Sarah Gill ’25 diving into pool

Sarah Gill ’25 discusses her love of traveling, her time as a gymnast and the NCAA diving championships.

Profile: Sarah Gill ’25, Lehigh women swimming and diving

A travel enthusiast, Gil talks about her study abroad experience as well as her mindset in the pool.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Douglas Benedict

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Sarah Gill ’25 wrapped up last season by becoming the first Lehigh diver to compete in the NCAA Diving Championships since 2018. Named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll during her second year, she placed fifth at the Patriot League Championships in the 1-meter dive and 15th in the 3-meter dive. She also set a Lehigh record in the 1-meter dive with a score of 284.85 against Drexel, and throughout the year, took home six first-place finishes in the 1-meter dive and five first-place finishes in the 3-meter dive.

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What is your dream job?
Data analyst, hopefully with some traveling

So you like to travel?
I do like to travel, yeah.

What's your favorite spot?
My family went to the Cayman Islands a few years ago, and it had really amazing snorkeling, which I loved. Really good food and beautiful beaches.

Sarah Gill posing on diving board

Sarah Gill ’25 did six years of gymnastics before diving and says the two are very similar.

Do you have a dream destination, a place you haven't been?
I want to go to Australia one day. It's a really long flight, but one day I'll get there.

When did you start diving?
Fall of my freshman year of high school. I did gymnastics before that and ended up stopping in eighth grade. When I got to high school, I met a girl who used to go to the same gym and she had transitioned to diving in high school. She got me into it.

What's the most challenging thing about diving?
The mental part of it. We have 1 meter, which is about 3 feet, and then 3 meters, about 9 feet, so getting yourself to go off into water where you know that you have only a certain amount of control [is tough]. If something goes wrong, you could smack your front, smack your back and get a little sunburn kind of thing. What helps me is just telling myself that I've done this for a few years. It's not a new dive most of the time that I'm worried about. Just every day in practice, thinking you've done this before, you're going to be fine.

What’s your mindset? With other sports, a lot of your preparation is for the opponent but with diving, you get scored on your performance.
I was talking about this with one of my roommates the other day because she's on Lehigh’s basketball team. We were talking about how different it is in an individual sport or a team sport. Diving, you don't have to think about defense at all, which is a huge part of a lot of other sports. During the meets, I just focus on myself. I just tell myself what I have to do for every dive, not, “I have to get this many points.” I know that works for some people, knowing where they are at each stage, every dive. I don't think about it. I try to put the least amount of pressure on myself that I can because with school and everything, there's already so much pressure, so I want diving to still be fun and not as much pressure as school. I just focus on my dive, focus on getting through it safely, not getting injured and then whatever happens, happens.

You did gymnastics for six years, when did you start?
Second grade. That's really little, but I got into gymnastics because I was on a little cheerleading squad and they told me that I had to learn how to do a back handspring and they couldn't teach me. I had to go to a gym and learn. I went to Parkettes [a gymnastics training center in Allentown, Pennsylvania,] and I loved it. … In eighth grade, gymnastics was just a lot, and I wasn't feeling that I'd have a future with it. I wasn't loving it anymore. I wasn't having fun. And going into high school I heard about all these things I could try, all these sports that they had, so many clubs compared to middle school. I didn’t see myself really continuing longer or going to college for gymnastics, so I got out of it.

Has gymnastics helped when it comes to diving?
Definitely. It's really similar. The only difference is in gymnastics you don't go in headfirst. That's the only thing that you have to learn, get used to going in headfirst, because usually head landings mean bad news in gymnastics. But in diving, it’s okay.

With gymnastics it doesn’t sound like you had a lot of time, but did you play other sports growing up?
I didn't do much. I played soccer when I was little but that was about it. I did a little bit of dance. In high school I did one season of cross country and I did track and field for three years.

What's your favorite sport?
I still love watching gymnastics. I don't catch much of the international competitions besides the Olympics, but I see clips come up on my Instagram and YouTube and I love watching them. I obviously have to watch the Olympics because it's so much fun. The energy for that is just crazy.

You finished third in the state diving championships your senior year of high school. Is that your proudest athletic achievement so far?
My proudest achievement is when I broke Lehigh’s record on 1 meter this past year because, in high school, that was always my goal and I didn't get to do it. … I'm glad that I broke it. It was really exciting.

You also got to compete at the NCAA diving championships and were the first Lehigh diver since 2018 to do so.
Yeah, it was really cool. And I never had that experience of a big meet because COVID kind of disrupted everything in high school and I never competed for a club at a bigger meet like that. I've also never competed with [that many divers] — I think it was around 80. That experience, waiting so long in between your turns, we probably waited 45 minutes, which is a while to cool down and then have to get ready again before your next time. But I'm really glad I got to experience that. Now I can appreciate at [the Patriot League Championships] when it's only 30 people and it's a way shorter time. The last few years I was like, “Ugh, this is taking so long.” But now, compared to that, it’ll be fast.

The crowd had to make a big difference too. You went from little to no fans in high school because of COVID to now the NCAA Diving Championships.
There were only parents allowed for states. For districts, we had no fans and my parents were really sad they had to watch on Zoom. … It is really different and the biggest contrast I can think of is that districts or even states where there were no parents or very little, to Le-Laf, which is just so many parents, so many siblings, so many alumni coming back from both sides and cheering throughout the whole meet. Just so much energy compared to when there were no parents. Le-Laf was really different, but different in a good way.

You're local to Bethlehem, you went to Freedom High School, so you should be an expert. Which local food joint do Lehigh students have to hit up?
A lot of my favorites now are very close to campus. But one place on the north side that I like is Aqui Es for some tacos. Those are good. And you have to see the picture of Vanilla Ice when he came to their restaurant.

What's one fun fact that people may not know about you?
As I mentioned before, I really love traveling. I've been to about 30 states and 15 countries. My first trip on an airplane was when I was 4 months old. I went to a family wedding in Nebraska. My most recent trip—I studied abroad in Spain this past summer.

Where did you study in Spain?
In Grenada, a little town in the southern part of the country

What was the best thing about that experience?
I made a lot of friends, and the culture there is very different, especially around eating and eating times. It's a lot more of a family [focus], long and drawn out, very talkative time, whereas here, we kind of rush through, especially lunch. We rush through it, go on to our next thing. If you have class or practice, you just go, go, go. Their lunch started at 2 every day. It was one to two hours long, drawn out. You talk with your friends, you talk with your family, you talk with anyone. Same with dinner.

What's the best thing about Lehigh as a university?
I really like the small class sizes and big sense of community that's here. I feel like everyone's pretty much friends even if you don't know each other. Everyone's really friendly. It's a big family.

What's the best thing about the Lehigh swimming and diving team?
Again, big family. I still keep in touch with all the recent alumni, and I'm really excited to see them back at Lehigh really soon for Le-Laf.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Douglas Benedict

Tags

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