Note: This story was originally published in a November, 1998, edition of the Northfield News and has been edited for length and clarity.
To get to the mound, future Hall of Famer closer Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees has to cross the outfield grass, and his jog through those couple hundred feet brings with it all the feeling of inevitability. Confidence radiates from Rivera as he warms up, signaling to opposing batters there’s a certain level of futility to their attempts to beat him. A huge part of that confidence is Rivera’s wielding of the cutter, a nearly un-hittable pitch that puts him in a league of his own.
Well, Rivera can keep his cutter; sophomore Bailey DuPay has the inward 1 1/2.
With one dive to go and a 22.55-point lead in the Class A state diving meet, DuPay needed a final knockout blow to close things out for good. Strolling down the diving board knowing she had something up her sleeve the competition simply couldn’t match, DuPay placed her feet on the end of the board and faced backward toward the wall. Seconds later, she propelled herself backward, grabbed her ankles and tucked her legs close to her body as she flipped fully around and cleanly entered the water facing away from the wall.
By the time her head emerged the judges were well on their way to awarding her a 46.2, her best score of the competition and enough to give her what would eventually be a 34.25-point margin of victory for her second straight diving title.
“It’s the cherry on top of the season,” DuPay said. “I came into it hoping it would come out as a win, but thought, ‘whatever happens, happens.’”
DuPay guaranteed it came out as a win with a wire-to-wire lead that all led up to her exclamation point of a final dive. Diving coach Dan DuPay said many athletes use their best dive in the preliminary round to make sure they have enough points to make it into the final, but Bailey is confident her other dives will carry her through that she saves her best for last.
“Knowing she has that dive at the end is awesome,” Dan said. “She has it there because she knows it’s a great dive.”
That dive didn’t disappoint Saturday, with Bailey delivering it in the same steely-nerved fashion that won her a state title as a freshman.
“I just knew that I had to do the dive the best I could,” Bailey said of the final attempt, “(The diving title) means more this time, just because it could happen again next year.”
Saturday’s final dive came very close to never happening at all for DuPay. Warming up between her dives on Thursday in the preliminary round she slipped on the deck, landed hard on her elbow and tailbone, cutting her foot in the process just three divers before her turn in the rotation.
“After it happened I just told myself I didn’t want to be out,” she said. “I had to suck it up and pull though it, so that’s what I did.”
BAiley said adrenaline helped her perform despite the pain, and when it mattered most a pair of deep bruises only added another level of impressiveness to her performance. In fact, Dan was glad for the bruises on the elbow; it meant she had broken her fall with that instead of her head.
“If she would have hit her head they probably wouldn’t have let her dive,” he said. “The officials probably would have just said, ‘You’re out.’”
When the final tally was finished, Bailey’s 394.25 was “a little disappointing” because it’s the first time all season she hasn’t topped 400 points. In other words, she didn’t have anywhere near her best performance, got injured mid-meet and still had enough to win by almost 35 points.
Oh, and she’s working on an even better dive to finish with for next season.
“She’s been doing a pike, which is really cool,” Dan said. “Hopefully next year she’ll be doing that.”
The Minnesota diving community might want to get used to seeing Bailey walk down the board with the chance to finish out another meet; this closer isn’t going anywhere.