One slight over-rotation cost Spring Lake’s Erik Lukkari first-team all-state honors on the diving board last winter.
He’s not about to let it happen again.
Lukkari, who on Thursday qualified for the diving regionals for a fourth consecutive year, has his sights set on something much bigger than the regional meet.
“I was ninth last year, one spot out of first-team all-state, so I’m definitely going after it with a vengeance,” Lukkari said following a recent meet.
“Hopefully, and I talked to Erik about this, if he dives well and consistent, we’re hoping for top five,” added Lakers’ diving coach Tom Knight. “That’s a realistic goal.”
To reach his lofty goals, Lukkari has to continue to work to clean up the dive that gives him fits: a back summersault 2 ½ twist.
“There’s a back summersault 1 ½ twist, which he can just nail,” Knight said. “Then there’s a back summersault 2 ½ twist, which he can nail, but he was kind of over-rotating his right shoulder a little bit. When you’re judging and you’re looking and your shoulders’ coming through, it likes like you’re rotating your whole body, so they were just killing him on the scores.”
For a while, Lukkari dumped the back summersault 2 ½ twist in favor of a back 1/1/2 summersault 1 ½ twist, which he added to his six-dive lineup.
However, in bigger meets, including the conference, regional and state meets, divers need an 11-dive repertoire.
“We’re playing around trying to find an 11th dive, and I think we’re going to go back to the back summersault 2 ½ twist,” Knight said. “It’s probably one of his highest (degree of difficulty) dives at 2.7. He’s starting to block it out. He’s coming into the water nice and straight. He just has to clean up his entry a little bit.
“A little splash can knock you down a whole point. The entry, the toes, those are the last things a judge sees.”
Lukkari said he’s been working hard to perfect his dives that kept him from achieving his goals last year.
“My twister dives are kind of a nuisance,” he said with a smile. “I’m working on them really hard, because that killed me at the state meet last year. I have three twist dives in my 11-dive set.”
In addition to perfecting the dives he already does, Lukkari has added a few to his repertoire this year.
“I’ve got a few new dives that I’m really excited about,” he said. “I’ve got an inward 1/2 pike that’s a really fun one, and it’s high scoring. That’s my favorite dive.”
Knight was a fantastic diver himself at Spring Lake, and he believes Lukkari, should he advance through regionals again this year, would become the first Laker ever to make four straight appearances at the state meet.
During Thursday’s meet against Muskegon Catholic Central, Lukkari put it all together, posting a score of 279.45. That’s his best effort of the season and just one point less than his career best.
Knight said people are beginning to take notice of Lukkari.
“There are people who come to our meets just to watch Erik dive, so that’s really cool,” Knight said.
Don’t mistake Lukkari as an athlete who’s all about individual accomplishments. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help Spring Lake win — including swimming a leg in the 200-yard freestyle relay during a meet earlier this year.
“He’s actually a pretty good swimmer,” said Lakers’ coach Jason Lintjer.
Lukkari knows that the better he does on the board, the better chance he gives his team to achieve success.
“People really wrote us off this year in conference, but we still have some solid swimmers who are getting better all the time,” said Lukkari, who was also an outstanding defender on the Lakers’ soccer team this fall. “I’m really pumped for conference. I’m hoping for first there. I won it last year, but I’m really excited to get first for our team this year.”