Leaping and Diving by Faith

Competitive divers are notorious for launching their bodies into the air with reckless abandon, trusting that hours of practice and muscle memory will result in flawless timing, placement, and form, and ease them into the pool with the slightest hint of a splash. For Hope College sophomore Kamaron Wilcox of Grand Rapids (Forest Hills Central), hurling his body off a bouncy composite springboard to contort into twists and backflips evokes no fear because he places his trust not just in his own abilities but rather in something much bigger: his faith.

Just last weekend, Wilcox claimed two MIAA titles; first taking the 1-meter board event with 447.60 points and achieving an NCAA regional cut, and then winning the 3-meter board scoring 474.65 points. He also walked away from the meet with Hope’s first-ever MIAA Most Valuable Diver award.  What makes his accomplishments all the more impressive is that Wilcox stepped foot on a competitive diving board for the first time last year.

How did he go from diving newbie to diving champion in just a year? It’s an ascent as incredible as it is improbable, thanks to Health Dynamics, hard work and providence.

One day during the fall of 2018, Wilcox decided to cool off in the Dow Center pool after his Health Dynamics workout and have a little fun, too. Knowing that doing tricks off the boards wasn’t allowed for students who weren’t on the diving team, Wilcox let the lifeguard know he was a gymnast and had been flipping and training on the trampoline most of his life. 

How did he go from diving newbie to diving champion in just a year? It’s an ascent as incredible as it is improbable, thanks to Health Dynamics, hard work and providence.

When he noticed head swimming and diving coach Jake Taber standing on deck, he says, “I didn’t know what he would say because he was a coach and I didn’t know if he’d be stricter on the rules. I was doing some double backflips off the one meter and I saw Taber looking at me after I did one of those. I thought to myself, ‘Oh no, he’s going to tell me to stop so I should probably do something easier that requires more control.’ I decided to do a backflip with a twist. It’s all so funny now because Taber walked right over to me and rather than yelling, he said ‘I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but who are you?’ I told him my name and we started talking and he asked if I would ever consider joining the diving team… I said sure!”

Now holding two MIAA titles and a major league award, Wilcox believes his success did not happen by chance.  In fact, he feels as though nothing in his life has happened by chance, especially his decision to come to Hope. Considering Hope College was the last school on his mind when applying to larger universities with larger physics programs, Wilcox knows that God was behind it all.

But he took a giant leap of faith and came to Hope because he felt immediately welcomed by a strong faith-based community. He is currently studying physics and mathematics while doing research for Dr. Jennifer Hampton, professor of physics, and considers his lab group his second family. “It’s like Professor Hampton is mom and all of the other people in the lab are each other’s siblings,” describes Wilcox, who is an MIAA Academic Honor Roll honoree (meaning he has a cumulative GPA os higher than 3.5). After the news of Wilcox’s accomplishments at the MIAA Championships broke last weekend, his physics department family were the first to retweet his success. 

Though Wilcox has only been a member of the team for two years, diving coach Rebecca Garza shares that he has already stepped up and taken on a leadership role on the team. And just like he has with the physics department, Kamaron treats his teammates like family. “I think he brings his outside (perspective) onto the pool deck, so it helps the team feel more like a family,” Garza says. “He checks in with people and he asks how he can pray for you. He’s a well-rounded athlete and I never have to worry about his relationship with the team.”

With just two years’ experience, Wilcox has catapulted himself to the top. Yet he doesn’t take his leap, entry and landing at Hope lightly.

“I attribute this to God,” he says. “Bringing me to Hope and then joining the diving team was part of His plan for me.”

When asked how he feels about being a two-time league champion, Wilcox answers graciously. “I think the most profound thing that I felt after (receiving the award) was simply just feeling the same. I still felt human. I was praying a lot for God to just humble me and not let it go to my head. And he did exactly that. He was showing me exactly where I had failed in my life and showing me how much I needed to rely on Him and how little of that was me. I just happened to be the one on the boards at that time.”  

With the fundamentals laid during his years as a gymnast and the foundation of his faith, the potential for Kam Wilcox’s success this weekend at regionals, and next two years at Hope, appears to be boundless.

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