What happens next is a precisely choreographed struggle against gravity that is both violent and graceful.
The five-foot-four senior flips forward one-and-a-half times while simultaneously twisting her body for two full rotations. Before you can even begin to appreciate what is happening, Corbett darts into the water like a bullet, leaving only a gentle ripple behind.
It’s called a one and a half double twist (naturally) and Corbett’s ability to consistently nail it is one reason she will enter the 2012 Pannell Swim Shop/KHSAA State Swimming and Diving Championships as the top seed in girls’ diving.
The meet takes place Feb. 23-25 at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium.
Corbett punched her ticket on Feb. 7 by winning a third consecutive Region Two title.
While her score of 548.25 was the highest in regional meet history—breaking a 20-year-old record set by Beth Leake of Brown in 1992—Corbett admits that judges’ totals have never been her foremost concern.
She even has a quirky habit of plugging her ears after dives to muffle the public-address announcement of her marks.
“I don’t listen to any of the scores,” Corbett said. “It helps me a lot. I’d rather just be happy with my dives in the meet and then see how everyone else did (afterward).”
For 10 years now Corbett’s strategy of blissful scoring ignorance has worked wonders.
The three-time All-American began diving at the age of 8 and now competes year-round with Cardinal Dive Club. Last summer Corbett qualified for USA Diving Junior Nationals in all three disciplines (1-meter, 3-meter and platform), finishing ninth overall in platform.
A 4.0 student in Sacred Heart’s International Baccalaureate program, Corbett was highly recruited and took official visits to UCLA, Harvard, Georgia, Florida and Virginia before signing with the Cavaliers in November.
The women’s swimming and diving program at UVA is currently the highest-ranked (No. 11) among ACC schools in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll.
For Corbett a typical training session begins with 30 minutes of dry-land workouts that often include plyometrics and core strengthening exercises. Then it’s to the board, where she runs through her 11-dive repertoire at least three times.
Unlike some divers, Corbett has no background in dance or gymnastics.
She blames her older sister, Mary Beth, for that.
“I took a couple of ballet classes when I was younger, but then my sister got us kicked out,” said Corbett with a laugh. “She got in a fight with one of the girls there and slapped her or something. She’s crazy.”
Now a senior at Stanford, Mary Beth enjoyed a standout career of her own as a diver—first at Sacred Heart, then for two years in Palo Alto before a knee injury ended her career.
A third Corbett, Daniel, played basketball at Trinity and is now a sophomore point guard at Johns Hopkins. The D-III Blue Jays are 14-9 this year and Daniel is averaging 8 points a game while leading the team in both assists and steals.
Becca Corbett is hoping she can relay good news to her far-flung siblings after the state meet.
The Valkyries are two-time defending team state champions and advanced following a narrow defeat (338 to 337.5) to a fast Manual squad at the regional meet. Corbett swims for the team as well and is a state qualifier in the 50-yard freestyle.
“To be able to do both at this level is a real testament to her athleticism,” said Sacred Heart coach Jim Luebbe. “She’s pretty important for us (as a team).”
After finishing third in diving her first three seasons, Corbett is looking to go out on top. Competing from the same dive list for the past two years may help.
“I’m really comfortable with my dives,” said Corbett. “It just really depends on the day and all of the judging and stuff.”
Standing in her way is a familiar foe. Lafayette’s Rebecca Hamperian took first in 2010 and 2011 and is the No. 2 seed after winning the Region Five meet with a score of 500.80.
“We’re good friends,” said Corbett. “…but when we get to the meets we’re always butting heads.”
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.