Grace Newell understood the dilemma facing her. Either way, she was going to have to surrender something.
Almost precisely a year ago, the Monarch diver’s shoulder ailment had gotten to the point of no return. Surgery was necessary. The two unenviable choices facing the then-junior were to have it repaired immediately and miss the balance of the high school season, or to push through and lose club season in the spring and summer.
With the club season more important from a recruiting standpoint, Newell made the difficult decision to shut down her junior season with the Coyotes.
“It was hard watching the team compete with me sitting on the sideline,” Newell said. “But I felt it was the right decision to take care of the surgery then.”
No arguing with the result. Newell, who competes with Sagebrush Diving on the club circuit, ending up signing with Texas Christian after also receiving interest from Northwestern, Cal-Poly and the University of Denver.
Newell finished ninth at the Class 5A state meet as a sophomore and also set Monarch records in the six- and 11-dive events that season. While opting for club season might have seemed like a no-brainer from the outside, it was tough for Newell to put a halt to her budding achievements at Monarch and miss a year diving alongside teammate Savannah Magness.
Magness broke Newell’s team records while she sat out last season, but Newell has already claimed one of them back. In a dual earlier this month against Rocky Mountain, Newell posted a Coyotes-record 252.5 in the six-dive event.
After missing last season, she understandably returns hungry for her senior campaign.
“Definitely,” she said. “I’m just hoping that I finish higher at state than the ninth I did as a sophomore, and I want to re-break my records. I’m hoping for a top-five at state, but with missing last year, I really haven’t seen the competition that is out there.”
This is not the first time Newell has overcome an injury. In fact, it was an injury that helped steer her to diving in the first place. The former gymnast endured a grueling hip injury as a youngster and made the move to diving.
The recent injury required surgery to repair the labrum and tighten tendons and the joint in her right shoulder.
One of Newell’s new diving coaches at Monarch this season, former New Mexico diver Laura Lee Thomas, believes Newell is operating at close to 100 percent.
“She seems past it,” Thomas said. “Every once in awhile, I’ll see something minor where one of her shoulders is back further than the other. But for the most part, she seems to have made a great recovery. If she hadn’t told me, I would have never known she had the surgery.”
If anyone can identify with Newell, it’s Thomas. Growing up in Santa Fe, N.M., Thomas also began as a gymnast. It was a back injury that prompted Thomas’ move to diving. Thomas said it’s “more common than not” for divers to have some sort of gymnastics background.
That crossover concept is evident when watching Newell.
“She’s got great technique in diving,” Thomas said. “She has beautiful entries into the water. I see it in the grace and body awareness, which is a huge thing coming from gymnastics into diving.”
Newell’s early surgery enabled her to compete at the 2014 AAU Diving Championships at Georgia Tech in July, where she finished 18th of 50 divers in the three-meter event. Also academically adept, she is considering majoring in neuroscience at TCU. But for now, she has one more winter with the Coyotes.
“I’m going to enjoy it,” Newell said. “Savannah missed me and I missed her.”
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