Ellie Smart left her native Fairway the fall after she finished her freshman year at SM East to pursue a dream of becoming one of the top divers in the country.
Three years later, at 18 she’s just finished her first year as a member of one of the top collegiate diving teams in the country, and has her sights set on an even bigger goal: Qualifying for the Olympic trials. And she’s looking for some local support to help pay for her training.
Smart was just 15 when she left northeast Johnson County for a high school in College Station, Tex., where she had the opportunity to train with two Olympic diving coaches. The move took her away from her family, which was difficult, but allowed her to advance her diving skills significantly.
“My mom’s always been very supportive of everything, but it was hard for dad to see his little girl leave,” she said.
After her second year in College Station, she realized she would be able to graduate a year early from high school with just a couple of online courses. She took them, and then accepted an offer from the University of California — Berkeley to join their diving team.
The training schedule is rigorous, with three-hour training sessions Monday through Friday, weights three days a week, and at least one weekly trip to the platform diving facility at Stanford where the team may spend six or eight hours.
Asked when she finds time for school, she says, “You just kind of learn to find time.”
An injured back kept Smart from a full competition schedule her first semester, but having recovered, she’s gearing up to head back to Berkeley in mid-August.
Smart has spent the last weeks delivering fliers to homes throughout northeast Johnson County offering to paint address numbers on curbs for $10. Her hope is to raise funds to help pay for travel and training for meets that fall outside the PAC-10 schedule.
“There are a lot of USA Diving meets that aren’t part of the school schedule, and we have to pay for those ourselves,” she said.
If you are interested in scheduling a curb number painting, email her at [email protected].