make the team, Trenshaw gives kids a few weeks to learn the dives they need to compete at the varsity level.
“Laura had never dived before. Her gymnastics background did help her, but at the cutoff point, she didn’t have the required dives down to qualify for a meet. However, I had a gut feeling about her. I felt that if we worked with her, she could become a really good diver,” Trenshaw said.
‘I fought through it’
That gut feeling definitely panned out. Now a senior at CHS, Rokop has made a name for herself not only in Indiana but across the country. She’s made top four in sectionals every year, made regionals three years in a row and is working on making her fourth.
She also made the state finals last year, placing 11th in individual competition.
Rokop said she was proud of her ranking, seeing as just days earlier she’d been diagnosed with vertigo.
“A day before sectionals I didn’t feel good. My body felt strange,” she said.
Even after being diagnosed with this dizzying medical condition, she decided to go ahead and dive because she wanted to make it to the state finals.
“Those last few dives at regionals were scary and probably a little dangerous because I felt like I had no control over my body,” she said. “However, I knew my coach would pull me if he thought it would be too much. So I fought through it and made it to state. So it was definitely worth it.”
‘Push past your fears’
With the postseason ahead of her, Rokop said she’s gearing up hopefully for another shot at the state finals.
“My goal is to make it into the top eight,” she said.
While she was qualifying for state finals and breaking school records, Trenshaw said it’s been amazing to work with her these past four years.
“Laura has been competing with kids who’ve been diving for years, and she’s always right on their heels,” he said.
And as her high school dive career comes to a close, Rokop is looking towards the future. Having never really considered diving in college until last year, this former gymnast is now being recruited by some of the nation’s top schools.
Not bad for a girl who first dove off a diving board four years ago.
“I love the mental challenge of diving. It makes you push past your fears,” she said.