Athlete of the Week Clara Dearden represents Occidental at NCAA DIII Diving Regionals

Clara Dearden AOTW
Clara Dearden (sophomore) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Friday, March. 4, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

Clara Dearden’s dive season ended with a splash 1,354 miles away when she represented Occidental at the NCAA DIII Diving Regionals in Texas Feb. 25. Off the diving board, Dearden (sophomore) finished in 14th place in the 1M and 12th place for the 3M. According to Occidental swim and dive coach Haley Mitchell, Dearden showed potential to compete in regionals from the start of the season.

“I felt confident that Clara had the ability to qualify for regionals really early on,” Mitchell said via email. “She has an excellent mix of good technique and work ethic so regionals seemed very achievable after just a few weeks of the season.”

Dearden said she began to work on harder dives and experiment with new moves after she and her coach realized that the score requirement for regionals was attainable. Despite qualifying for regionals in her first collegiate dive season, Dearden’s personal goals going into sophomore year were less about placement and more about taking pleasure in diving.

“I wanted to enjoy myself more because sometimes I get stressed with the sport,” Dearden said. “And so my goals for the season were mostly just to relax and have fun. I learned a couple [of] new dives, which was also nice.”

The dive team consists of only four members, and Dearden said the support from her fellow divers and the swim team made the season a great experience.

“I feel my first season here was really nice, because there were four of us [divers] and we were really interconnected with the swim team. We’re really just like one big team,” Dearden said. “But in the past, I’ve had experiences where it’s very exclusionary and separate, so it was nice to have [my first collegiate season] with a big team.”

Dearden herself is a great contributor to the team’s supportive culture, according to teammate Elsie Cady (sophomore). Cady said Dearden is constantly cheering on her teammates from behind the boards and treats everyone’s successes, no matter their scale, with the same level of excitement.

“You can always count on Clara for a laugh but more importantly you can always count on her to be there for you,” Cady said via email. “She is brave, kind and incredibly hard working. We are so lucky to have her on the team.”

Although Dearden did not have her teammates with her in Texas, she said all of the divers at regionals helped create a welcoming atmosphere and supported each other.

“The divers were cheering for each other, whether they knew them or not,” Dearden said. “There were teams from all over the place. I feel like we all just came together to support each other since we didn’t really have all of our team or all of our support there.”

Mitchell said Dearden’s journey as a collegiate diver is just getting started.

“I’m really proud of Clara’s performance this season and at regionals,” Mitchell said via email. “She’s been incredibly consistent in her training and competition which is a recipe for success. I know Clara is excited to continue working on new and difficult dives and I’m equally excited to watch her compete at the highest levels of DIII diving!