When she won her third diving state championship in 2002, Mary Yarrison walked away from the meet with a hint of anger. She may have won three state championships in three years, she was only a junior, but she didn't have the record yet.
"I had a really good meet except for two dives," said Yarrison to the Connection after the 2002 state championship meet. Her coach, Jeff Firman, said: "She wants the record really badly."
That record was held by Amber O'Reilly of Hayfield, who won the first three Virginia High School League AAA diving titles, 1997-1999. She earned 481.00 points her senior year to set it. Four years later, in 2003, Yarrison would have her day, earning 483.30 points and a state title sweep, winning it for the fourth time in four years.
"I thought about [the record] too much my junior year," said Yarrison. "Senior year I decided to go out there and have a good time."
THE STELLAR diving career started by accident. Yarrison first took an interest in gymnastics, and she began performing the flips she learned in gymnastics on the side of her neighborhood pool. To make things safer, her parents found her a diving coach who could work with her year-round.
The qualities that made her a good diver, according to her father James Yarrison, were her competitiveness, self-discipline and ability to focus on the task at hand. "She has the willingness to do the conditioning and receive coaching," besides the physical ability to perform her dives skillfully and gracefully, said James Yarrison.
To win the state title her senior year, Yarrison had to dive with two stress fractures in her leg, one on the tibia and one on the femur - something that her doctor had never seen before. The reason behind the fractures was overuse, as Yarrison simultaneously competed as a swimmer for Lee, while building an impressive resume diving outside of high school competition.
ON THE NATIONAL level, Yarrison was a member of the USA Junior Olympic national diving team from 2000 to 2003. She was the Junior National Champion on the platform in 2001, and on the 1-meter in 2001, 2002 and 2003. She won the silver on the 3-meter in 2000 and 2001. Yarrison was second on both 1-meter and 3-meter at the 2002 World Team Trials and first on both boards at the 2003 World Team Trials.
On the senior national level, she first qualified for the national championships at the age of 14. Since then, she came in second in synchronized 3-meter diving in 2003 and second in synchronized platform in 2004. Most recently, Yarrison finished fourth in the 1-meter dive and sixth in the 3-meter dive at the 2006 U.S. Open.
On the international scene, Yarrison represented the United States in a number of competitions. She was the gold medalist in both 1 and 3 meter events in the 16-18 age group at the 2003 Junior Pan American Diving Championships in Brazil. She also earned the Diver of the Meet honor at the tournament.
"Brazil was my favorite experience," said Yarrison. She said the competition took place at an outdoor pool, which was a refreshing change from most competitions where the divers are confined to an indoor environment. Also, said Yarrison, Brazil was not like anything she had ever seen before.
Besides her other international honors, Yarrison finished first in 1-meter diving, second in 3-meter synchronized diving and third in 3-meter diving in the 14-15 Girls World Youth Meet in Waldkraiburg, Germany, in 2000. She was also a gold medalist for her nation at the 13 and Under girls 1-meter, Grand Prix de Muguet in Strasbourg, France.
AFTER HIGH SCHOOL Yarrison went to the University of Arizona, where she was impressive as a freshman. In 2004 she was named the PAC-10 Newcomer of the Year, and received All-American Honorable Mention recognition. At the PAC-10 championships that year, she placed second in the 1-meter dive and third in 3-meter and platform dives.
A spell of injuries, including a separated shoulder, forced Yarrison to redshirt the following year. She said she would get injured again every time she came back from a previous injury. Yarrison said that the chain of injuries at Arizona made her feel cursed and she needed a new environment. The diver found it at the University of Texas, coached by a 1992 Olympian Matt Scoggin of Great Falls.
This summer Yarrison is working as a counselor at an aquatic camp in Maryland for her coach of eight years, John Wolsh. Yarrison competes for the Montgomerry Dive Club in Rockville and is looking forward to a qualifying meet for the senior nationals. The qualifying meet will be held on Saturday and Sunday, July 15 and 16, in Rockville. Yarrison said she felt confident she would qualify for the senior nationals.
"She has all the physical attributes," said Wolsh. "She is strong, fast and flexible." Wolsh added two to five percent of athletes have the ability to make their body do what the mind wants it to do, and Yarrison belongs there.
"She definitely puts in more time and effort, and she is the first to show for extra strength and conditioning training," said Wolsh. He said that Yarrison has the athletic ability and physical skills to be considered for the 2008 Olympic Team.
YARRISON SAID she had two more years left at the University of Texas, and she plans to compete for those two years, bringing her to the point of the 2008 Olympic trials. "I am assuming my body will be shot by then," she said, hinting at a possible career stop if she does not make the cut for the 2008 Olympic team.
Mary Yarrison is 62 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.