By Brandon Olson
At 5-foot-4, 125 lbs, Justin Beardall towers over the competition around him.
Beardall, a senior from Provo, Utah, looks to make this year the best year of his BYU diving career.
“Right now I feel I”m okay,” Beardall said. “I need to pick up the pace, but when it comes March I should be ready to go. It should be better than last year. I should have a little more strength in my legs.”
Keith Russell, the BYU diving coach, believes that Beardall will be very successful this season. He has already qualified for the 2003-2004 NCAA Zone Competition with his performance earlier in the year.
However, coach Russell thinks Beardall has some work to do before going to Zones in March.
“When you get to the championship, all your faults are magnified,” Russell said. Russell believes that Beardall needs to correct little things that will show up in the championship.
Diving came naturally to Beardall.
Beardall began diving at the age of 15 as a sophomore at Timpview High School in Provo.
His decision to join the dive team came when he and a friend were at the RB swimming pool diving boards and his friend suggested that they join the dive team at Timpview High the next year.
After his first year of high school diving, Aaron Russell, former BYU All-American diver and teammate, invited Beardall to join Keith Russell”s club dive team at BYU. At the regional championship in Colorado, Beardall took 18th place out of approximately 30 divers.
As a sophomore, Beardall placed 18th at the Utah State High School Championship.
Things changed dramatically, however, when he began to dive on Russell”s club team. The next year, as a junior, he placed third at the state championship.
As a senior in high school, he placed first at the state championship and placed third in the team standings with just his score alone.
Beardall”s positive attitude and determination have allowed him to progress quickly and become a very fierce competitor.
He learns by watching other competitors and imitating the things that they do. He also attributes his quick learning to Russell”s coaching.
“[Coach Russell] has like a vision,” Beardall said. “He can see what you”re doing and he can see what you”re going to be able to do. A lot of the time he”s prepping you for a higher dive and you don”t even know it.”
During the 2002-2003 NCAA Zone competition, Russell got after Beardall in warm-ups. Beardall turned to Russell and asked him what he needed to do, and he did it. He finished the competition placing second behind the eventual national champion.
Beardall”s progress in his diving career has amazed his coaches, friends and family.
After club practice one day, Russell asked Ann Beardall, Justin”s mother, how Justin became so good at diving. Ann responded that she didn”t do anything special besides buying a trampoline for the backyard. Russell replied that he could do maneuvers better than some of his college divers.
Gary and Ann Beardall, Justin”s parents, said his confidence and competitiveness are the key ingredients to his success as a diver, a student and an individual.
“He loves competition,” Ann Beardall said. “He”s very competitive. I think he tries to beat himself more than anybody else. He”s always trying to beat his own score, actually, before he even tries to worry about anybody else. He”s always been a competitor.”
Growing up in elementary school and high school, Beardall”s height always bothered him. He didn”t like that he was smaller than everyone around him.
“He struggled in elementary school with his height, and he was frustrated about that,” Ann Beardall said. “He”d come home some days in tears, and I told him he had to buck up and get strong, and he did. He did just that. He became stronger.”
Childhood role model and friend Steve Young, former BYU and NFL football player, gave Beardall someone to aspire to.
In his final year diving at BYU, Beardall, studying electronics and information technology, said he hopes he can pass on to his teammates things that have helped him to progress and make it to the point he is at now.
“I kind of do that myself now, pass on to the other divers,” he said. “Like when they”re getting frustrated and they don”t understand what Keith”s talking about. I understand them at their level, and I can help them out.”
Beardall has seen many divers who can be great divers but he said they lack the desire to become great athletes. They go through the everyday routine of practice but they never have the competitive edge and never put forth the effort to become great.
Russell said Beardall is a perfect example of what the mission of BYU is all about: showing the world that we”re good, committed, excellent people. His character is what makes Beardall a great athlete.
After nearly nine years of diving, Beardall still enjoys the daily routine.
“It”s still fun,” Beardall said. “It”s really a stress reliever. It”s almost a break while I”m in school. Then I come here and kind of take a break and do something that”s fun to me.”