Diving Into A New Role
Averie Ruiz Steps Up as Lone Junior Captain
DENTON - When a coach is faced with selecting a captain for their team, it can be one of the most brain-racking decisions. However, for North Texas diving coach Mark Murdock, he didn’t have to search far for someone who met his requirements in Averie Ruiz.
“She embodies everything I want to see from the team,” said Murdock. “She fights hard and wants to do everything she can to get better, not only physically but mentally.”
Ruiz joins Caroline Culpepper, Claudia Kitching and Sydney Buckley as the program’s captains for 2017-18, but there is one thing that separates Ruiz from her counterparts, other than being a diver. She’s the only junior.
“It’s exciting,” Ruiz said. “I was kind of surprised that I got the position, but I’m super grateful for the opportunity.”
While somewhat unconventional, being the only junior captain emphasizes her potential as a leader. Plus this isn’t the first rodeo for the Lubbock, Texas, native, who served as a team captain for Coronado High School. Although college is much different than high school, there’s one thing Ruiz is taking away from that leadership experience.
“You’re not significantly more important than anyone else.”
This is especially relevant with a tight-knit diving group, which brought back four of last season’s six letterwinners and added just one newcomer.
“When you’re interacting with everyone, it’s not like ‘they’re a freshman or they’re a sophomore’,” Ruiz said. “It makes it easy to welcome Meghan and get her excited to make progress together.”
But Ruiz knows when it’s time to be a leader, and Murdock credits her integrity as a captain for being able to maintain that teammate-captain balance.
“She’s always focused and driven, even when I’m not around,” Murdock said. “Everything that I try to press on the team, she’s more than willing to help with. It’s something I was really searching for on the team, and after her sophomore year, she proved to me that she wanted to be more than just a diver.”
Ruiz concluded her sophomore year as a top-10 performer in the program’s record book in both the one- and three-meter dives. At the Conference USA Championships, she finished the year with a 10th-place finish in the three-meter event (216.75) and a 16th-place finish in the one-meter event (175.20).
“My first two years were all about breaking old habits and making new ones. At the end of last year, everything was starting to connect and I began to learn new dives,” Ruiz said. “It’s nice to be in a position where I can focus on the little things instead of learning the basics.”
In addition to being able to focus on the little things, Ruiz is also in a position to focus more on being a leader and helping out her team. However, getting to this point wasn’t easy, but her determination is what Murdock alluded to when asked what quality made her an ideal captain.
“She is constantly wanting to do better. She’s determined to do anything it takes to get to that point.”
Ruiz displayed that fortitude by getting in extra workouts at the beginning of the summer and before the team reported this fall to better her list. With those dives in her arsenal, it all comes down to perfecting now.
“She didn’t want to just do them at the end of the season, but wanted to work on them throughout the regular season,” Murdock said. “She’s at the point where she doesn’t want to lose anything.”
One would assume that the combination of being the lone junior captain and a student-athlete in a pivotal junior season places a lot of pressure on someone, but Ruiz doesn’t feel any added pressure with her new title.
“Any pressure that I would feel is just my own standards,” Ruiz said, “and if you express to the team what standards you have for yourself, they’re always super supportive.”
Ruiz is already off to a successful start in 2017, rewriting her record as the ninth-best performer in the three-meter dive with a 237.98 against Houston. The divers are back in action in the Phill Hansel Invitational, hosted by Houston, from Nov. 16-18 at the CRWC Natatorium.