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Torre Muhlbach flips switch for Plainview

Torre Muhlbach of Plainview JFK competes in the

Torre Muhlbach of Plainview JFK competes in the diving event during a Nassau girls swimming meet against Levittown District at Plainview JFK High School on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. Credit: James Escher

Torre Muhlbach doesn't have the best history with that dive -- a backflip off the diving board into 1 1/2 somersaults, and then into a tuck. It's completely blind, she said, and she's terrified every time she does it.

Plainview JFK girls swimming doesn't have the best history, period. The Hawks' 2013 campaign was hard-fought and brutal, Alyssa Blum said. "We only won one [meet]," she said. "It's hard to come back from that."

Which is exactly why this season is so special. Though the past has been a bit unforgiving, Plainview this year is learning from past missteps. History repeating itself? Hardly. The Hawks have won all three of their conference meets this year.

"The key has been motivation," Olivia Cohen said after Plainview's 67-35 win over Levittown in Conference II on Monday. "We changed conferences . . . and I think we learned to take a different approach on things, to focus less on winning and more on trying."

That means that Muhlbach, who gave up on her 203C dive after flopping on it for two straight years -- "I opened up too early and I landed in a pancake," she said -- has gone back on a vow to never attempt it again. Monday, it earned her sixes from both judges, and she won the diving with a 190.28.

"It was my best dive today," she said. "I said I was never going to do it again, but then I was doing backflips off the board and my coach [Jeryl Israel] noticed I was going a little over, so she said I might as well do the 1 1/2 [somersault].

"I'm still so scared."

Meanwhile, Blum helped propel both the 200-yard medley relay (2:05.32), the 400 freestyle relay (4:12.38) and the 200 freestyle relay (1:51.91) teams to first-place finishes. She also won the 50 freestyle in 26.87. Cohen, part of the 200 medley and 200 freestyle teams, also took first in the 100 breaststroke in 1:18.41. Cohen took second in the 200 freestyle in 2:11.65.

"I think we're all really, really going for it and enjoying ourselves," Blum said. "For the most part, we've been surprised by how much we're winning by. It's been great."

She said that the nine-month break gave them plenty of time to ruminate about last season. Cohen added that they returned with renewed vigor, and "we motivate and cheer for each other a lot more," she said. "I think that's led to a lot of clutch victories."

Mostly, Muhlbach said, "We didn't want [last season] to happen again."

So when her coach told her to try her dive again, she obliged. It wasn't easy.

"One day, she must've made me do it 10 times in a row in practice," she said. "I was practically crying."

But Muhlbach didn't stop until she'd finally nailed her flips. The rest, of course, is history.

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