Houghton’s Aho sets UP diving record | News, Sports, Jobs

HOUGHTON — Houghton High School diver Quinn Aho has never met a trampoline he didn’t like.

His “addiction” to do flips and throwing himself in the air began in middle school. As a freshman at Houghton, he translated it into jumping off the school’s diving board. Four years later, Aho was not only crowned the UP’s MHSAA best diver, but he is now the UP’s new record holder.

In late February, at the 2022 UP finals in Marquette, Aho smashed Gwinn High School’s Matt Akerly’s diving record of 264 with a 269 performance. Akerly’s record was set in 2003. A year earlier, Aho set the new Houghton High School record of 230 – breaking the previous record of 222 set by Graham Kurtz in 2000.

In a UP high school dive competition off a one-meter springboard, divers present a dive list of six dives (11 dives in lower Michigan) to a panel of three judges. The divers are then scored on the degree of difficulty of their dive and their execution of it.

Interestingly, Houghton’s swimming and diving head coach Erik Johnson has been a part of all the record-breaking action. As a 2002 Houghton graduate, he was on the swim team with Kurtz who set the school record and saw Akerly dive many times.

“Quinn has come a long way since his freshman year, and he has done it through his tremendous work ethic and drive to be better each day,” Johnson said.

Aho said he got his first trampoline from a friend as a middle schooler.

“In seventh and eighth grade, I was always in the backyard jumping and doing flips,” he said. I had no plans of becoming a diver. I thought diving meant running and just doing a swan dive. I had no idea there were flips and twists involved.”

As high school rolled around, he quickly realized that that impression was wrong.

He explained, “I then saw diving was just like a trampoline. You can spin around and do a lot of flips, and that got my interest. I went to my first practice and realized that there was a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted in the air.”

Aho’s coach said diving is a little-known sport up here. Its far from hockey where kids start out skating before they put on shoes.

“What I don’t think people understand is how little amount of training our divers in the UP get compared to downstate divers,” Johnson said. There are zero developmental-diving programs in the UP and most coaches aren’t trained to coach diving. I had to do a lot of studying and practice to be able to help the kids, and I still can’t even do a dive off the board to demonstrate it. “Diving is a very complex sport. So, for the kids up here to do what they do with the limited resources is really a testament to their grit.”

Beyond endless hours of YouTube diving tutorials and death-defying leaps on his (now three) trampolines, Aho was finally able to get some formal instruction last summer at RipFest – a week-long diving camp outside of Indianapolis, Indiana.

“It was eye opening,” he said. “Just in that one week there, I learned so much. They taught me so much about my form. I don’t think I would have been able to break the record without it. My score went up by forty points in the course of this past season.”

Johnson said the camp made a huge difference for Aho.

“The biggest thing that I see when he comes to Quinn is that he doesn’t let pressure get to him and I think it is because he loves what he does so much,” Johnson said.

Aho said he will be back to RipFest this summer after graduation. He wants to study computer engineering and of course dive. He’s been approached by several NCAA Division II and NAIA colleges and universities to come dive with them. Where that will be, Aho is still not sure.

Wherever that will be, his high school coach is certain he’ll make a big splash.

“If Quinn continues to chase his dream of diving in college, he too will be very successful,” Johnson said.

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