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Kyndal Knight gamble paid off

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Kentucky senior diver Kyndal Knight is off to a superb start this season and has been named Southeastern Conference Female Diver of the Week for her career-best score on the 3-meter board in an earlier meet when she also won the 1-meter  competition.

The senior co-captain from North Carolina says she always has big expectations for herself and the team but is just glad to have a closer to normal season after last year’s COVID-restricted competitions.

“We did win the SEC Championship which was awesome,” she said. “This year we have big shoes to fill but we are excited about the challenge.”

Knight was a multi-sport high school athlete. She did gymnastics with her older sister who quit and started diving. After Kyndal Knight hurt her back, she said her “heart” was not in gymnastics but she also didn’t want to dive like her sister.

“Our high school coach said I should do it and that my sister was going to graduate,” Knight said. “I decided to do high school diving, but that was it.”

That changed when her eventual club coach saw her dive and said she was too good just to dive on the high school team.

“I hated diving at first but the more I did it, the more I loved it,” Knight said.

Knight had played soccer as a freshman and ran cross country two years before giving it up after her sophomore season because the time demand with diving was too much.

Her gymnastics background helped her thrive.

“Gymnastics is a tough sport mentally and so is diving. A lot of it is trusting yourself and the coach so you can do what you are about,” the UK senior said.

Knight admitted diving can be scary and that she is scared every day she dives.

“You get used to it. Maybe I enjoy the scariness,” Knight said. “You just get more comfortable being scared.”

Knight probably was “scared” about coming to Kentucky, a school she admits was never on her college wish list. She sent out random emails to college diving coaches and UK was one of the ones who responded. Luckily, UK diving coach Ted Hautau was in North Carolina and stopped to watch her practice. Once he did, he told Knight he wanted her at Kentucky and she came.

“I had no clue about Kentucky. He (Hautau) took a big risk on me since I had only started diving as a sophomore but he saw what I could do,” she said.

Kentucky’s gamble paid off. Knight was SEC co-female freshman diver of the year and was SEC champion on the 3-meter springboard her sophomore year. She finished third on the 10-meter platform as a junior and was sixth on the 3-meter board to help  UK win the SEC team championship.

“Last year we were the underdog and nobody really expected Kentucky to win, and we did,” Knight said. “We have big shoes to fill and other teams are now chasing after us.”

Knight would like to win another individual SEC title this season in February and also finish in the top eight at the NCAA Championship in March.

“That would be a lot of fun,” Knight said.

Knight, a marketing/management major, has also earned academic honors each year at UK and was a Scholar All-America first-team pick last season.

“We worked really hard academically as a team. We have a 4.0 (grade-point average) standard. We try to have the top team GPA of the entire athletics department. But you have to put in the effort to make those grades,” Knight said.

The diver already knows she will take her extra fifth year to compete again for Kentucky next season.

“I am not quite ready to get out yet. I really have grown to love what I do,” she said.

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as http://www.yoursportsedge.com/, and http://www.cameronmillsradio.com/. Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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