Skip to content Skip to footer

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Sarah Dorn stood on the diving board at the Orange Coast College Aquatics Pavilion. Her eyes were locked forward with one leg bent with her heel up, her hand out in front of her gesturing downward, as if she was playing in her mind how she would contort her body for the perfect dive.

She steps to the front of the board, puts her hands above her head, and takes a deep breath. Then, she bounces off the board, twirls and controls her body, before plunging into the water below. 

It’s a routine that comes naturally for Dorn. But not from the springboard. Her natural inclination for the routine comes from her days as a gymnast. A background that helped Dorn achieve a State Championship podium in her first season as a diver. 

Dorn won silver with 226.05 points in the women’s 1 Meter diving competition during the 3C2A State Swimming and Diving Championships, Day 1 of which was held May 2. She just barely missed out on winning a state championship, finishing just 3.55 points behind winner Rachel Choi of American River College. Aubrey Watts, also of American River, finished third at 208.85. No other diver topped 200 points.

Perhaps even more impressive: Dorn started diving eight months ago.

Before September, she was doing her flips indoors, and sticking the landing, as a gymnast. But after graduating from Tracy High School, she gave up gymnastics after 10 years in the sport. The decision, made with a heavy heart, was a product of Dorn not being a highly touted recruit. She wanted to compete at the Division I level. Unable to do that, she walked away from her first sports love.

She enrolled at Las Positas believing her athletic career had come to an end. But thanks to her sister, Dorn found another arena to compete. 

Sam, Dorn’s older sister, swam for the Hawks from 2021-23. The family connection with the program and head coach Jason Craighead made it very easy for Dorn to transition seamlessly to a new team. She used to spend 25 hours a week with her gymnastic team, so the first few months at LPC saw Dorn face a massive hole in her schedule and a significant loss of camaraderie and competition. The Hawks filled in.

Thursday, she delivered for Las Positas, securing one of only two podium medals for the Hawks on Day 1 of the state championships.

“She dove really well,” Monte Young, Las Positas’s dive coach said. “She was only off on one dive and lost by three points. And the big difference was the girl who beat her has been diving for 12 years and Sarah’s been diving for seven months. So she did really well.”

SHE STARTED DIVING just eight months ago. But Sarah Dorn finished second at the 2024 state championship competition. (Photos by Jakob Arnarsson/ The Express)

Dorn made a quick shift from gymnastics to diving. The techniques she learned in her years as a gymnast, twirling and twisting in the air, immediately translated to the springboard. But it took Dorn a while to realize just how well she measured up against her competition.  

The Cuesta Invitational was when Dorn started to see how well she could do. She surprised herself by finishing first, beating out some strong divers, including now State Champion Choi.

“I think that’s when reality really kicked in,” Dorn said. “I was like ‘oh, maybe I’m not too bad at this.”

Her 1 Meter State score not only saw her barely miss out on being a State Champion, but also just 0.05 points off a new school record. An accomplishment built from Dorn’s innate sense of competing, one she has been growing since she was eight years old. 

“She’s very competitive,” Young said. “She doesn’t fear competition at all. She just goes after things.”

“She has a competitors mentality,” Craighead added. “So I just think her mentality, her coachability, and athleticism got her to where she is.”

Dorn’s sister, Sam, is not just the reason Sarah joined the Hawks dive team in first place. She is also her biggest supporter. 

“She always tells me I’m a lot better than I think I am,” Dorn said. “And she just keeps me motivated that way. She always complimented me throughout my gymnastics career and now diving, which is great. She’s definitely a good motivator.”

Dorn has taken that familial bond and brought it with her to the Hawks. Despite competing in an individualist sport, the Hawk divers don’t see each other as competition. Rather they all bond over each other’s success, pushing one another to attempt new, harder dives in their search for being the best divers they can be, not just for themselves, but for the team. 

This mindset helped the collective Hawk divers put together an excellent first day of the State Championships, with Annie Holm finishing seventh (173.85) and Zachary Ulrich sixth (165.40), all three earning an All-American status. A performance that helped lead the Hawks to earning 94 combined points during the first day of the competition.  

Now, Dorn gets ready, along with her teammates, for their final dive competition of her inaugural season, with the women taking on the 3 meter while the men go down to the 1. While it’s Dorn’s last chance at gold this year, her athletic future, which seemed bleak at the beginning of her freshman year, now has endless possibilities. 

“She’s got a great future in the sport,” Young said. “The next three more years, she’s got to decide where she wants to go to school. Because there will be a lot of schools that will want to have her.” 

Top photo: Sarah Dorn followed in the footsteps of her sister, Sam, and joined the swim team at Las Positas. Now she’s one of the best divers in the state.  (Photo by Jakob Arnarsson/ The Express)

Jakob Arnarsson is the Sports Editor of The Express. Follow him on X, formally Twitter, @JakobA2004.

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.