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COMMUNITY SPORTS FEATURE: Whitney High’s Alex Mo Dives His Way to Top Big 10 School in the Fall

 

 

WHITNEY HIGH SENIOR diver Alex Mo, who placed second in the 2019 CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championships, will be taking his talents to Northwestern University in the fall. Mo is also regarded as one of the top divers in the nation.

 

 

BY LOREN KOPFF@LORENKOPFF ON TWITTER

Whitney High has always been one of the top high schools in the state for its academics and while it offers a diverse athletic program, minus football, it’s not uncommon to see its athletes pursue their dreams outside the collegiate classroom.

The latest Whitney athlete who falls in this category is diver Alex Mo, who verbally committed to Northwestern University in July, but won’t sign a national letter of intent because he is not a scholarship recipient.

“When you finally get to the point at the end of 10th grade, [and] when you’re ready to start looking for colleges and stuff, basically you reach out to the diving coaches of universities you would like to attend and you send them your materials and whatnot,” Mo said. “They’ll look at your competition history; you’ll send them videos of your diving, and they will basically assess your skills and predict how far you will go in the sport.”

Mo said he wanted to end up as an aerospace engineer, but Northwestern doesn’t have a dedicated aerospace major.

Most likely, he will get into mechanical engineering and then figure it out later.

Mo continued to say that his future Northwestern diving coach, Kris Jorgensen, will submit Mo’s academic materials to the admissions office for review, which will “pre-approve” Mo. Northwestern, which Mo was already familiar with, was the only school that he applied to. He said two of his previous teammates went to the Evanston, IL university. However, when Mo began to email coaches, he said he was in contact with “quite a few schools”. Some of those schools were Brown University, Duke University and Georgia Tech University,

“Unless I fail two classes or break the law or something, [Northwestern] won’t reject me,” Mo chuckled.

“That is his talent and for the last three years, especially because I’m a swimming and water polo guy…that kid has been in the top 10 in the state for the last three years,” said Whitney athletic director Jeff Day. “He’s just so quiet and humble. Even the kids on the water polo and swim team don’t realize the talent that he has. He keeps to himself; it’s not about him.

“I always want to know about kids,” he continued. “I want to brag about kids, I want to showcase kids. It’s not that I want to talk about how great Whitney athletics is. I just want to showcase Whitney kids.”

Day, who said he followed Mo on the internet when he would go to diving events, found out about Mo verbally committing to Northwestern in October. He remembered asking Mo one day what was going on with his diving and that’s when he told Day he had verballed to the Big 10 institution.

Mo said he couldn’t remember how he got involved in diving, but before his interest in the sport, he had played soccer. He remembered taking a community class at the pool and the coach was a diver from the club that Mo dives for, which is Pacific Diving and Gymnastics Academy, formally known as the Pacific Diving Association. The PDGA, in which the competitions are sanctioned by USA Diving, is based out of Santa Fe Springs.

Mo began diving during his middle school days and most of his work has been done with his club team, under the tutelage of coach Haitao Chen.

“When I started diving, I never thought I would get here; to be able to communicate with such big names,” Mo admitted. “On the national stage, there are a lot of really strong athletes, and everybody is fighting for a spot at one of those [schools]. I qualified for Nationals and competed at Nationals in 2017 and 2018 and those meets are huge, especially in prelims. Going to those meets really opened my eyes to what’s out there. I just didn’t think I’d be able to stack up in the end.”

In Mo’s sophomore season, he finished in second place in the 2019 CIF-Southern Section Division 3 Diving Championships with a mark of 523.10, quite a distance away from champion Joshua Thai of Alhambra High (590.40).

From there, Mo competed in the state meet qualifier and came in fourth place with a score of 273.20 after six 1-meter dives. After that, it was off to the state championships where he finished ninth after taking 11 1-meter dives and had a score of 464.55.

“To get an opportunity to do it for my school is pretty cool,” Mo said. “I didn’t think I would be able to do it because Whitney doesn’t have a diving team. They only have divers when they have divers, I guess. I kind of asked the school about it and they said, yeah, you can compete for us’.

Mo said he didn’t think he would finish as high as second place in the Division 3 finals.

He was expecting to finish fourth, fifth or sixth and said it was a surprise to him that he ended up with the second best mark in the division.

That would be the last time Mo competed in a high school event as the pandemic wiped out his entire junior season.

He resumed practice in May, but only on dry land as the pools remained closed. It wasn’t until recently that Mo was able to go back to the pool, but only on Sundays.

In the first couple of months of the pandemic, Mo said he did the strength training that he and the other divers usually do at normal practices.

He is questioning about his senior season and if he will be able to compete and make another run for a high finish in the divisional championships and possibly the state championships.

“Of course, I wish [the spring season] could happen,” Mo said. “I really want it to be that way. I look at the news semi-regularly and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. I know that some vaccines recently came out and are trying to get on the market. But I don’t think that will turn things around in time [for the spring].”

As far as his time at Whitney, Mo said ultimately it was a different path he decided to take to college and that it wasn’t extremely difficult.

“The other students at Whitney are all very smart and they do a lot of extracurriculars that just isn’t serious sports,” he said. “Of course, I feel kind of special but at the same time, I’ve worked very hard over these few years. They’ve worked very hard over these few years and I don’t see myself as something super remarkable among them.

“I’m very excited for the future even though I know it’s going to be difficult,” he later said. “[Northwestern] is in the Big 10 Conference which, at least for diving, is the most difficult conference, I would say, in the country. Many of the U.S. Olympians in the past have been from the Big 10. It will be difficult, but I’m excited for what’s to come.”

“It just shows you that there is great talent across the board in our community and kids know if they go to Whitney, they’re not giving up athletic opportunities,” Day said.

This isn’t the first time Whitney has had a diver compete in college.

Alyson Tam, who was a 2018 CIF State finalist, currently is on the University of Southern California diving team. She and her twin sister, Adriane, graduated from Whitney in 2018 and were both on the USC Diving team as freshmen.

“He’s just continuing the tradition because he’s had a great three-year run, hopefully this will be his fourth year,” Day said of Mo. “But we had four years before him with the sisters who are both diving for USC. We’ve only had seven or eight years of great divers coming out of Whitney.”

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