One may not know of Sobrato High senior Katherine Lim or the sport of high school diving, but diving is an essential part of every swim meet throughout the season.
And Lim’s accomplishments with the Bulldogs are among the most phenomenal ever recorded in the area in any sport.
The standout diver will continue her career at the collegiate level after Lim signed an NCAA Division I National Letter of Intent to compete next winter at UC Davis.
Lim began involvement in the college recruiting process during the summer of her sophomore year. She described the journey as lengthy and a bit tough.
“I didn’t make my decision till senior year because I wanted to be sure of myself,” Lim said. “Throughout the process my family was very supportive and encouraging of my decisions. I decided on UC Davis because it was the best fit for me. It provides so much for their student-athletes and is even the top veterinarian school in the country, which is the field that I’m interested in studying.”
NLI signing day last December was a big occasion for Lim and her family. Attendance in the celebratory event included her parents, grandma, aunt, uncle, cousin and best friend.
Lim placed third at the 2023 California State Swimming and Diving finals at the Clovis Olympic Sports Complex last May.
The one-meter dive competition was won by Isabella Chen of Cypress, from the Southern Section, followed by Molly Gray of Clayton Valley Charter, from the North Coast Section, in second.
Lim’s third-place finish was the highest placement of anyone from the Central Coast Section. She competed against all the girls that received top four at their section.
“The competition was hard because I was competing against so many great divers that were older and had more experience,” Lim said. “During this competition they were cutting people off until they reached a top five.”
Lim, coached at Santa Clara Swim Club by Todd Spohn and at Sobrato by Jeff Olivetti, was coming off a second-place finish in the CCS Championship meet.
Joey Lee of Prospect won that title but came in fifth in Clovis. Previously, Lim finished fifth in the CCS meet as a freshman and third as a sophomore.
“She will have a major impact on the UC Davis program in college,” Spohn said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up being their best diver in the history of their program.”
Lim notes that springboard diving involves gracefulness and execution. A dive must be aesthetically pleasing to the eye and involves years of practice and dedication.
“The feeling of accomplishment when you rip a dive, gives you a rush of adrenaline,” Lim said. “Succeeding and moments like those make all the hard work and training worth it. Both my school and club coaches have been a huge part of my success. They always have faith in me even when I don’t, and they trust that I know what I’m doing. I’m fortunate to have been coached by good supporting coaches that have helped me succeed in my diving career.”
Lim was ripping dives at the CCS meet for the third straight year. In the prelims, her highest scoring dive was a front two and a half tuck that gave her 48.00 points.
In the finals, Lim’s highest scoring dive overall for the meet was an inward one and a half pike, scoring 56.40.
“This is also my favorite dive because I like inwards and it’s really consistent,” she said. “But overall, most of my dives were very consistent the whole meet.”
Lim really nailed it all at the CIF State meet where she had several personal records with each dive, including a reverse one and a half pike, her back one and a half pike, and a forward one and a half somersault two twists.
Lim recorded her highest point total with 63.60 at the CIF State meet on an inward one and a half pike.
Olivetti—who is entering his 44th year in coaching—was a swimmer and diver at Camden High and both West Valley Junior College and San Jose State. He strategized that consistency among a long stretch of pressure-packed dives is a winning approach.
“At the state meet, you have to dive consistently,” Olivetti said. “One bad dive will kill you. I kept watching her move up on the leaderboard, as they cut the field down. Katherine is phenomenal. She is so efficient. Effortless, artistic and graceful. She makes every dive look easy. But it’s only easy if you have the guts to do it.”
Lim feels a huge part of diving success comes from the mental side of the sport. Olivetti reminds Lim before every competition that she already knows how to dive, so just go out and do it.
“This has stuck with me forever because I have practiced countless hours,” Lim said. “If I could do it in practice, what makes me think I can’t do it in competition?”
Lim utilized that mental calmness to nail her dives and advance in the competition.
“All I can remember from that meet was chatting with my friends, having fun, and eating,” Lim said. “Next thing I know I’m finishing third in the State of California.”
Learning from the best
Lim began diving at approximately 8 years old alongside her sister KellyAnn Lim, a Sobrato alum who is now diving at Cal Poly. Both siblings were energized by cousins who were also divers.
One of their cousins, Adam Wesson, won three CCS titles while at Mitty High and now dives for Harvard University. Tyler Wesson was also a great prep diver and now dives at Cal.
At around age 13, Katherine Lim began fairly intense training and traveling to competitions.
“What kept me motivated was my family’s unwavering support for me to do well and them being there every step of the way,” Lim said. “My family and I are really close so seeing my cousins every day made me happy. The teammates that I practice with are like siblings to me. Being around people that care about you and make you laugh just makes everything way more enjoyable.”
High school diving is a lightly-populated sport but it does contribute to team scores in meets. Lim has taken on a leadership role at Sobrato, while working hard with Olivetti.
“High school season at Sobrato was fun,” Lim said. “I enjoyed co-coaching the other divers and showing them how to dive. Dual meets were fun because our meet would be right before the swimmers meet so they would cheer us on.
“During my high school practice, coach Jeff [Olivetti] would focus on the minuscule things that could make my dive even better, like pointing my toes, locking my knees out and reaching back on my dive a certain way so I don’t go over.”
As with many sports, young athletes also compete with club teams. Lim has been in the Santa Clara Diving program for nine years including four under Spohn.
Spohn is a six-time Mid-American conference finalist at Miami University (Ohio) and a three-time NCAA Zone Championship qualifier. He leads Santa Clara Diving, one of the top clubs in the nation.
Spohn has nothing but superlatives for Lim. With his coaching background in college and club diving, he has seen a lot of top athletes and his evaluations are very meaningful.
“[Lim] is an exceptional athlete with a great vertical jump and beautiful, aesthetic lines,” Spohn said. “She has a great combination of strong work ethic and the power to make difficult dives look easy.”
Santa Clara Diving has produced three age-group champions and numerous Junior National finalists, as well as Regional and Zone gold medalists. Lim said Spohn has been a big factor in her diving career.
“[Spohn] has coached me since I was 13 years old and has taught me everything I know,” Lim said. “He is very patient, thoughtful, and has worked with me on my deficiencies and things that I need to improve. One thing about him is that it’s not just about training but having fun doing it. He has guided me for a very long time and only has my best interest at heart. I couldn’t have had a better coach than Coach Todd.”