Margo O’Meara May only be a freshman, but in her first season on the Duke diving team she has experienced a careers-worth of accolades. Most recently, O’Meara was named the ACC Championship Diving MVP, an honor that only three other Blue Devils have earned in program history. She may be in just her first season, but O’Meara’s name has already been embedded in Duke history and her accomplishments go far before she was ever diving into a Duke pool.
O’Meara, a St. Louis, Mo., native began diving at the age of six, but the sport was not something she took seriously until sophomore year of high school.
“I actually played a lot more soccer growing up and was unsure of which sport I would play in college,” recounts O’Meara. “I really thought I might play soccer in college or do both, but then I ended up tearing my ACL my freshman year playing soccer which required surgery and time off. I figured that I could get back to diving sooner, so that is when I decided to see how good I could get.”
Though O’Meara might not have realized it at the time, that torn ACL changed the trajectory of her life. The injury forced O’Meara to focus on something else, so she started training longer hours in the pool and just “kept going.” Suddenly, it was hard for O’Meara to deny that that diving was the sport for her, and so her success began.
Before O’Meara had even thought about committing to a college, she was already a Missouri State Champion, winning four consecutive state championships in high school. The then soon-to-be ACC Champion Diving MVP also competed in the 2021 USA Diving Junior National Championship where she was awarded the gold medal in both the one-meter and three-meter events.
It was those accomplishments, the rigorous academics, and the head diving coach that led the Missouri native to Durham, NC
“I committed to Duke in November of 2019, so I was pretty young,” recalls O’Meara. “Duke was my first official visit—I had visited four other schools like UNC, USC, UCLA, Perdue—and not to sound like a cliché but Duke has great academics as well as athletics.”
The family-like environment that the swimming and diving team provides solidified O’Meara’s decision to come to Duke.
“It was also about how close the swim and dive team are,” O’Meara continues. “A lot of the time, the dive team is separate from the swim team. When I came here to visit, I had the feeling that Coach Nunzio Esposto and I would connect really well. He is also one of the main reasons why I chose Duke.”
As the first season of O’Meara’s collegiate diving career comes to a close and she moves onto the NCAA Zone ‘B’ Diving Championships, she reflects on the accomplishments she had hoped for in her first season.
“I just wanted to accomplish as much as I could,” O’Meara said. “Athletic wise, I always wanted to win ACCs, but when I committed, I was not really thinking, ‘you know, I want to win two ACC titles.’ I was thinking, ‘oh, I’d really like to do well at the NCAAs, and really just get the full college experience.'”
Not only did O’Meara win two ACC titles, but she became only the second Duke women’s diver to win two events at a single ACC Championships. The accolades do not stop there however, 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-meter.
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. In addition, between semesters in December, she reached the finals in both the one- and three-meter (fifth and sixth overall) while placing second in the synchronized three-meter finals during the 2021 US Diving Winter Nationals.
Despite the tremendous success the freshman has had in such a short time, O’Meara nevertheless remains humble about her achievements, her hopes for the NCAA Championship and her goals for upcoming seasons.
“I think it’s really exciting!” O’Meara says of her MVP title. “I was not thinking about that award at all as I was competing, but when my coach told me I got it, I was excited. Overall, it was just an exciting week and to get that award was really cool. The previous diving awardees [from Duke] are all incredible and they have accomplished so much, so I could not be happier getting that award.”
O’Meara joined Evan Moretti (2019), Abby Johnston (2010, 2011) and Nick McCrory (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) as ACC Diving MVPs from Duke. 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 synchronized three-meter diving.
“Going into the post season as well as next year, I would like to do the same things. I do not think I could have asked for a better freshman season by winning two titles and getting fourth in three-meter. Short term, I have NCAA Championship coming up, so specifically, I would really like to hit my dives and keep my composure.”
Though O’Meara is undoubtedly proud of all that she has accomplished so far, she is most proud of her ability to handle the pressure of everybody watching.
“The whole team is watching, which is honestly really energizing to me, and I love that,” O’Meara said. “But also, being able to handle everything academically and athletically while maintaining my composure and competing well is something I am very proud of myself for. I still have a lot more work this season, but I am proud of a lot of things I have done, and I have to contribute that to my coach and my teammates around me.”
The freshman, who just walked away with two ACC titles, now looks for her chance to add more awards to her name at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta, Ga.
“Going into 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 while on the Duke diving team. When asked how she stays motivated, O’Meara credits the close bond on the team—a factor in her committing to Duke—as an influence in her overall success.
“My teammates help a lot with that,” O’Meara shares. “We are really close. We all have goals and even though our goals differ from each other, I think that is what makes it special. My coach also motivates me a lot. We have a good connection and in practice, we focus on all I do enjoy what I do, and I think you should enjoy what you do, but work hard every day and the success that comes with it that serves as a personal motivator.”
O’Meara has a lot to be proud and still much more to look forward to as she continues her success as a collegiate diver, but she also has her sights set on something much larger, shinier and composed of five rings: the Olympics.
In the 2020 Olympic Trials, O’Meara placed in the top-10 in both the synchronized three-meter diving and individual three-meter diving. She is keeping that goal in the back on her mind as something she would “love to do.”
To think that a few short years ago O’Meara was deciding between soccer and diving is hard to fathom. As O’Meara gears up for the NCAA Zone ‘B’ Diving Championship beginning March 6 and the NCAA Championship to follow March 16, it is hard to the success that has come after a torn ACL. It is a true testament to her character—but life does have a funny way of working itself out.