Henry Schirmer is about to hear his name called. The Skyline diver begins his pre-dive routine basically the same way every time. It’s more a process for him than a superstitious ritual where someone takes every step exactly the same way every time.
“I’m a pretty quiet diver and tend to sit by myself, listen to some music and try to relax myself,” Schirmer says. “When I know my name is going to be called soon, I will get up and get my heart rate moving like with some jumping jacks or running in place. Then I kind of go through the dive in my head and model out the positions the dive will be.”
Announcer: “From Skyline High School, Henry Schirmer.”
“I will get on the board, look down at my feet to make sure my feet placement is right, take one last breath and go,” he said.
And while diving is similar to golf in that crowd noise should be at a minimum it doesn’t always work out that way. Still, the distractions don’t distract Henry from the task at hand.
“I’ve competed at all kinds of meets so I’m used to loud crowds or quiet pool decks,” he says. “It’s all very different depending on the pool and meet. At the bigger meets there are multiple competitions going on. Like with USA Diving there will be one-meter and three-meter events going on at the same time so there is always that noise that I’m used to.”
Talking to Schirmer about his pre-dive routine and what he does before he dives is a lot more interesting than talking about where he lands – because Schirmer usually (always) lands in first place and it’s not even close. The Skyline diver is the defending state champion in Division 1 and only a junior this year. And as he makes the rounds during his team’s dual-meets and tournaments this season, he’s not focusing on winning but focusing on getting better.
When Schirmer does emerge from the water he says he has a pretty good idea of how well he executed the dive.
“I can’t really predict my scores because really anything could have happened but I will know if I had done really well because I know what the feeling of a really good entry feels like,” he says. “I know if I land on my head I know I did pretty well.”
Diving is a judged sport and the athlete and judges don’t always see eye to eye on the performance. But Schirmer, like the pool noise, doesn’t let it become a distraction.
“I try not to put too much thought into my scores,” he says. “If you do, that can really mess up the rest of the meet. You can’t think too much about what you got on a certain dive because it can mess with your mind. I just take what I get and move on.”
In other words, the scores are what they are.
And they were pretty good last year in the D-1 state meet. As a sophomore, Schirmer took first place with a score of 470.15 points, a comfortable margin ahead of second-place finisher Alexander Brent, a freshman from Lake Orion, who scored 416.55. Waterford sophomore Seth Caspers was third with 413.95.
As a team, Skyline finished second to Brother Rice (238) with 212 points. SEC rival Saline was third with 202 points.
The final diving results did not surprise Skyline Coach Maureen Isaac.
“Henry is an amazing athlete,” she said. “Every day he comes to practice looking for a way to get stronger and better at what he does. He is a true student of the sport.”
The student became the master last year despite what he calls a slow start at the D-1 state finals.
“After the first day of competition when we do our first eight dives, I didn’t have the greatest first part of the meet,” he said. “But coming into the second day I always put dives at the end of my list that I know I can execute really well. So even though I didn’t have my best day I still felt confident going into the second day.”
Schirmer still led after that not so great opening day but it was very close. He distanced himself from the pack in day two and called winning a state title a “wonderful” experience.
Schirmer’s approach at meets is to focus on what he’s doing and not how good or poorly other divers are doing. It’s an approach that is working.
“I focus on my own skills and what I can do,” he says. “There are some really good divers out there and I know that. But if I can just do what I know I’m capable of then I’m all set.”
Schirmer was sixth as a freshman with a score of 415.05 points. The first-place winner, senior Dakota Hurbis of Saline, finished with a score of 516.80. Hurbis now swims at LSU.
“(Dakota) was a teammate of mine last year (with Legacy Diving),” Schirmer said. “It can be a little strange when comparing different meets but you can compare one state meet to another state meet. And 516 is a really impressive score. Getting to 500 or above is always a good goal and it’s a level where I would love to be.”
Schirmer’s best 11-dive score is 500, which he reached at last year’s SEC conference meet.
Schirmer isn’t about looking back. Part of his success is that he’s always looking for ways to get better. That diver that won states last year isn’t as good as Schirmer is right now.
“I’m a lot better diver today than I was last year,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger thanks to Coach B (Skyline strength coach Brandon Bedinger), I’m more mentally prepared now and I’m starting to do those bigger dives.”
While he’s just a junior, Schirmer has already started diving into the decision of where he wants to attend college.
“I have a list of about 25 colleges that I have reached out to,” he said. “I’m looking into engineering as my field of study. I’ve always been a math and science guy.”
But right now it’s about getting better and helping his Skyline team take one more step up the ladder.
“I think we have some amazing swimmers and I think we have a good chance of winning states this year,” he said.
And Schirmer knows a little something about winning states.