Westminster senior Margo O'Meara was there to greet fellow competitor Annie Fox just seconds after Fox completed her final dive during Missouri's 46th Girls Swimming and Diving Championships in February.
Fox, a senior at Villa Duchesne, was overcome with emotion after nailing a dive that vaulted her into a third-place finish in the Class 1 meet. She popped out of the water and immediately jumped into the waiting arms of O'Meara.
The two shared a tender moment, with tears coming from both girls.
O'Meara, the most decorated high school diver Missouri has ever seen, captured her record fourth successive championship less than 10 minutes later.
But for the time being, she was helping Fox enjoy her moment in the sun.
“It took me a couple minutes, but then it hit me, 'I’ve got to get ready for my dive,' ” O’Meara said. “I was just so happy for her, I sort of forgot about myself.”
Fox was overjoyed to have O’Meara join her in celebration.
"That's just who she is," Fox said. "How many competitors not only help you out with advice and encouragement, but are there for you at your finest moment?"
Yes, O'Meara — the only four-time champion in girls state diving history — enjoys helping others as much as she enjoys her own success.
O'Meara is headed to Duke University for her college career. But first, she will compete in early June at the United States Olympic Diving Trials in Indianapolis.
The Missouri high school record-holder for most points in a state meet — male or female — could be in Tokyo when the Summer Games begin July 23.
Still, O'Meara is as grounded as they come. Her penchant for helping competitors is well known in diving circles.
Any time anyone wants assistance on how to land a dive, O'Meara is there. Need a few tips on handling the mental aspect of the sport?
Go see "Gogo," which is O'Meara's nickname.
"As good a diver as she is, and we all know how good she is, she's an even better person," John Burroughs coach Leslie Kehr said. "Margo is special, in and out of the water."
Kehr would know. She was the diving coach at Old Warson Country Club when O'Meara approached her about giving the sport a try.
O'Meara was just 6 years old at the time. Kehr entered her in the only meet available — an under-10 competition. O'Meara blitzed the field and has never looked back.
Stories of O'Meara's generosity and kindness are well known along pool decks through the Midwest. Cape Girardeau Central freshman Tommy-Anne Marriott, who finished second at the state meet, long has admired O'Meara.
"She's willing to help anyone out at any time," Marriott said minutes after the state meet. "With Margo, second is almost like being first. When she’s here, first place doesn’t exist for anyone else.”
O'Meara is as hungry to win as any athlete. She works countless hours on each type of dive, not moving on to another until she has reached a level she considers satisfying.
Yet she possesses a soft spot in her heart for the sport she loves. She wants everyone to reach their highest level and is willing to surrender some of her secrets to see others achieve their goals.
"I just really enjoy watching people get better," O'Meara said. "Helping others — it's pretty cool."
Margo's parents, Michael and Cathleen, are extremely proud of the way their daughter carries herself.
"She's very competitive, but if someone asks her something, she'll give them the advice she thinks they need," Michael said. "That's just her way."
Added Cathleen, "I think when she was young and kind of nervous just starting out, she remembers that there were people that helped her. Now, she's in position to do that for others and she enjoys it,"
O'Meara has dominated the sport on the high school level like no one before her. She grabbed her first state crown as a freshman with a score of 499.80 — 133 points ahead of the second-place finisher.
She defended that crown as a sophomore with a 520.25 before crushing the state record with a whopping 636.50 total as a junior. That score broke a 28-year-old mark set by Julie Grimmer of Nerinx Hall, who recorded a 523.50 in 1991.
O'Meara wanted to better that number this season but came up just short with 621.45 score. She finished a combined 592 points ahead of all runner-up finishers during her amazing four-year run.
The 5-foot-5 powder keg honed her craft under Westminster diving coach Steve Braun, a three-time state champion at Webster Groves.
Right now, O’Meara is in Indianapolis working under the tutelage of John Wingfield, the U.S. diving coach in 2008. She is going through a rigorous six-day regimen that includes three hours in the water, three on dry land in addition to other weight room work.
Plus she is keeping her grade-point-average around the 3.5 mark by taking Westminster's online classes.
At first, O'Meara had her sights set on the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France. But her recent performances on the club level, along with her work in Indianapolis, give her a realistic opportunity of making the Olympic team this summer.
"It definitely could be a possibility," O'Meara said. "I feel like I'm diving real well right now. Obviously, I have more to go. If I hit my dives like I hope to, it could happen."
O'Meara's lifelong dream has been to represent her county in the Olympics. And her fellow divers are just as excited at the possibility.
"It's so great to watch her do such amazing things," Fox said. "Just to say that she's my friend makes me feel so good."
ALL-METRO FIRST TEAM
2021 All-Metro girls swimming and diving first team
Chloe Brede, junior, Wesclin
Won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races in an Illinois sectional meet in late October. The meet was the final event of Illinois’ COVID-19 shortened campaign. One of three area swimmers this season to go below 5 minutes in the 500 free (4:59.38). Two-time state qualifier finished 10th in the 200 free as a sophomore and eighth as a freshman. Brede has given a verbal pledge to the University of Arkansas.
Nora Lee Brown, freshman, Kirkwood
Was a key cog on the Pioneers deep Class 2 state championship squad. Won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races at state and swam second leg of the winning 200 medley relay team. Helped the Pioneers win five of the 12 events at state on the way to a resounding 63-point triumph for the program’s first team state crown.
Anna Moehn, junior, Cor Jesu
Captured the maximum four gold medals in leading the Chargers to their first state team championship. Won the 200-yard freestyle for the second year in succession and also took first in the 500 free at the Class 1 state meet, both with area-leading performances. She posted state-qualifying times in every event except the backstroke. Moehn finished the season unbeaten in individual races.
Ella Pearl, senior, Kirkwood
Claimed the 100-yard backstroke title for the third season in a row and set a Class 2 state record in the event for the second successive season. Helped get the Pioneers off and running toward their Class 2 team title by swimming the opening leg of the winning 200 medley relay team. Took home three gold medals at the state meet for the second consecutive year. Signed with the University of Arkansas.
Kylee Sullivan, sophomore, Parkway South
Grabbed gold in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 butterfly at the Class 2 state meet with personal-best in each race. Her clockings of 2:04.20 in the 200 IM and 55.07 in the butterfly were the fastest in the area this season. She also anchored the 200 freestyle relay team to victory in the state meet and helped the Patriots to a fourth-place team finish.
ALL-METRO SECOND TEAM
2021 All-Metro girls swimming and diving second team
Kellen Mottl, junior, Clayton
A double gold winner in the Class 1 state meet. Captured the 100-yard breaststroke and also was a member of the winning 200 medley relay team.
Allison Naylor, senior, Edwardsville
Won the 50 freestyle and finished second in 100 butterfly in season-ending Edwardsville Sectional meet to help the Tigers roll to the team crown. Signed with Long Island University.
Maddie Palatt, senior, Cor Jesu
Recorded three first-place finishes in Class 1 state meet, including two relay titles and an individual win in the 200 individual medley as Chargers claimed first state team title.
Haiden Schoessel, freshman, Eureka
Finished first in the 50 freestyle at Class 2 state meet with an area-best clocking of 23.48 seconds. Swam anchor leg on winning 400 free relay squad as Wildcats finished second in team standings.
Emily Traube, senior, Nerinx Hall
Captured the Class 2 state title in the 100-yard freestyle in area-best time of 51.42 and also placed second in the 50 free. Signed with Truman State.
ALL-METRO THIRD TEAM
2021 All-Metro girls swimming and diving third team
Izzy Ackley, freshman, Timberland
Placed third in 100 backstroke at Class 2 state meet. Also swam first leg of 200 free relay team, which finished fourth.
Alyssa Dennis, junior, Kirkwood
First in 100 breaststroke at Class 2 state meet by exceeding her best regular-season time by almost two full seconds. Also swam third leg on winning 200 medley relay team.
Sophie Henriksen, junior, MICDS
Placed a strong second to Kirkwood’s Brown in the 200 freestyle and was second in 100 backstroke. Won 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle at Metro League meet.
Marin Lashley, sophomore, Eureka
Helped the Wildcats to a second-place Class 2 team finish at state by swimming the opening leg on the gold-medal winning 400 freestyle relay team. Also finished third in 200 free.
Norah Rutkowski, freshman, Parkway West
Rallied to win the 100 butterfly at the Class 1 state meet. Was third at midway point but closed in 31.27 seconds to claim the victory.
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