Golf,Swimming & Diving
Favorite athlete: Victor Cruz
Favorite team: New York Giants
Favorite memory competing in sports: Diving State Championship meet junior year
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: The funniest thing to happen while competing has to be when we yelled at kids that balked on the diving board during warm-ups at states sophomore year.
Music on iPod: Jon Bellion, Logic, Chance the Rapper, and Kid Cudi
Future plans: Attend the United States Naval Academy and become an officer in the Marine Corps
Words to live by: “If not ME, then who” –Travis Manion
One goal before turning 30: Play golf in Scotland
One thing people don’t know about me: I enjoy playing all types of video games in my free time.
By Mary Jane Souder
Nash Nickerson thrives on the big stage.
Unlike some athletes who wilt under the bright lights, the Central Bucks South senior delivers his best performances when the stakes are the highest. It’s a trait that has served Nickerson well in the high-pressure world of competitive diving. He has won back-to-back fourth place medals at the PIAA Class AAA Championships the last two years.
“He’s the type of kid – the bigger the stage, the better Nash performs,” coach Jeff Lake said. “He would get second, third or fourth in the league and then he would go and get second or third in districts but then would go to states and beat all those kids.”
Exhibit A would be the 2016 season that saw Nickerson finish third at the SOL Continental Conference Championships, second at the District One AAA Championships and fourth at the PIAA Class AAA championships. Only once in that progression did any diver from the preceding meets edge Nickerson.
“The thing that stands out about Nash to me most as a diver is he did his best in the biggest meets,” South diving coach Fred Dunn said. “He’s a big stage diver, he likes the big stage. He knows how to prepare himself for the big stage, he knows how to focus when he’s there.”
Dunn goes on to recount a story from Nickerson’s first of four straight trips to the state championships.
“His freshman year was telling,” the Titans’ diving coach said. “When they get out of the water (after a dive), there’s a PCN television camera right in their face.
“Every one of these kids wants to try and get by there as fast as possible – they duck their heads, put their hands over their eyes. Not Nash. Nash mugged for the camera to the point where the guy was fixated on Nash and missed the next diver.
“The next year I was talking to the announcer, and the one thing they remembered about Nash was – he mugged for the camera and they missed the next guy. He’s not shy, and as a competitor, the big thing was – as the meets got bigger, he got better.”
Nickerson admits he thrives on the competition.
“I love the adrenaline rush of competing in meets and having to do all my dives and trying to do them perfect,” he said. “That’s just one of my favorite things to do – just being in the moment and competing with people that are my friends and getting to know new people every year.
“I love big competitions. I don’t feel like I’m the person at the top very much, so I feel like when I’m the underdog, I do my best because I feel like I need to prove myself, and that’s something I love doing.”
Nickerson – who will be taking his talents to the United States Naval Academy - turned out to be the perfect captain and leader of a young South team short on numbers this year.
“He was the sole captain,” Lake said of a squad that had just three seniors and one junior. “He had to try to relate to freshmen and sophomore boys when he’s a senior and thinking about going to the naval academy. It was a totally different world.”
Different perhaps but Nickerson embraced his role as leader.
“I like all the kids on the team, and I really just wanted to have fun this year,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, I told Mr. Lake, ‘If you need me for any event, just put me in because I really want to be a team player. I don’t just want to be a diver. I want to make sure I’m on the team and swimming.’”
While it might be unusual for an elite diver to also compete in swimming events, Nickerson regularly competed in the 50 freestyle as well as a pair of relays at each meet. He was driven by the goal to swim the 50 free in under 24 seconds.
“That was something I really wanted to do,” he said. “I went 24.05 in the beginning of the season when it’s a little bit harder to swim faster, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’ll definitely get it by the end of the year.’
“Then I started plateauing and I started adding a little time. I never went over 25 and never went under 24. In my senior night meet, I was in the 200 free relay, and it was the last time I was going to swim the 50 free. I was like, ‘All right, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it now.’
“I don’t remember very much of it, but I remember hitting the wall, and I said, ‘I better turn around and see 23-something.’ I turned around and saw 23.99 on the board. That’s the best way I wanted to end my swimming career. It may not be a good time for a lot of fast swimmers, but for me as a diver and somebody who wasn’t able to practice as much as the swimmers, I was really proud of that. I was happy that all of my teammates were proud of me too.”
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t go to any of the pasta parties, or any time they hung out on the weekends, I didn’t feel like I was involved because I was always diving,” Nickerson said. “This year I looked at all the younger kids and thought about when I was a freshman and how much I hated it that I didn’t get to hang out with the team. This year I really included everyone and made sure everyone had fun because I didn’t want someone to have the same feeling I had. I wanted to make this year fun for everyone.”
Nickerson grew up in a family of swimmers and recalls tagging along with his brother Matthew to his older sister’s meets.
“We always complained that it was hot, so my mom was like, ‘All right, you guys do swimming,’” he recalled. “My brother and I did swimming, but we didn’t like waking up early for the 8 a.m. practices, but then we saw the divers having fun, eating breakfast together and doing flips off the board, so we both decided that would be fun.”
Nickerson developed an immediate affinity for diving, and it wasn’t long before he was invited to dive on the Junior Olympics team. When platform diving entered the picture and became Nickerson’s specialty around the age of 14, he began working with Fred and Lesley Woodruff at Rutgers University. He still makes the trip four or five times a week.
Interestingly, Nickerson’s first love back then was lacrosse.
“My dad played lacrosse in college,” he said. “I enjoyed playing, I enjoyed my dad being my coach.
“It was something different. It was a team sport, and I grew up all my life doing individual sports, and I enjoyed it a lot.”
After working out with the South lacrosse team the fall of his freshman year, Nickerson made a decision.
“I played goalie and I decided – I think I’d be most successful getting into a much better college pursuing my talents through diving than I would going through lacrosse,” he said. “I made that decision with my parents.
“It was hard at first, but I realized it was the best decision. I think it would have been harder to give up diving because I liked it a lot more. I feel to this day that I made the right decision.”
Nickerson also was a member of the varsity golf team and was a co-captain of last fall’s co-championship squad, qualifying for the District One Tournament.
“Golf for me is more of a hobby,” he said. “I never had any type of lesson or anything like that except for my brother teaching me how to play. I just love going out and having fun on the golf course. Playing on the golf team was awesome because I got to play with my friends and I got to play courses all over our side of the state.”
Nickerson’s family has a strong military background – both of his grandfathers served in the army.
“They both said they enjoyed their time in the military, and talking to them, I thought that I would want to pursue something with the military,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it. I actually wanted to do the Marine Corps right out of high school, but my mom talked about going to college and how important it was. By ninth grade, I realized how important it was.”
When Nickerson was a sophomore, he got his first glimpse of the U.S. Naval Academy.
“It was my sister Stephanie’s freshman year at Lafayette, and she had a swim meet at the Naval Academy,” he recalled. “I didn’t really want to give up my Saturday to watch some college meet.
“We went down and I saw the town of Annapolis. I loved how it was right on the water. We went on the campus and I saw the kids in their white uniforms walking around. Then I went to the pool and saw how nice the pool was. I was like, ‘Man, this is really cool. I would love to go to a school like this.’ From then on, I really had my sights set on going to a military academy.”
The summer after his sophomore year, Nickerson went to a diving camp at the Naval Academy. He met the coach, fell in love with the program and enjoyed the team members he met, but he also took an official trip to West Point. He chose the Naval Academy.
“When it came down to it, I’ve always wanted to be in the Marines Corps, and they have a cyber warfare major, which is one of the majors I’m interested in along with economics,” he said. “My decision was mostly based on academics and how I think I would do at each school.”
Just as Nickerson was a natural leader, he also falls comfortably into the role of coach and happily drives to New Brunswick to volunteer his time coaching young divers.
“It’s something I enjoy doing,” he said. “I love seeing kids learn new dives, and I love teaching kids new dives.
“I think it’s awesome to see a kid really get a correction or really understand something. I think it’s the coolest thing ever to teach a kid something they’ll have for the rest of their life.”
Academics are also a priority for Nickerson, who is a member of the National Honor Society. He maintains a 4.0 grade point average while taking AP and honors classes.
“I always knew academics were important, even if you’re someone that’s dropping out at 16,” he said. “I like having a schedule in my life, and I like having order in my life.
“It keeps me in line, and it helped me really plan out my days. I love learning. I love math, I love history. I’ve had lots of teachers in my life impact me.”
Nickerson leaves behind quite a legacy at South.
“We’re extremely proud of him, not only for his accomplishments on the diving board,” Lake said. “That sounds kind of funny because he did so well all four years, and that’s good and dandy – he did great but just who he is as a person, the young man he has become, trying to do right.
“He’s not always perfect, and mistakes he’s made – he’s learned from them and then he gets better. When I address my team it’s always as gentlemen, and I tell them – you guys are gentlemen and I expect you to act like that. He does epitomize that. He’s respectful, disciplined – without a doubt and hard working. You name it, he has it. He will fit that military mentality. He’s a great kid.”