Inall breaks dive record (twice), gives Ridgefield boys team boost

Many years, the Ridgefield High boys swimming team enters the swimming portion of the conference championships at a distinct disadvantage.

The Tigers often fail to score or muster only a few points at the diving championships, which take place a few days before the swim events. Since the diving points are carried over, Ridgefield often begins the swim portion anywhere from 20 to 60 points behind fellow FCIAC powers Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan.

This year, however, the Ridgefield boys didn’t have as much ground to make up. And they had a girl to thank for that.

In the best performance of her high school career (up to that point), junior Caitlin Inall finished seventh at the FCIAC boys diving championships Feb. 28 at Westhill High School in Stamford. Inall contributed 12 points by finishing seventh overall with 401.70 points for her 11 dives, setting a new program record.

(It lasted less than a week: At Tuesday's Class LL boys diving championship in Hamden, Inall scored 421.10 points, breaking her own program record and finishing sixth).

“My first dive was a great opening dive,” said Inall about the FCIAC meet. “It gave me confidence and put me in a good place. I knew that if I dove consistently after that I would have a great meet.”

Inall was right. She continued hitting her dives and generating points.

“When the scores were announced after the eighth round, I knew I was on track to break 400 (points),” said Inall. “That being said, I was still very excited [to finish with more than 400 points] because it is almost 100 points over my score at FCIACs freshman year. It just showed my improvement and how far I’ve come.”

Inall had to think twice before deciding to even come out for the team when she was a freshman. She had the option due to a CIAC rule that allows girls who compete in a fall sport other than girls swimming to join the boys team in the winter.

“I definitely was hesitant joining the boys team my freshman year,” said Inall, who plays soccer in the fall. “I didn’t really know that many people on the team and I knew there were no divers on the team.

“But as soon as we had our first meet I knew I had made the right decision,” continued Inall, who trains with the Whirlwind Diving program at the New Canaan YMCA. “Joining the boys team gave me the option to continue two sports that I love and everyone on the team is super supportive and really fun to be around.”

Those teammates include two of the country’s top senior swimmers, Kieran Smith and AJ Bornstein. Smith and Bornstein each won two individual events on Sunday to lead the Tigers to a third-place finish at the conference championships.

Like her teammates, Inall’s improvement is more exponential than linear. She finished 15th at the FCIAC diving championships as freshman with 305.20 points, nearly 100 fewer than her total at this year’s meet.

Inall placed 16th at the Class LL state championship as a freshman with 300.05 points and was 15th last year with 333.75 points. She did not compete at last year’s FCIAC championship.

“I started diving at my summer club, Lakeside Field Club, when I was nine or 10,” said Inall about her start in the sport. “One of my friends wanted to join the team so I decided to do it with her. I had taught myself how to do flips on the trampoline in my backyard in years prior so it came naturally to me. I didn’t start diving year-round until seventh grade.”

Inall wasn’t quite as singular this season: Freshman Hadley Nussbaum was also part of the RHS boys diving team.

“I was excited to have another girl in the team because in previous years I had been the only diver and only girl,” said Inall. “This year we were the only girls in the FCIAC … in previous years it has been just me.”