Mendez makes state history

Posted on 10 January 2019 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri

Photo by Gary Curreri

In the history of the FHSAA, 13 divers have won back-to-back-to-back diving titles and Lighthouse Point’s Kevin Mendez was the latest to add his name to that list.

The first was two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Desjardins, who won three consecutive state diving championships in 1924, 1925 and 1926.

“Winning states again was awesome,” Mendez said. “I love it. States is the last chance for team camaraderie and I love hanging out with my coaches and teammates. It was also good to see how well everyone improved this season.”

Mendez, 15, a Pine Crest School freshman, is the youngest diver to follow in Pete Desjardins’ footsteps to win three diving state championships, winning as a 7th grader in 2016, an 8th grader in 2017 and as a freshman in 2018. Mendez tied the Pine Crest School record for three diving state championships as he equaled Mike Mayfield (1964-66); Scott Upper (1982, 1983 and 1985); Austin Fields (2013-15) and Mendez (2016-18).

“His diving title this year in Stuart at the FHSAA 1A State Championships gives the 1A State Championship diving title to the Pine Crest School for six years in a row,” said Pine Crest coach Janet Gabriel.

His best dive this season came in winning the regional competition with a score of 545 in regionals. He was second in the district and won regionals and state.

Mendez is a 13-time national champion and part of the Team USA diving national team Tier 3. Among his USA Diving wins are three on 1-meter, two on 3-meter, three on the platform, one on Synchro 3m and one on Synchro Platform.

Although he is just a freshman, he said he would like to attend the University of Miami, USC or Cornell University, among his favorites.

“I am going to try and accumulate as many state championships as I can,” Mendez said. “I have to give a big shout out to my mom. She is my rock. She’s my everything. She is up in the morning and up at night taking care of everything for me and she is at every single meet that I am at.”

Pine Crest has been known for producing top divers and Mendez is quick to point out the coaching staff, led by Gabriel.

“I also have to thank my coaches for their dedication,” he said. “She is an amazing person and even a better coach. The diving community around Pine Crest just wants to help everyone do better and wants to help everyone win. The No. 1 priority is to go out there and have fun and just do your best.”

When he is about to dive, Mendez doesn’t feel any pressure.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Mendez said. “I just know it is me, and my dive and the board. But when I am not on the board, there is a lot of pressure. It is a lot of mental training. It is a lot of practice in and out of the pool. It is a lot of conditioning and the only way to get past the pressure is the repetition.”

“I want to go all of the way,” Mendez concluded. “I want a college scholarship, but if the Olympics comes along the way, I’ll definitely take that opportunity. I would be looking at the 2020 or 2024 (Olympic) Games. It is every person’s dream to be wearing their country’s colors around their neck or around their body, so for me to be able to that would be a dream come true. I would be so honored and so blessed.”

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