Margo O’Meara may just be a freshman, but in her first season on Duke’s diving team, she enjoyed a career worthy of accolades. Most recently, O’Meara was named ACC Diving Championship MVP, an honor only three other Blue Devils have earned in program history. She may only be in her first season, but O’Meara’s name is already etched in Duke history and her accomplishments stretch long before she took a dip in a Duke pool.
O’Meara, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, started diving at age six, but the sport wasn’t something she took seriously until the second year of high school.
“I actually played a lot more football growing up and didn’t know what sport I would play in college,” O’Meara says. “I really thought I could play football in college or do both, but I ended up tearing my ACL in my first year of football, which required surgery and time off. I decided to see how good I could become.”
Although O’Meara may not have realized it at the time, this ACL tear changed the trajectory of his life. The injury forced O’Meara to focus on other things, so she started training longer in the pool and “carried on”. Suddenly, it was hard for O’Meara to deny that diving was the sport for her, and that’s how her success began.
Before O’Meara had even thought about committing to college, she was already a Missouri state champion, winning four straight high school state championships. The future ACC diving champion and then-future MVP also competed at the 2021 U.S. National Junior Diving Championship, where she won gold in the one-meter and three-meter events.
It was these accomplishments, the rigorous academics and head diving coach that brought the Missouri native to Durham, NC.
“I signed up with Duke in November 2019, so I was pretty young,” O’Meara recalled. “Duke was my first official visit – I had visited four other schools like UNC, USC, UCLA, Perdue – and not to sound like a cliché, Duke has great academics as well as athletics.”
The family environment that the swim and dive team provides solidified O’Meara’s decision to come to Duke.
“It was also about how close the swimming and diving team is,” O’Meara continues. “Most of the time the diving team is separate from the swimming team. When I came here to visit I had the feeling that the coach Nuncio Esposto and I would connect really well. He’s also one of the main reasons I chose Duke.”
As the first season of O’Meara’s collegiate diving career draws to a close and she moves on to the NCAA Area ‘B’ Diving Championships, she reflects on the accomplishments she had hoped for during his first season.
“I just wanted to accomplish as much as I could,” O’Meara said. “Sports-wise, I always wanted to win ACCs, but when I got involved, I didn’t really think, ‘you know, I want to win two ACC titles.’ I was like, ‘oh, I’d really like to do well in the NCAA, and really get the full college experience.”
Not only did O’Meara win two ACC titles, she became only the second Duke diver to win two events in a single ACC championship. The accolades don’t end there though, as O’Meara was awarded the ACC Championship Women’s Diving MVP after winning the one-meter and platform events and placing fourth in the three meters.
O’Meara is currently ranked in the top 3 in program history in all three diving events after being named ACC Diver of the Week four times this season. Additionally, between the December semesters, she reached the one-meter springboard and three-meter springboard finals (fifth and sixth overall) while placing second in the three-meter springboard synchronized final at the National Championships. American diving winter 2021.
Despite the tremendous success the rookie has had in such a short time, O’Meara nonetheless remains humble about his accomplishments, his hopes for the NCAA championship, and his goals for the coming seasons.
“I think it’s really exciting!” O’Meara says of his MVP title. “I didn’t think about this award at all while I was competing, but when my coach told me I got it, I was excited. All in all, it was just a exciting week and getting this award was really cool. Previous diving winners [from Duke] are all amazing and they’ve accomplished so much so I couldn’t be happier to receive this award.”
O’Meara joined Evan Moretti (2019), Abby Johnson (2010, 2011) and Nick McCrory (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) as Duke’s ACC Diving MVP. McCrory won a bronze medal in synchronized 10-meter platform diving at the 2012 London Olympics, the first medal for the United States in men’s diving since the 1996 Games. Johnston is a two-time Olympian (2012 and 2016), winning the silver medal in the three-metre synchronized diving.
“Going into the post-season as well as next year, I’d like to do the same things. I don’t think I could have asked for a better freshman season winning two titles and finishing fourth in the three-meter In the short term, I’m approaching the NCAA championship, so more specifically, I would really like to nail my dives and keep my composure.”
While O’Meara is undoubtedly proud of everything she’s accomplished so far, she’s most proud of her ability to handle the pressure of everyone watching.
“The whole team is watching, which is honestly very energizing for me, and I love it,” O’Meara said. “But also, being able to handle everything academically and athletically while keeping my cool and competing well is something that I’m very proud of myself. I still have a lot of work to do this season, but I’m proud of a lot of things I’ve done, and I have to let my coach and my teammates around me know that.”
The rookie, who is coming off two ACC titles, is now looking for his chance to add more awards to his name at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Getting into the zones and being able to qualify for the NCAA, I think my biggest goal would be to become a national champion, but honestly just being able to make the finals – where everyone is so incredibly talented – would mean a lot to me.
O’Meara has compiled a list of accomplishments on Duke’s diving team. When asked how she stays motivated, O’Meara credits the close bond within the team — a factor in her commitment to Duke — as an influence on her overall success.
“My teammates help me a lot with that,” O’Meara shares. “We are very close. We all have goals and even though our goals differ from each other, I think that’s what makes it special. My coach also motivates me a lot. We have a good connection and at the training, we focus on all the little details that can really make a difference. I love what I do, and I think you should love what you do, but working hard every day and the success that comes with it serves of personal motivation.
O’Meara has plenty to be proud of and still plenty more to look forward to as she continues her success as a collegiate diver, but she also has her sights set on something much bigger, brighter, and five-ringed. : the Olympics.
At the 2020 Olympic trials, O’Meara placed in the top 10 in the three-meter synchronized dive and the three-meter individual dive. She keeps this goal in mind as something she “would love to do.”
To think that just a few years ago O’Meara was deciding between soccer and diving is hard to fathom. As O’Meara prepares for the NCAA Area ‘B’ Diving Championship starting March 6 and the NCAA Championship following on March 16, it’s hard to believe the success that followed a ACL tear. It’s a true testament to his character, but life has a funny way of going.