Colin Eason was a rambunctious kid. He parlayed his youthful exuberance into diving for Stillwater and became one of the best to step on the board for the Ponies.
Eason, a multi-sport athlete who has been diving for Stillwater since the seventh grade, set the school’s six-dive record this season with a 334.60. It also was a Suburban East Conference record, breaking state champion John Schmidt’s mark of 311.80 from 2002.
Eason, a senior, remembers first seeing Schmidt’s record on the board above the pool at Stillwater.
“I obviously wanted to beat it, but I never thought I’d do it,” Eason said. “Getting that high of a score was an incredible feeling. It’s a huge honor.”
Stillwater recently replaced Schmidt’s name on the board with Eason’s.
“It blows my mind,” he said.
The compact, athletic Eason also plays soccer for Stillwater in the fall, competes in the pole vault for the track and field team in the spring and likes to wakeboard in the summer.
He stood out the most in the pool, where he was a four-time state qualifying diver. Eason finished in fifth place at this year’s Class 2A state meet, earning all-state honors, with a score of 394.35. He has earned all-conference four times, was a team captain and holds the True Team state record for 11 dives with a 461.80 score.
After this year’s swimming state meet, Eason’s Stillwater teammates voted him the team MVP for the season.
“It’s a huge honor,” Eason said. “Those guys mean a lot to me. It’s something special to get recognition from my peers and friends.”
One of those kids who was always doing flips or jumping off slides into neighborhood pools in summer, Eason eventually followed his sister Kaleigh’s footsteps onto the diving board at Stillwater. Kaleigh Eason graduated in 2011 and was a state qualifier for the Ponies. The siblings began diving together during the summers at the University of Minnesota when Colin was in seventh grade.
Both Colin and his sister have been coached by Carrie Madline, a former Ponies swimmer who took over the diving program in the early 1990s.
“She’s taught me everything I know,” Eason said.
Brian Luke, who is in his 40th year as boys and girls’ coach at Stillwater, also coached both Eason siblings. Luke said divers need a combination of fearlessness, focus, coordination and strength.
“They’re the only ones up there. If you make a mistake, you can’t hide it,” said Luke, who entered the Minnesota State Swimming and Diving Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012. ”It’s kind of like golf, there’s a lot of pressure and you only get one shot. Colin has been great at it. He’s a top-shelf diver.”
Eason said diving is more mental than physical and relies heavily on kinesthetics — the sense the body has of its position and movement of the muscles, tendons and joints.
“It’s not tiring, but it’s a very physical sport; you move your body in ways people don’t usually do,” Eason said. “But it’s a mind game more than anything.”
Luke said Eason’s teammates have had an abundance of respect for him, as evidenced by the captainship and MVP honors.
“He leads more by example than anything,” Luke said. “He’s not really a ‘rah-rah’ type of guy. But he’s a very, very solid competitor.”
Stillwater finished fifth as a team at this year’s state meet. Since 1975, the Ponies have won four Minnesota State High School League state championships and seven True Team state titles. They have claimed 37 conference championships and 22 section championships, and produced 22 individual state champions and eight gold medal relay teams.
Eason said it’s been special being part of the Ponies tradition.
“On the Stillwater swim team it’s the friendliest environment,” he said. “I’m going to be friends with those guys the rest of my life. Nothing compares to it.”