Life can often be a series of unfortunate events.
Say, for example, you wake up to an ant infestation in your kitchen, then scrape someone’s car in a parking lot while they watch, then get a speeding ticket on the way to work before getting called an idiot by a middle-aged narcissist for calculating his change wrong when he pays $100.06 in cash for some clothes totaling $64.81 without a calculator. Tragic.
For Cal men’s dive head coach Derek Starks, unfortunate events included losing two of his small team of three divers for a semester due to injury in the fall — now, one of them is out for the rest of the season, and the uninjured third quit diving for the Bears altogether.
Senior Connor Callahan and junior Johnny Robinson both suffered shoulder injuries early last semester that kept them out of the water.
“Unfortunately, Johnny’s going to be having surgery in a couple of weeks here so he won’t be diving the rest of the season. But Conner, he is recovered, and so he’s been back in the water for a couple weeks now. And so he’ll start — his first competition will be this weekend,” Starks said.
On Friday, Callahan will kick off his season at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center in the Bruin Diving Invitational. There, he will face off against a slew of competitors from schools alongside host UCLA, including USC, UCSD and Stanford.
Robinson’s injury progression isn’t the only setback the team is facing. Last semester, freshman Nick Hart made his collegiate debut at the USC Trojan Diving Invitational, where he had a solid performance in all three events — the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform. According to Starks, Hart will not be returning to the team this semester, however.
“Nick actually, at the end of last semester, decided that he was going to quit diving and drop out of school. Yeah, so that was kind of an unfortunate surprise, so he’ll no longer be competing with the team,” Starks said.
Despite all the setbacks, the season remains far from over for Callahan.
According to Starks, for each event — the 1-meter, 3-meter, and platform — there is a different NCAA qualifying score. As long as Callahan is able to meet that score by Pac-12, he’ll have a chance to go to NCAA Zones, where he has to place in order to go on to NCAAs.
And although Callahan was out of the water last semester, Starks commented on his continual commitment to the team.
“… Getting in the weight room … still showing up to practice and doing a lot of mental work, a lot of active visualization, trying to stay as active in the sport as possible, and it’s really helped him a lot in his training,” Starks said of Callahan’s training. “He’s actually been making adjustments to his diving that he was struggling with before, but now, since he’s been just spending a lot of time on a men’s leave, it’s just kind of been working for him.”
Since returning to the water, Starks and Callahan have worked on various technicalities that they hope will pay off in the coming months.
“We’ve been focusing on the basic technique and breathing, just being able to control himself physically by being in control of his breathing and his emotions, and really demonstrating self-control with his dives,” Starks said. “… Because he’s always been a very powerful, very talented diver, but sometimes, you know, he can get a little ahead of himself — I believe even though he hasn’t been in the water, that’s what he’s been working on all season and so we’re hoping to see that pay off.”
The Bruin Diving Invitational will be a testament to that work, as all eyes will turn to Callahan as the remaining diver in a whirlwind season for the Bears.
Amber Fang covers men’s swim & dive. Contact her at