AVON — Unlike most student-athletes right now, Avon’s Emma Clarke hasn’t missed a beat since the pandemic hit last March.
A standout on the soccer field this past fall, helping undefeated Avon capture their third-straight sectional title, the senior is currently one of the top divers in Section V having gone a perfect 3-for-3 this season for Avon swimming and diving.
In Avon’s meet against Livonia, Clarke and her two classmates — Paige Phillips and Shannon McLaughlin — finished in the top three spots with Clarke getting the victory with 221.55 points.
The trio also swept the top three spots in a victory over Letchworth/Perry, with Clarke earning 220.80 points to earn the victory.
Clarke is Section V Class C’s top retuning place finisher from a year ago where she placed third to a pair of Addison seniors who have since graduated.
She is also the defending LCAA champion.
She also placed third at sectionals as a sophomore.
Incredibly, Emma was second as a sophomore at LCAA’s and is the defending champion after winning the event last year as a junior with Phillips and McLaughlin finishing in the next two spots.
A former gymnast, Emma says that experience has helped her with her current sport.
“I was a competitive gymnast for 10 years, so diving requires similar skills,” Emma said. “One thing about diving that I’m particularly drawn to is the mental discipline it takes. Most of the time, I know physically I can do the dive but sometimes thoughts in my head tell me I can’t. In a competition it’s very challenging to move on to the next dive if you aren’t in the right head space.”
In her fifth season of varsity diving for the defending sectional swimming and diving champion Braves, Emma followed in her older brother Reverdy’s footsteps to the Avon pool.
Reverdy was a standout swimmer for the Braves who made the state meet in the 50 free.
“My first year of diving was in eighth grade and I started on varsity, my brother was already on the team, so that made me want to join,” she said. “I immediately fell in love with the sport and clicked with my teammates.”
She placed third at sectionals her first season.
It was a match made in heaven.
And having two classmates in Paige and Shannon on the board with her makes it that much more enjoyable she says.
“Shannon and Paige have been with me throughout nearly my whole career,” Emma says. “They always push me to try new dives, but in practice we have a lot of fun. All of us are always laughing and joking around with each other which helps keep us relaxed. I couldn’t ask for better girls to be by my side.”
Being a part of three straight sectional soccer titles and two straight swimming and diving sectional team championships gives Emma a sense of appreciation.
“This season for soccer was my favorite, I felt like I grew closer to my teammates and the fact that it could have ended at any point made each practice more competitive,” Emma said. “It was so exciting to win my third sectional title with the same girls I’ve been playing with since third grade.”
And she would love nothing more than to get to the top of the sectional podium when dive sectionals rolls around next month.
“I’ll go into sectionals this year just like any other year, I know there’s strong competition all around me so I can’t let my guard down,” Emma said. “In diving anything can happen but, I’m super excited.”
Emma’s preparation has been a little different this year due to the pandemic she says but she appreciated the help she received during her off-seasons prior to the coronavirus.
“In a normal year, without COVID-19, I would do a couple club practices here and there with Blue Wave diving,” she said. “Thank you to Shawn Austin for helping me improve and Coach Miskell for being my biggest supporter. In particular, Coach Paganin, has made me the athlete I am today and I’m so thankful for him. He’s taught me patience and how to overcome mental blocks.”
While competing in high school sports is right up there for Emma, focusing on her education is on top of the list.
She is a National Honor Society member, an AP Scholar, a Daughter’s of the American Revolution Good Citizen award recipient, and a Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass award recipient.
So that should tell you just how serious Emma is about the time she spends in the classroom.
“My education and grades will always be my number one priority,” Emma said. “Success in the classroom is my biggest goal and my graduating class is extremelcompetitive, so everyone is striving to be at the top.”
Avon Athletic Director Andy Englert has always been impressed with Emma’s team-first attitude and her outstanding classroom etiquette.
“Emma has always competed at the highest level in the classroom and in athletics,” Englert said. “Emma is a great team player, always trying to find ways to help her teams be successful. If you look back over the years at her success in soccer, diving, and track you will see she has always put everything she’s got into her play. I would say her coaches just appreciate her hard work and the smile she brings every day.”
That’s exactly why we call them student-athletes.