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MHS freshman competing in section trials
Manteca High freshman diver Logan Jackson completes a back dive. Jackson will compete in the Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Trials today at Johansen High. - photo by Photo Contributed


• WHAT: Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Dive Trials
• WHEN: Girls, today; boys, Friday. Frosh/Soph competition begins at 11 a.m.
• WHERE: Johansen High in Modesto
• AT STAKE: Manteca High’s Logan Jackson can qualify for Saturday’s finals with a top-8 performance today.

How’s this for degree of difficulty: To find Manteca High’s only diver in recent history you’ll have to travel to Tracy High.

Yes, that Tracy High.

“Back in my day,” said Manteca High alum Keith Jackson, “that would have been a sin. … A sin.”

Those old-school Valley Oak League battle lines are blurred now, and the 14-year-old freshman bouncing off a 1-meter springboard thinks this Buffalo-Bulldog mash-up is, well…

Pretty cool.

“For me, it’s an honor to represent my school,” said Logan Jackson, Keith’s daughter. The younger Jackson will compete in today’s Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Dive Trials today.

“It was really awkward at first, but it turned out to be great. The kids are really accepting and open. And Banner, my coach, she’s been so supportive and striving to make me better.”

Jackson, one of the section’s promising young talents, is on loan to the Bulldogs and diving coach Dominique Banner.

Sort of.

Because Manteca High and the Valley Oak League don’t offer diving, Jackson has been allowed by the athletic directors to compete with Tracy High as a member of the Buffaloes.

Tracy competes as a member of the San Joaquin Athletic Association against Lincoln and Lodi. St. Mary’s of the Tri-Cities Athletic League participated in and hosted the season-ending meet.

Jackson is believed to be the first Manteca High diver in at least two decades. The last, she says, was one of her former teachers at Shasta Elementary School – Sarah Alexander.

She entered high school thinking she would dive only for Delta Valley Diving and coach Robert Wimberley. However, a conversation between her father and athletic directors Dave Smith of Manteca and Gary Henderson of Tracy raised another possibility.

“I didn’t think high school was possible,” the younger Jackson said. “And then the whole ‘I could dive for another school’ came up and it sparked hope.”

Jackson clinched a berth in today’s junior varsity sub-section trials by carrying out a consistent program all season. She was either first or second in six league meets and finished third at the SJAA/TCAL Championships at St. Mary’s on April 25.

She accumulated 206.5 points for her 11 dives and ranked first among SJAA competitors, placing behind two St. Mary’s divers.

“It’s a rush,” Jackson said. “The adrenaline. The feeling you get when you hit the water knowing you just did the best dive you could, and then coming up and seeing the scores. That’s the best part for me.”

She’s learned to appreciate the sport of diving, with all its intricacies and demands.

Jackson walked away from the sport after showing promise as a young child. She learned an approach from her aunt, Julie Malmberg, a former diver, at the age of 5.

By the time she was 9, Jackson was performing front dives off a rock alongside the family’s pool. She began seriously diving one year later under the tutelage Logan Champion.

After about six months, she quit, citing the commute to San Ramon for practices and a general lack of interest.

“When I was younger, I watched the Olympics and diving always interested me,” Jackson said. “(But) it got to be too much and I was really immature and not taking it seriously.”

She got serious again in August, and with an opportunity to dive for her school, she plans to maximize her potential.

Jackson trains regular with Wimberley and also credits Banner for her encouragement.

The comeback wasn’t easy, though. Jackson had to re-train her body and mind. She had to be patient with the process, because what once came so naturally was now a struggle.

“It was a challenge. There was a long period of time when I wasn’t used to it,” she said. “We did a lot of workouts and conditioning, and I wasn’t ready for it. I hadn’t practiced for over two years and it felt foreign and awkward to be back on the board.”

About as awkward as a Manteca High diver traveling and taking instruction from a Tracy High coach?

Get used to it, she said.

“For me, this is a longtime thing. I plan to dive in college and, obviously, for the rest of my high school career,” she added.

“It helped having experience with it, but I realize I wasn’t ready to be a diver at that time. Now I have that maturity level and will to go farther than I ever have before.”