Girls swim & dive: Liberty's Tsutakawa one of the best in Washington

Liberty's Katie Tsutakawa dives at a meet against Sammamish Oct. 13.
— image credit: Adam McFadden/Renton Reporter

Katie Tsutakawa looks to be all business on the diving board. She stares ahead intently, taking controlled breaths before executing her dive.

But afterward, with a soft sense of humor and a smile, the truth comes out. “I almost fell off the board,” the Liberty senior admits with a laugh. “I managed to pull it off though.”

Then the real diver keeps showing through.

“I’m just up there thinking that I want to finish and be done,” she said.

It’s not that she doesn’t like diving, she’s just focused on having fun.

Tsutakawa finished seventh at the 3A state meet last year, her second trip to the state meet. The highlight for her?

Getting Jamba Juice with a group of friends that she dives with in the summer.

Thanks to her attitude about diving, and her talent, she has become one of the state’s best.

Tsutakawa started diving as a freshman at Liberty and never really considered the swimming side of things. She has spent some time club diving but not consistently.

Her development at Liberty has been helped along by having a coach with quite a bit of experience, albeit at a higher level than 3A swim and dive.

Liberty’s dive coach Ellen Owen finished seventh in platform diving at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

“It’s really helpful,” Tsutakawa said. “And she dives with us every once in a while, so it’s really fun.”

Ellen Owen

Owen started coaching at the behest of a friend - Issaquah swim coach Laura Halter.

“It’s not that I had a desire to coach,” Owen said. “It’s that I had a desire that the kids have the opportunities to drive and that diving stays at the high school level. If I didn’t coach then there wouldn’t be diving in the Issaquah School District.”

This is Owen’s second year coaching girls and boys diving for Liberty, Issaquah and Skyline high schools.

It’s also fun from Owen’s side to work with such a talented diver.

“She’s very strong, her height off the board is a plus,” Owen said. “She has good solid entries. She’s a pretty diver, she has good body lines.”

Tsutakawa has a leg up on most area divers because she has been doing it for some time. Since diving isn’t a really popular sport in the area, many divers join the high school team with no knowledge of how to do it.

“Trying to get them up to speed in two weeks before the meets start can be tough,” Owen said. “It’s a really technical sport so it’s not something you can master quickly.”

Though Owen said one of the most rewarding parts of her job is to see the pride a new diver gets from executing a tricky maneuver, it’s a bonus to have an athlete like Tsutakawa every now and then.

“It’s nice to have someone like Katie who has a lot of experience,” Owen said. “She has good fundamentals that she’s worked on for years and that really shows.”

Tsutakawa isn’t the type to make brash predictions. For this year’s state competitionshe has a simple goal.

“It’d be nice if I could do as well as last year,” she said. “But you never know.”

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