Doria Holbrook ‘08 was a pole vaulter in high school, and one of the best in the country: she even held the national record for a day and a half. Her secondary interest was diving. But last year, when a foot injury forced her to take a break from pole vaulting, the 19-year-old turned her focus not only to diving but also to something entirely new – three-meter springboard diving.
Within six months, she became the first MIT diver (and only the second member of the swimming and diving program) to win a national title. At the NCAA Division III Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Holland, MI, last March, she won the three-meter springboard competition and took bronze in the one-meter competition. She was also named Diver of the Meet.
“She has more of a football player mentality than a diver mentality,” says diving coach Brad Snodgrass. “She’s essentially fearless,” especially when it comes to jumping as high as she can off the springboard – a skill she honed in an earlier career as a gymnast.
The petite Holbrook insists that she is in fact afraid of heights. But she seems to fear little else. Early last season, when MIT’s small team of five was practicing new dives, the sole male team member, Mikko Solomon ‘07, learned to do an inward two-and-a-half somersault off the three-meter before Holbrook did. “She couldn’t stand it,” says Solomon. “She said, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing that.’” Within an hour, she was doing the dive “better than I could,” he says.
That dive helped Holbrook, who’s a mechanical-engineering major, win at nationals, and it is part of a repertoire of dives that Snodgrass says are similar to those performed at the Olympics. Holbrook hopes to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Trials, but she will need to make her dives more difficult, so they are eligible for higher scoring. She’ll have to dive in a “pike position,” her body folded neatly in half, rather than in a tuck position, as she does now.
Everyone agrees that she has the drive to achieve any goal. (Of her nationals win, she says, “I just wanted it more than anyone else.”) Holbrook says she came to MIT a little less academically prepared than other freshmen but that she studied hard, dove five nights a week, “got my eight to ten hours of sleep most nights,” and is now caught up. This year, she plans to continue training after the NCAA championship to try to qualify for the U.S. Open national diving competition, a step toward the Olympics.