Marlins not caught up in winning streak

Even as the victories continue to pile up, North St. John's diving coach Maureen Simpson says she's careful not to lose perspective.

It wasn't about wins and losses when she started out with the Ellicott City pool seven years ago and to this day she's kept it that way. In her eyes, the summer program is ultimately more about fun and learning than it is about the team's final record.

That doesn't mean, however, that Simpson and the Blue Marlins haven't let themselves enjoy a winning streak that is currently as long as her tenure with the team.

"It's a lot of fun, not just the winning, but getting to be around so many great kids," Simpson said. "We don't really talk about the streak that much or focus on it. Our goal is to help the kids improve and if that leads to wins, then that's great."

There have been plenty of wins during the streak that dates back to the 2005 season and Simpson is far from the only one that has been around to enjoy it from the very beginning.

She's been fortunate to have a core group of divers, some that were even on the team back in 2004 when the Marlins suffered their last regular season loss.

"We're like a family now, if we didn't come back we would miss each other," said 13-year-old Grace Kelly, who started with the Marlins along with her older brother, Sean, when she was 6. "It's something you look forward to every summer."

Sibling combinations like the Kellys is one of the main reasons North St. John's has consistently had one of the area's largest teams. This year the team has more than 50 divers, roughly only 10 of them are first timers.

For many on the team, like the Stevens family, diving is a secondary sport. But it's still something they've done regularly now each summer.

"For my brothers and me lacrosse is our main sport. This is something we just do for fun in the summer and we've gotten better and better each year," said 13-year-old Jordan Stevens, who has been on the team now for eight years along with her brothers, Jake and Zach. Jake Stevens was a first-team all-county lacrosse player as a sophomore at Mt. Hebron this spring, while Zach, a freshman, was pulled up to varsity for the playoffs.

Understanding that there are different motivation and skill levels is something Simpson, who was the Atlantic 10 Conference Diver of the Year in 2004 while at St. Bonaventure University, has gotten very good at. She and her current assistant coach Josh Bosse focus on different things with each kid.

"No two kids are alike, you learn that pretty quickly," said Bosse, who dove while in middle and high school and started coaching with the Marlins last summer. "There are some general things, like technique, that you work with everyone on, but each kid has their own goals."

Sometimes, the kids are just as motivating as the coaches.

"We have days where we have flip contests and that's where you can try new stuff," said Jordan Stevens. "We all push each other to do what the other person is doing. It's a lot of fun and everyone cheers everyone on."

As for any pressure in relation to the streak, most of the kids say they don't feel much. The fact that North St. John's has won the majority of its meets by large margins certainly helps in that department.

Yet Simpson knows that one day the streak, which also includes six consecutive Central Maryland Diving League Division Championships (Blue Division) as well, will come to an end and it will be time for a new one to begin.

"It's not going to go on forever," she said. "But that's OK. That's not the only measure of success. I feel like as long as the kids are enjoying themselves and learning something new each summer, we've done our jobs.

"Everything else is a bonus."

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