CLARKS SUMMIT — When Abington Heights senior Colin Florey leaped off the board, he wasn’t thinking about etching his name in the school’s record books.
He was strictly concerned with executing a clean landing while trying a new dive, a front 2 1/2 somersault.
“I had never done it before in a meet,” Florey said. “It was really hit or miss for me. I did it well and when I came up, I saw it got good scores.”
Florey’s score of 250.1 on his combination of six dives topped Zach Burns’ previous mark of 250.05 during the Comets win over Scranton Prep in a Lackawanna League meet at Abington Heights High School on Thursday, Dec. 17. His best prior score was 227.
“I didn’t expect to break the record at all,” he said. “I thought it could be close, but it was a surprise. It was one of my goals and getting it early (in the season) gives me even more motivation.”
Comets diving coach Steven Schmaltz credits Florey’s strong work ethic for his continued improvement.
“It was pretty clear that he had a ton of potential since his freshman year,” Schmaltz said. “He wasn’t really scared, but he was a little bit unsure and tentative. We had to get him to be a little more confident. He would listen to our suggestions, we just had to get him past a couple mental blocks. Once he trusted us and became more confident, there was no limit for him.”
According to Florey, the coaching staff and more experienced teammates played a big role in his development in the sport.
“My freshman and sophomore years, Annie Gromelski, the coach’s daughter, was my mentor diver,” he said. “She taught me in the beginning and got me going in the right direction. Coach Mary Gromelski has been there along the whole way, too.”
The Clarks Summit resident also praised the tutelage of Schmaltz, a former standout diver at Abington Heights, for fine tuning his technique.
“He’s been the driving force by giving us drills over breaks and teaching us a lot of fundamentals,” Florey said.
Placing first in the District 2-4 Class 3A boys diving championship boosted Florey’s confidence heading into his senior season.
“I had a big breakthrough last year, it was a big stepping stone for me,” he said. “Winning districts gave me the confidence to understand what I’m capable of achieving.
“This year, I really took off in terms of learning a couple harder dives and that’s what really drives your scores higher.”
Despite finishing 24th out of 24 divers at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Championships at Bucknell University last March, competing with the state’s top athletes was a great learning experience for Florey.
“The competition there is incredible,” he said. “I learned there are a lot of other good divers in the state. I also learned that after mastering simple techniques and form, it’s really just about practicing.”
Florey, 17, the president of the school’s Interact Club, is also a member of the varsity golf team and a member and founder of the school’s club lacrosse team.
Schmaltz believes Florey’s commitment to the sport shows in his textbook form on the diving board.
“He’s never afraid to stay after practice if there is something he knew he wasn’t doing right,” Schmaltz said. “His entries are extremely clean. His legs are together and his toes are pointed on every dive. It’s something we had to work on a little bit, because when you’re trying 100 dives it’s the last thing you’re worried about.”
When other commitments keep Schmaltz away from the team, Florey serves as a de facto coach.
“I’m not here every day because I go to school in Philadelphia, but he’s always giving me feedback on the practices,” Schmaltz said. “He makes his teammates feel comfortable and explains to them what they should be doing.”
According to Schmaltz, Florey’s loyalty to his teammates comes at the expense of his own development in some instances.
“There are times when he doesn’t focus on himself as much as he should because he’s more concerned with helping everybody else out. He’s inspiring just by his talent and how much fun he has doing it, the kids look up to him.”
Colin, the son of Beth and Rick Florey, is interested in studying biology in college and may enter a pre-med track.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage