Lone senior diver from Bellingham High School, Sunni Sternhagen, prepares to pass the torch to her younger fellow divers and teammates Chloe Roth and Emma Kenoyer. Sunni has been a part of the dive team all four years of high school. Her coach, Jeff Anderson believes that Sunni has climbed the ranks since her start and is ready to help her younger peers do the same.
“Things started to click two years ago when Sunni played third fiddle to senior state divers Ellie Kindlund and Arial McGavock. I believe their enthusiasm and work ethic affected Sunni in a very positive way and that’s when she got hungry to excel,” said Coach Jeff Anderson. “Now it’s Sunni’s turn to take two younger Bellingham high school divers under wing, they are all a part of a team within a team.”
Coach Anderson noted that younger divers are encouraged and expected to embrace new challenges as fun and as a pathway to find success at the district and state tournaments.
“Taking new divers under their wing is another part of the team culture, it’s an all for one, one for all bond,” said Coach Anderson. “Sunni has had four different dive coaches in her four years. Each have instilled this excellent working environment and even though the girls represent three high schools, they are 100 percent teammates on a cohesive dive team.”
The dive team program for Bellingham high schools have excelled in the past. The three schools practice daily under the instruction of Coach Rhonda Flatz Stouder, who after many years of being a swim coach in Oregon, has come to Bellingham.
“The diving culture is pretty challenging and fun. When divers face the fears of what could happen, they get so much stronger mentally,” said Coach Flatz Stouder. “Sunni is right in there working on tougher dives and leading by example.”
Sunni Sternhagen says she is inspired from the people and support she gets from the team, coaches and her parents. She said this support helps her to become a brave individual and team member.
“What do I like about the team? That we all come together and support each other in times of need,” said Sunni. “Blue, red or green, we are a team!”
Fellow teammate, Juliana Jeffrey, a freshman diver from Squalicum High said, “What I like about the team is our dynamics. We support each other in every thing we do, and that is what I love. All my teammates inspire me each and every day to do my best and try hard!”
Currently, divers from Bellingham, Squalicum and Sehome are strong in statewide rankings.