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Texas A&M Student-Athlete Spotlight: Jaele Patrick
February 25, 2009

By T.D. Durham
Big 12 Campus Correspondent

For Texas A&M diver Jaele Patrick, her new location is an absolute contrast from her home.

"It's very flat," she said with a smile when describing College Station. "Extremely flat, but it's beautiful though. It's a little kind of country town ... I like it." 

Patrick's hometown of Lilydale, located on the southeastern tip of Australia in the Victoria province, features hills and valleys. The difference in landscapes has been no factor as Patrick has easily adapted to the United States and college competion.

The sophomore transferred to A&M after high school and was a member of the Gannets diving club. The Gannets club, established in 1996, is under the direction of diving coach Matthew Adamson, who has coached at the World Championships. 

Patrick said relocating from Australia to the United States was a big decision. 

"It was definitely hard, what with leaving the family and never having been here before," Patrick said. "But transitioning with my best friend Grant made things a little easier."

Grant Nel is another addition to the A&M diving program this year. According to Patrick, he had been under the recruiting eye of Aggies diving coach Kevin Wright for some time. 

"At an international meet last December, I had an opportunity to speak with Grant once the athletes were released about a scholarship opportunity (A&M) had for a female diver," Wright said. "He said 'As a matter of fact, there is a girl from my club that is really talented and would make a great addition to the program.'"

The conversation sparked up e-mail exchanges between Wright and Patrick and led to an opportunity for Patrick to visit A&M on an official recruiting trip. 

"The communication and experience was positive with Jaele," Wright said. "And ultimately we're very proud that she is a part of the Aggie team now." 

Patrick said that the sports atmosphere in College Station is something entirely different than in Australia. In her first months as an Aggie, Patrick was able to experience her first college basketball game.

"It was crazy. It was a men’s game that we went to with the team," Patrick said. "I had never seen anything like that. I can't wait until football season comes around again, everyone says it's going to be even more intense." 

Patrick also said that her teammates and coaches were a big reason that she decided to choose A&M. 

"On my recruiting trip I got to meet everyone," Patrick said. "Kevin, my roommate Haley (Hanes), and all of the girls are great. The team chemistry and competitive drive here is incredible." 

Though she competes with that same drive now, Patrick said that diving wasn't a sport she originally planned on pursuing. 

"I kind of stumbled upon diving," Patrick said. "I had been in gymnastics for a long time, then about six years ago, I decided diving might be cool, too." 

Though one might think that diving is an easy transfer of skills from gymnastics, Patrick and A&M diving coach Kevin Wright say otherwise. 

"(Diving) goes against the main fundamental of gymnastics," Patrick said. "You spend years and years learning how to land on your feet and then suddenly, you have to land on your head. It's a very difficult process." 

Wright said that there are similarities between the sports.

"The aerial and kinesthetic awareness is present in both sports," Wright said. "However, training your life to be vertical and landing on your feet makes a really significant difference between the two." 

Although Patrick has experienced transitions from gymnastics to diving and even from Australia to the United States, she has kept one thing constant in her diving journey - she wins. 

In her first meet as an Aggie against Houston in January, Patrick made her presence known. In six dives, she broke the A&M three-meter springboard record set by three-time All-American Alida DiPlacido with a score of 341.40. 

Less than a month later, Patrick shattered a nine-year A&M record of 311.32 set by four-time All-American Danielle Guarneri. Patrick's score of 320.25 was more than enough to surpass the landmark. She now holds the team record in both springboard diving events. 

Patrick said she has always been a fierce competitor, but did not expect to experience such immediate success in college competition. 

"It was definitely a surprise to start winning so quickly," Patrick said. "Coach Kevin told me going into my first competition 'just relax and have fun', and it worked out." 

Wright says with Jaele's talent and likability, she's been a great asset to the A&M squad. 

"She gets along with everyone on the team so well," Wright said. "She has so much skill and learns so well, I'm really looking forward to continuing my time coaching her." 

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