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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Diver ready for national platform

By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

Aleia Monden, 17, goes through a practice dive at Kaiser High School under the watchful eye of her coach, Jeff Stabile.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Height: 5 feet

Age: 17

Events: 1 meter, 3 meters, 10 meters

School: 2006 St. Andrew's Priory graduate; will attend Florida State this fall

College major: sports medicine

Favorite food: butter mochi

Favorite movies: "Bruce Almighty" and "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective"

Favorite TV show: "House"

Favorite actor: Jim Carrey

Favorite recording artist: Jack Johnson

Favorite diving memory: Winning AAU national tournament in 1-meter at Largo, Fla., last summer

Favorite thing to do when not diving: bowling, going to the beach

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Aleia Monden

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Aleia Monden has taken her diving skills to new heights and it's gotten her to next week's U.S. Senior Nationals at Indianapolis.

Monden, a 2006 St. Andrew's Priory graduate and four-time state 1-meter diving champion, qualified in the 10-meter platform by finishing fourth at the USA Diving Senior Zone E Championships last week at Pasadena, Calif.

It was an impressive feat considering Monden has been training from 10 meters since March.

"I made seniors this year and it was amazing," said Monden, who failed to qualify in the 1- and 3-meter springboard events.

Jeff Stabile, who began coaching Monden five years ago, said he always knew she would be a natural for the 10-meter because of her gymnastics background.

Monden, 17, said she started with the Rainbow Gymnastics Academy at 12 and gave it up recently.

"When I first started working with her, I told her platform is the place you're going to be best, and this was way back in 2001," said Stabile, who runs Tropic Lightning at Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa.

"It's closest to what she's done in gymnastics. Platform diving is basically tumbling off the platform into the water."

Just two years ago, she wasn't ready to take the plunge from 10 meters (33 feet) at the University of Hawai'i's Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Complex.

"I wouldn't even do a lineup (straight head-first dive) off of it," Monden said. "I wasn't able to jump. I stood there for about 45 minutes and I got kicked off the tower."

Stabile waited and waited and waited, and finally left.

"He took his bag and left me at the pool," Monden said.

Stabile later told her: "All right, we're not going to bother to come down here again until you actually want this. I'm not going to take the time to drive down to UH and arrange it with the pool manager. We're not going to be at the pool unless you're going to take advantage of it and you want it."

Monden trained for the 10 meters by jumping from the 5- and 7-meter platforms, and practicing on land using a system of belts, ropes and a pulley system operated by Stabile.

"Once she got over the fear of going off of it, how it wasn't going to hurt so bad when she hit the water, she was ready to let everything come out," Stabile said.

The dives now come second nature to Monden.

"Now I think it's not that high anymore," she said. "I'm kind of used to it. Normally when you dive you don't think about it too much. You just look at your spots and just go."

Even though she excelled in the 1-meter event in high school, Monden knew she could reach the elite level more quickly by going up to 10 meters.

"Platform is a different animal," she said. "I'm not as strong on my board work and that made platform easier and less people do it. Ten meters is 33 feet high and most people don't like going up that high."

Stabile said Monden needs to work on dives with a higher degree of difficulty, and she's currently doing the "basic minimum" for the elite level.

Because of this, Monden has modest expectations going into the U.S. Senior Nationals.

"I'm not expecting too much," she said. "I'm hopefully making the semis at least. I think they take the top 12 or 16 and they cut down to top eight for finals."

The more difficult dives could come when she improves the ones she's doing now.

"She needs to work on cleaning up her front entries when you can see the water when you stretch for it," Stabile said. "Back entries are when the water is behind you when you stretch for it. She has a natural knack on back entries."

Stabile likely won't be able to teach Monden more difficult dives because she'll be attending Florida State on a partial scholarship this fall.

"I'll leave that to her college coach," he said. "I've been prepping her for the difficult things.

"We're certainly going to miss her. We're going to see some great things from her in the future."

Reach Kyle Sakamoto at ksakamoto@honoluluadvertiser.com.