Mari Hsieh is a quick study.
Last year, the then-junior decided to turn out for the Glacier Peak girls swimming and diving team two weeks after the season had started. Even though she didn’t have any prior diving experience, she soon became one of Wesco’s best divers. She finished 11th at the 2016 4A state meet and is aiming for a top-five finish this fall.
“She’s what I would call a deceptively strong athlete,” said Grizzlies diving coach Marc Hughes. “She doesn’t look like a traditional diver — she’s tall and slender, and has a wiry kind of strength. She’s got a good ability to find the bottom of the dive, and nice form; she leaves a great lasting impression on the judges. I think she has untapped potential in her. I think she could dive collegiately and (succeed).”
Here are five things to know about Hsieh:
Friends and family led her to diving. “My best friend on the (swimming) team, Ryzele Lagdaan, I did gymnastics with her when I was younger,” Hsieh said. “My mom wanted me to start diving after I quit gymnastics and cheerleading, and I didn’t have a sport. She thought it might be a good fit. She persuaded me to try out, and Ryzele played a big part in me going further with it.”
Her biggest challenge as new diver? Going in head-first. “It was scary at first because I wasn’t used to it. It felt a little weird,” she said. “As a gymnast you’re used to landing on your feet. But I was able to pick it up quickly because of my background in other sports. I actually like doing it now that I’m more comfortable with it.”
Her cheerleading background has helped her on the diving board. Hsieh started competitive cheerleading when she was 10. Two days per week, she drives to Bellevue after diving practice to train with the Connect Cheer Northwest squad. “I like the competitive and performing aspects (of cheerleading),” she said. “I get to work with a bunch of other people toward the same goal. And it involves acrobatics, tumbling and dance, things I enjoy. Having that background — and that air awareness — has definitely helped me (diving).”
She’d like to study business in college. She’s a member of Glacier Peak’s chapter of DECA, an international association of business students and educators. “We do competitions at the state and national level,” Hsieh said. “You get put into a bunch of situations — marketing, advertising, buying, selling — and you have to prepare and compete against other students in different events. In the class, there’s a lot of social (scenarios), and communication is necessary. I’m a people person, so it’s just a good fit for me.”
She finds ways to stay busy. “During the summer I wakeboard,” she said. “Any free time I have, I try to hang out with friends. I’m involved in school — I got to football games and things like that. I’m a pretty social person. On the (swimming) team I’ve gotten to know a whole new group of people, and I’ve made some super-close friends.”
Glacier Peak’s Mari Hsieh shares a laugh during practicing at Snohomish Aquatic Center Friday afternoon on October 20, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Glacier Peak’s Mari Hsieh somersaults during practice at Snohomish Aquatic Center Friday afternoon on October 20, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)