Pssst. I’ve got a secret.
Jax Purwins is diving into something completely new this fall.
I mean literally diving.
“Most people don’t even know I’m diving,” Purwins said. “And even when I tell them, they don’t believe me.”
That’s because the Camas High School senior, whose real name is Jacqueline, has been connected to gymnastics for a long, long time.
“I’ve been doing gymnastics for like 12, 13 years,” said Purwins, who is a two-time Columbian All-Region gymnast who placed third on the uneven bars and fourth in the all-around at the Class 4A state meet last February.
But last spring – she can’t quite recall the exact moment — Purwins got it in her head to try something different.
“I really don’t have the body for gymnastics,” said Purwins, who is tall for a gymnast. “Doing it so long really took a toll on my body. And I felt like I had gone about as far as I could go in gymnastics. So when I heard about the Tualatin Hills Diving Team (in Beaverton, Ore.), I decided to take a look.”
Purwins and her mother went to watch a practice. The coach asked Purwins if she brought a swimsuit.
“I had, only because my mom suggested I bring one along, and that’s where it all started,” Purwins said.
That was in May. She spent the summer practicing with the club and even getting into some competitions.
“I finished in last a lot,” she said. “But I had just started diving. I was coming in at the bottom and could only get better. That’s what I liked about it.”
At the club, she met Lyn McGee, another Camas High student who had just moved from Colorado.
“Lyn was saying how they had diving at her school in Colorado and that we should start a diving team at Camas,” Purwins said. “So then we recruited (McGee’s younger sister) Shae, who was also a gymnast. … Now we have a team.”
A high school diving in Clark County is a novelty. There hasn’t been a local qualifier to the state meet in about a decade, largely because there aren’t many places to dive in the area.
That’s why Purwins and her teammates make the hour-long drive (on a good day) to Beaverton three times to week to practice.
It makes for a long day, which starts with a full and rigorous schedule at Camas High School.
“I’m taking five (Advanced Placement) classes, and one of them is actually two classes in one, so it’s like six classes of work,” she said.
After school, she heads to Camas swim practice, then makes the drive to Beaverton for two hours of diving practice.
“I usually get home around 8:30 or 9, then do homework to 11 or 11:30,” she said. “Then I’m up at 6 to start it all over again.”
On top of that, she’s worked as a youth gymnastics coach at Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy for the past three years (“I love working with the kids”) and she’s currently involved in an internship in which she shadows an orthopedic surgeon at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Beaverton (“I chose that hospital because it’s close to Tualatin Hills”).
Purwins says most people think the transition from gymnastics to diving is a natural one.
“They said ‘Oh, you’re still flipping in the air, but now you’re just doing it into water’, but it’s a lot more technical than that,” she said. “In gymnastics, I was used to being told to make a correction and being able to do it. But in diving, I make a correction on one part of my dive and it throws off another part. It’s hard to do a dive 10 times and not feel like you’re getting it right. But my coach will tell me I’m getting better. You just have to trust in your coaches.”
That trust has been paying off. It showed her first real high school diving meet two weeks ago in Bainbridge.
“There were so many divers there, and I didn’t know anything about any of them,” Purwins said. “There were some club divers, and there were some beginning divers. A lot of them were gymnasts. You could tell by the way they stood on the board.”
During her 11-dive meet, Purwins kept her eye on the diver before her in the rotation.
“I would watch everything she did,” she said. “She was clearly an experienced diver, and I was thinking ‘Wow, she is a really good.
“And then I ended up beating her.”
Purwins won the event with a score of 406. She followed that up with a score of 395 last weekend in Moses Lake, qualifying for her the state meet. Sophomore Lyn McGee (who scored 309.75) and freshman Shea McGee (301) are hoping to qualify at this weekend’s district meet.
Purwins said diving is something she’d like to pursue in college, and her coach says she has a chance to do that.
As for gymnastics, Purwins says she’s “thinking” about coming out for the Camas team this winter. But right now, she’s focused on diving.
“A year ago, I would have never thought that,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep editor for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538 or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.