By Garrett Cote
Luca Brashear fell in love with diving the second he watched the sport unfold in front of his very eyes. Growing up as a kid, being in awe as an older athlete performs their craft is inevitable. Brashear fell victim to this as well.
One day while a young Brashear was at Amherst College partaking in swim lessons, he saw a member of the Amherst diving team complete a difficult dive to perfection. Like a kid in a candy store, his eyes lit up with glee. He was hooked.
Brashear knew right away: Diving needed to be a part of his future.
And not only has it been a part of his future, he has excelled and become a master of his craft. He will compete at the NCAA Championships for the second time in his career at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana from March 16-19, representing Springfield College as the NEWMAC Men’s Diver of the Year.
“I’m hyped up for Nationals, it’s going to be really cool,” Brashear said. “I’m just really honored to go for a second time. It’s going to be a blast and I hope I can perform at my best when the time comes.”
His family made the move to North Carolina shortly after that moment at Amherst when Brashear was in middle school, and he soon hit his stride while a member of the Duke University diving club despite starting significantly later than the majority of other kids.
“They start either diving when they’re four or five or they come from gymnastics and then dive when they’re eight or nine,” Brashear said. “I didn’t have any of that background, so I had to start from scratch. Nunzio (Esposto, head coach at Duke) and Katie Hazelton (club coach) pumped me with the knowledge. They basically told me I’m not yet good enough, so I was just inspired to take it up a notch.”
Only four months passed and Brashear was able to qualify for Nationals through his club team. Because he has the experience of that, along with competing in Nationals during his first year at Springfield, he is no stranger to the big stage, and is fully prepared to step into the spotlight once again in 2022.
NCAA Division III Nationals were not held during Brashear’s sophomore campaign, and instead of competing his junior season, he took the entire year off to work for his grandfather’s oil company, Jenkin-Guerin, Inc., to make money and help provide for his family. So in the only two seasons he had the opportunity to qualify for Nationals, he did.
“I didn’t dive at all (junior year), and it was honestly a force trying to get back to it,” Brashear said. “I do think I did a good job just coming back to it, because I learned the basics at a pretty young age so I went back to those. It was pretty tough at some points, but at the end of the day I’m competitive and I can’t stop pushing because that’s my mindset. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.”
Every summer Brashear hits the road and goes to a dive camp at Indiana University. Mandy Hixon, the head coach at UMass Amherst, directed him to that camp where he had the pleasure of meeting her son, Michael Hixon, a two-time silver medalist at the Olympic Games.
“I went there most summers for a week or two,” Brashear said. “I met Michael Hixon a number of times there, and he definitely was inspirational and taught me a lot. He’s an amazing diver.”
Brashear’s inspirations can’t be mentioned without bringing up Pride head coach Pete Avdoulos, who won NEWMAC Coach of the Year for the 16th time. Brashear has been with Avdoulos since he was a member of the Springfield Area Diving club, one which Avdoulos coached.
“The man, the myth, the legend: Pete Avdoulos,” Brashear said. “I trust him with everything I do and he is just a really good coach. He has been very helpful to me over the years, so shout out to Pete for sure.”
Brashear has been trying to bulk up a bit by the time he hits the board for Nationals. Since the board has a lot of spring in it, the more weight he can put on, the more height he will be able to generate on his dives. The solution to that is his strawberry-flavored GNC Pro Performance Bulk 1340 protein powder that he slurps down every day.
“The board is very bendy so if you’re heavier, you can get higher, essentially,” Brashear said. “I do this dive called reverse two-and-a-half (305C), and it can be scary because you’re facing forwards but flipping backwards. It’s a blind entry and you don’t really have time (in the air), especially on the one-meter board. So I need a lot more height to be fast when I’m spinning and to do that I need to put on weight.”
Just as he did at the pool at Amherst College when he first fell in love with diving, Brashear is excited to learn and improve by watching others compete at Nationals, as well as build his network by meeting some of the most accomplished competitors and coaches in the country.
“I’m excited to see a lot of really good divers,” he said. “That’s when I improve the most, when I see other divers that are talented and blow my mind. And that’s why I got into diving in the first place, so I can see other people dive and make cool connections.”
Photo: Springfield College Athletics