Meet Ariana Ross ’17 – a tri-captain of women’s swimming and diving who broke the pool record in the 3-meter board Sunday at the 2017 NESCAC Championship. Now, meet Steven Kreuch ’20, who set a team record in the 1-meter 11-dive competition against Connecticut College on Jan. 14. Aside from being phenomenal divers, these two Ephs have something else in common: they are childhood friends.
Since elementary school, Ross and Kreuch have been diving on the same Junior Olympic team in Connecticut. Both have competed for Whirlwind Diving, with Ross joining the team at the age of 8 and Kreuch diving since he was 6 years old. The team is a part of the New Canaan YMCA and competes nationally, having captured 11 YMCA titles since its founding in 1997.
Though they hail from different towns, the two came to grow closer throughout their childhood as both teammates and friends. Little did they know, however, that they would be reunited at the College years later. Ross, who had a “tumultuous relationship” with the sport, did not consider pursuing diving in college until her junior year of high school.
“I quit year-round diving for two years, and I dove during the summer and for my high school,” she said. “I did a bunch of other sports at the time, and I didn’t really like them that much. I kept going back to diving, and even though I was so scared of it, I loved it.”
“Toward the middle of my junior year, I decided to pick it up year-round again,” she said. “From there, I realized that diving in college might be a good idea for me.”
However, diving at the College was not an option she was too keen on exploring. “I did not want to come on my recruiting trip at all,” she said.
In fact, Ross was primarily interested in Div. I diving at Ivy League schools. After her father insisted that she give the College a chance, Ross visited about a week before the Early Decision deadline. She found herself falling in love with the campus within two hours of her visit.
Oddly enough, Kreuch had a similar experience. Unsure of where he wanted to head after high school, he reached out to Ross his junior year, and she encouraged him to visit the College. Though the school was on his radar at the time, he was unsure if it was the right fit for him. Much like Ross, he was leaning toward diving in Div. I at Ivy League schools.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to come to the College at all. I was sort of intimidated by the fact that it was a small, rural school,” Kreuch said.
Yet, after visiting and spending the day with Ross, he ended up “having the best time ever.” He claims that within the first five minutes of his visit, he texted his parents, “I literally can’t go anywhere else, because this is the best place in the world.”
Ross, who Kreuch said played a huge role in his decision to come to the College, was excited by his decision. She would go on to coach him in the fall before the start of his first diving season in the Purple Valley. “She’s definitely looked out for me,” he said.
The decision has clearly paid off, as Kreuch has turned in record-breaking performances. Although he suffered from a concussion that kept him from diving for nearly three weeks, he said that he loves being a part of the team.
“I’ve been having a really good season so far,” he said. “I love how close the swimmers and divers are. I didn’t know what to expect coming in, but it’s been the best couple of months – especially with Ari on the team.”
Kreuch is not the only one performing exceptionally, as Ross has also had a strong season. In her final year of diving, Ross is pleased to find herself at a level she has been striving for her entire career.
“I’ve never been this confident in my diving before, and I feel like I’m in a place I’ve never been,” she said. “I just really love doing it – it’s been an awesome year.”
Upon concluding her NESCAC career with a 3-meter board score of 526.30 points at the championship meet, she was awarded Diver of the Year for the third straight season. The NESCAC’s first woman diver to win the honor three times, she will represent the College at Regionals and Nationals.
When she is not jumping off diving boards, Ross, a mathematics and studio art double major, is working on putting together a visual album centered on stories of female agency for her art thesis. She hopes to pursue a career in media or entertainment upon graduation.
Meanwhile, Kreuch, who plans to become an English and biology double major, is still exploring his options. He hopes to become a Team Eph leader and is looking forward to what lies ahead for him at the College.