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Landing on her feet -- in the pool

March 29, 2019 GMT

When one door closes, another one opens.

Allie Palmer had probably heard the cliche before, but the New Prairie senior never figured it would ever apply to her athletic career.

So here she was a few weeks back, signing a national letter of intent to accept a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis for diving.

The irony of the moment was not lost on Palmer nor Cougars athletics director Ben Bachmann.

“He said, did you think a year ago that you’d be committing to college for diving?” Palmer said.

Her answer was an emphatic no.

On that same March day exactly one year earlier Palmer was undergoing reconstructive surgery for a tore anterior cruciate ligament sustained a few weeks prior in a gymnastics meet.

“It’s crazy how it worked out,” she said.

Crazy is right, considering Palmer had been a gymnast since she was 4, reaching Level 8 status with her club, Platinum, in Michigan City, and had never dove before.

“I had hopes of doing gymnastics in college,” she said. “I thought it would be to cool to do it at a place like Michigan State. As I got older, I realized it probably wasn’t going to happen. It’s super serious. They won’t even look at you until you’re Level 9.”

The knee injury, suffered on a vault landing, all but ended any remaining aspirations.

“It broke me,” Palmer said. “I was devastated. Gymnastics was all I’d ever known. It was my life, everything.”

Palmer was New Prairie’s gymnastics team her freshman and sophomore year, a virtuoso act. In ninth grade, the not-quite 5-foot-3 dynamo qualified for state in balance beam, her favorite event and one she’d hearken back to when she ventured onto the diving board.

So how did she get there? She has her mom to thank for her first push, so to speak.

“I’m one of those people who can’t sit around and do nothing,” Palmer said. “I’d come home from school and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’d been in the gym every day of week. My mom said, well, how about diving?”

She spoke to NP diving coach Eric Lower, who had tried to get her to give it a go her freshman year.

“He said it would be easier on my body,” Palmer said. “It’s the same motion. The body awareness, the muscle memory would give me a part of my gymnastics back.”

In addition to the physical similarities, diving has a psychological side that Palmer was also familiar with from her previous sport, notably beam.

“I feel like in diving, you have to be able to concentrate, block everything out of your head,” she said. “Diving has that fear factor. It’s a very mental sport. I was used to having to overcome fear, being confident in myself.”

On signing day, with so much to be thankful for, Palmer was particularly appreciative of her close friends and family, her mom, dad and sister for helping her get there.

“I wouldn’t have necessarily given up,” she said, “but if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been confident to keep working to get where I am now.”