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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Gymnast to diver: Going upside down with Kai Lawson

Junior+Kai+Lawson+performs+a+103B%2C+which+is+one-and-a-half+front+flips+in+a+pike+position+at+the+first+meet+against+B-CC.++His+skill+has+been+a+weapon+for+the+Aquacats+this+season+as+he+has+consistently+placed+high+in+his+meets.
Courtesy Kai Lawson
Junior Kai Lawson performs a 103B, which is one-and-a-half front flips in a pike position at the first meet against B-CC. His skill has been a weapon for the Aquacats this season as he has consistently placed high in his meets.

Kai Lawson is a junior on WJ’s dive team, and despite it being his first year on the team, he is one of the best. His success in the sport stems from his gymnastic ability as he has been competing in gymnastics since he was three years old.
“I’ve been doing this sport for 13 years and counting, and I stuck with it because it is fun to do and I like to go upside down,” Lawson said.
Kai Lawson’s strongest event is the double mini. A double mini has two trampolines joined in the middle, where the first section of the equipment is set at a slight angle called the mount. From the mount, gymnasts perform many skills that are scored out of 10.0 points.
“The double mini is my favorite event because it gets a full sprint into a trampoline and goes very high,” Lawson said.
This event is not as popular as other sports and thus is not recruited by colleges. Despite this, Lawson is a Senior Elite, meaning he competes at the highest level of gymnastics for high schoolers. Lawson has been proving he deserves this title since his freshman year at the World Age-Group Championship.
“I earned a gold and silver medal in my first international competition in my freshman year of high school at the World Age-Group Championship, which is a World Championship where multiple countries compete against each other to get the best placement, basically like a mini-Olympics,” Lawson said.
These triumphs were only the start of his gymnastics career, as he has since earned a spot on the Junior National Team. The Junior National Team helps its gymnasts achieve awards for national and international competitions.
“My experience with the Junior National Team has been very great because I get to go to special training camps and get help from some of the U.S.’ best coaches,” Lawson said.
However, such a high level of gymnastics requires strenuous training. Lawson has practice three days a week, each for three hours, on top of dive practice. Therefore, balancing school, diving and gymnastics can be difficult.
“I do the shorter assignments before I go to practice, then I come home and do whatever else I need to do, whether it’s studying or a project,” Lawson said.
Many divers start with a background in gymnastics, especially at WJ. Senior Paulina Horowitz and sophomore Zaid Joseph compete for Dynamite Gymnastics with Lawson and got him interested in diving.
“I convinced Kai to join dive because I knew he would be good at it since he is a good gymnast, and a lot of gymnastics skills translate well to dive,” Horowitz said.
Therefore, this transition from gymnastics to diving was smooth for Lawson as he already had the fundamental skills needed to succeed in the sport.
“[Kai] is a natural athlete and is fearless when going off the board. He is able to do some of the hardest dives based on this. The hardest part was learning a hurdle, which is the approach to going off the board and going in hands first, which is unnatural for a gymnast,” swim and dive coach Jamie Grimes said.
Since his transition to diving, Lawson has placed high in many of his competitions, proving himself as a vital part of the dive team. He managed to learn all 11 of the dives for regionals and metros, placing twelfth in Metros and sixth in Regionals.
“Diving was weird at first, but I’ve definitely gotten more used to its mechanics. Gymnastics has definitely helped because I have the awareness to do my flips,” Lawson said.
As a profound trampolinist, Lawson has a natural talent for flipping in the air, so some of his favorite diving events involve this skill, which is difficult for many.
“My favorite event is probably a 5233 (1 ½ backflips, 1 ½ twists) because when I do it, it’s very easy to spot and dive into. Plus, it scores the highest out of all my dives, and I haven’t failed it once,” Lawson said.
Lawson plans to continue his diving journey in the 2024-2025 season as a senior.
“I am glad that he has next year to dive so we can refine some things and he can improve on this year’s stellar performances,” Grimes said.

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Mackenzie Norris, Print Sports Editor
Senior Mackenzie Norris is excited to particpate in her first year with the Pitch as Print Sports Editor and Business Manager. In addition to writing for the Pitch, Mackenzie enjoys representing WJ on the softball field with some of her best friends and teammates.
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    Hester JonesMar 11, 2024 at 9:33 pm

    I just love it! Kai makes me a proud grandma in everything he does, and in every grand way that he does it!!!

    Reply